13 January 2017

Dressing For The World


Autumn/Winter 2017













Why do we wear clothes? The simplest answer is that we wear clothing for protection from the outside world. More people live in areas of the world without a climate temperate enough to live fully nude throughout the year than those that do. But even in those areas where it is warm enough to dispense with clothing altogether, we still find a rich and varied history of dress and adornment. No matter how far back we go into human history we find evidence of adornment. Indeed we could say that it is human nature to dress ourselves, in whichever form that may happen to take - piercing, scarification, painting, jewellery, tattooing, coverings, clothing. And, as far back as we go to find evidence of this adornment, we actually find that these pieces have, from the very beginning, been invested with psychological meaning. At a basic level, clothing has protected us from the elements, but in truth it has meant so much more.

Clothing has been imbued with spiritual, religious, social and, of course, personal significance. It has been used to honour our ancestors or attract a mate or mark our place in society or, as is often the case today, ostensibly reflect some sense of our personal identity. Indeed there has always been more to it than meets the eye lurking right there beneath the surface, often close enough to be rippling if one cares to look. To varying extents we still have clothing that marks religious affiliation (head coverings are found in a number of religions) and social affiliation (everything from a suit and tie for an office worker to a goth uniform for a subculture), alongside a number of other affiliations, but I think that what is championed most in society today is the idea of personal expression. Advertising suggests that we buy things that will accurately express our sense of self and lifestyle, whether that be through clothing, cars, sofas, breakfast bowls or toothbrushes. Everything you buy and use and consume and wear would seem to be fraught with the question - what does this object say about me?

Personal identity and lifestyle are supposedly packaged into neat little segments for us to purchase and experience. We are told that dress is an avenue for expressing our authentic selves, but who is this self that I dress for? Surely I am me no matter what I wear? What if I am dressing for who I want to be, rather than who I am, and how would I even know the difference? Can anybody tell who I am without actually getting to know me? Are the sweats I wear at home on the weekend the real me, or the shirt and trousers I wear to dinner the real me? If there is a real me deep down somewhere, does that mean that the rest of me is fake? Why can't I just follow the philosophy of choosing to wear what I think look fly as f***? If we have to buy something to tell us who we are, or tell others who we think we are, then perhaps we might want to rethink that concept of self we are holding onto and be more mindful of how we actually feel in the moment.

A helpful analogy I have heard for identity is that of the watch. We call a watch a watch. If I show you a cog from that watch, it is a cog. If I show you the strap from that watch, it is a strap. If I show you the dial from that watch, it is a dial. It is not until we put all the pieces together that we have the watch. In much the same way, there is no singular fixed sense of self to dress for, because our sense of self is made up of all those pieces. All the pieces go together to create my identity, but unlike the watch, they are constantly evolving and developing. I can choose to dress for whichever of those parts of my identity I wish to, or I can dress for none at all. Clothes make the social identity of the man, not the man himself. If I wear a police uniform, then chances are people on the street will assume I am a policeman. But that is a very specific set of clothes that have a long vested history of social meaning and significance. In some places that uniform might be welcomed, in others I might find myself faced with abuse. The clothes we wear for ourselves, for the most parts, do not have such an entrenched set of meanings and codes. We are free to dress as we wish, although we will invariably follow some basic social codes and laws.

So why do we wear the clothes that we wear? Of course there is no simple answer, but I think that one could be found in exploring what we prioritise in the moment when we are dressing ourselves. I am fascinated by that moment because I think, ultimately, that it provides an insight into our perception of self. To speak of my own experience, and to go back to the original question, I would say that these days that I do mostly dress to protect myself from the outside world. I mean that literally and metaphorically, because while clothing obviously serves that functional purpose, I tend to prioritise a sense of psychological and physical comfort. Yohji talks about clothing that protects you like an armour from unwanted eyes, and I would say that is something that I can most certainly recognise. It is not about pushing the world away, but rather, dressing with a confidence that you can tackle anything that comes your way.

For me this encompasses dressing in a way that makes me feel comfortable in myself mentally and physically. While dressing is technically a bodily activity (in that we clothe ourselves to protect our physical well-being), I would say that above all it is a cerebral process enacted through a bodily activity. Just the act of choosing what to wear is proof of that, because we are actively making choices beyond function, and always have. For me that means looking for clothing that makes me feel comfortable, and in that I think that I find beauty through function. If my self is made up of a million different parts, then I would rather dress in such a way as to support those parts rather than single any one out. That is perhaps why I am so attracted to the idea of uniform, because it allows me to express myself through word and action, and enjoy the clothes on a personal level. Anyhow, I suppose that is why I found this collection by Mihara Yasuhiro so interesting, because he sought an answer to how we dress in a time where there is so much uncertainty. How do we feel confident and comfortable? His is but one interpretation, but it is one that I really enjoy, and ultimately that is what I am drawn to with fashion.

Why did you choose to wear what you are wearing today?

xxxx

6 January 2017

New Additions

Converse All Star Hi 70s

COS roll neck merino wool sweater

Issey Miyake Homme Plisse trousers

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 has gotten off to a great start and that you were able to have a restful period with your family and friends.

For today’s post I thought I would share my pick ups from over the holiday period. Well, the sales after Christmas...although sale season seemed to start before Christmas this time (pre-Brexit market worries and all that). I do not actually enjoy sale shopping that much, because it tends to be a little too frantic for my tastes. I prefer a more relaxed and slow approach to buying pieces for my wardrobe, because nothing I buy seems to sell out before I have the chance to buy it. If for whatever reason it does, then I am perfectly happy to look for something else, or if I am particularly smitten, then look for it on the second hand market. Thankfully I have a wardrobe now where I can buy pretty much any Yohji piece from the past 20 years, or select basics from whichever current season collection or store, and it works well together. I guess the fact that my wardrobe is so small means that I operate with a uniform by default, so shopping is never really a challenge, it is simply a matter of finding what feels right when I try it on.

I tend to keep a running list on my phone of pieces that I would like to buy at some point to round out my wardrobe (nothing fancy, I prefer Google Keep - Evernote is overkill for me). While most of the time the top of the list is populated by underwear and socks, I do get the chance now and then to buy something from further down the list. I do enjoy the random frivolous purchase too when I really love something, so the list is just a reminder of where to prioritise. But I buy things so infrequently, that when I do it is usually from that list anyway. Anyhow, all that to say that I was able to pick up three things from my list recently. To give you an idea of what my list is actually like the three things I checked off were - “Summer trousers”, “white trainers” and “polo neck”. I leave things purposefully vague, so that when I start looking it gives me that scope to really just have those options of which avenue I go down. I think the organic framework is already there though, so I know what I am looking for before I even start. I know that I will likely buy things in black or white. I know that whatever I buy will have to work with the rest of my wardrobe, because it is too small to really go for anything that stands alone. And I usually have a visual image of the fit and fabric I am after.

The first piece I purchased were the black Issey Miyake Homme Plisse trousers. For Summer I already have a pair of linen Yohji trousers that I absolutely adore, but I wanted another option so that I do not wear those Yohji trousers into the ground sooner than necessary. If I love an item of clothing, I make sure to wear them until I am unable to repair them any longer, otherwise they are donated or sold. I really do not have the desire to have pieces in my wardrobe that I am not happy with, so I would rather they be worn by someone who actually loves them. It is weird though, because as much as I love my clothes, and many of them contain memories for me, I could quite happily sell or donate everything I own tomorrow and start from scratch. I am more attached to people and memories than I am to material objects, which is odd, because I think that I have the personality of a collector, but make sure to hold back from collecting where possible (a collection for me is where things go to be recorded, classified and forgotten about).

Anyhow it was the shape of these trousers that sold me on them, and after reductions, they were surprisingly affordable. Expect an outfit post once the weather warms up, because I think that these will be getting a lot of wear this year. Perhaps even with leggings underneath so I have more of an opportunity to wear them, because they are incredibly comfortable and lightweight. To be honest everything I bought seems to be more suited to warmer weather, but I guess the point of having a list that I keep updated year round means I can buy things during whichever season. Indeed the merino wool polo neck I picked up from COS would seem to be something you pick up for Winter, but it is actually incredibly fine, so more suited to being a transitional piece, which is what I wanted. I have to say that for me COS really have stepped up their game in the last year or two, so I think I might have to start paying more attention to them. I have actually only started wearing polo necks again very recently, because I am at a healthier body weight, and that means I can wear one without my neck swimming in it.

And I may be a sneakerhead at heart, but you would not know it from seeing the footwear in my wardrobe. While part of me would love to pick up the original Rick Owens Geobaskets with the crepe soles (the staples can suck it though), or finally get around to the wide lace Kris Van Assche trainers, the truth is that I tend to go for simpler footwear. So I picked up some mono white Converse 70s hi tops that were going for half price. Standard Converse do not seem to agree with my feet, but the 70s models for whatever reason are super comfortable for me. I was thinking of picking up the white Comme des Garçons pair, to compliment my black pair, but they are actually more of a cream colour, so I just went for these instead. Good all round beater shoes, so no doubt they will be scuffed up and roughed up by the end of the year.

Did you manage to pick up anything nice in the sales?

xxxx

23 December 2016

Merry Christmas

Louise Brooks, c. 1927

Wishing you and your family a beautiful Christmas.

Lots of love,

Syed

xxxx

13 December 2016

Every Man Dies



















"Every Man Dies"
Autumn/Winter 2016
Photography: Ollie Adegboye
Styling: Rav Matharu
Art direction: Felipe Guimaraes

I grew up surrounded by sportswear and streetwear, and no matter how far I may stray from it, I always find myself coming back. In a weird way I suppose it is home for me. It was what I saw growing up and what I aspired to before I knew what fashion was. To this day it is something that I follow with interest. The sneakerhead in me can still name every trainer I see on the road, follows all the newest drops, and could easily rock a peach Anti Social Social Club hoodie with some Reebok Instapumps if I suddenly woke up all hypebeast (thankfully unlikely for now, besides, peach does my complexion no favours). I still feel more comfortable in a suit and tie than in a hoodie, but I am a child of both worlds, and could happily wear either with confidence. There is that paradox in my personal dress history, in that I grew up on school uniform and going to a very prim and proper school, but then returned home each and every day to see people on the street in tracksuits and Air Max 95s that I wanted to wear. I loved that contrast though, and I suppose it is for this reason that I really enjoyed this editorial showing the latest collection by Clothsurgeon.

Tailoring meets sportswear, but not that "athleisure" mishmash that is popular these days and always strikes me as rather insincere. I find that the thoughtful construction and coherent aesthetic of this collection feels far more alluring. Whereas the athleisure direction feels like costume to me, with a piece of sportswear thrown in for contrast and a knowing wink, I find that streetwear brands that have that formal side are able to more confidently elevate sportswear to a place where its function is less in opposition to where the clothing will actually be worn. I have never felt particularly comfortable with streetwear from British designers such as Nasir Mazhar, because it often feels like a caricature (and fetishization) of the aesthetic. I suppose it is because it hits so close to home for me, but I always see it as a way of selling a look you could wear "authentically" for less money. But here I see pieces of that same source material treated with respect and combined with traditional tailoring techniques to create something I find far more interesting. I may not trade my black Yohji blazer for a pink wool coat tomorrow, but who knows, perhaps one day I might own both.  


xxxx

5 December 2016

Talking To Myself Podcast - Episode 03





Dear All,

I thought that it would be nice to get another episode of Talking To Myself up before the year ended. In this episode I take to the defence of school uniform and why I think that it can have a positive impact on child development. I talk about my own upbringing and experiences with school uniform, making this one of the more personal episodes. Hope you enjoy it, and as always, please do feel free to get in touch and to share with anyone who you think might find it interesting.

Love you all,

Syed



xxxx