12 October 2008

Part Two: Personal Expression

I recently went on a late night drive in order to pick up a new set of medications at the pharmacy. Despite the fact that is was so deep into the night, the pharmacy was alight, in a street of darkness, with an odd assortment of people attracted to the light similar to the flies buzzing around a bulb at night. The team of suited men behind the counter of the dispensary were working frantically with the various pills and boxes of assorted drugs. Waiting around the counter alongside myself were around five others waiting for their prescriptions to go through.

I noticed one of the pharmacists behind the counter eyeing several screens hanging from the ceiling, upon which grainy digital imagery of around the store were displayed. One of the segments on one such screen was taken up by somewhat portly man that was standing only a few feet away from me. I looked across at this man, in reaction to the puzzled look on the face of the pharmacist as he glanced away from the screen.

Leaning rather lazily against a mirrored wall, between aisles full of various cough syrups and 'flu medicines, was this large yet remarkably short man. He was speaking away loudly to a tall, rather weary man in a grey flannel jacket and dark suit trousers. He had more than a few people looking at him at this point, however not due to his rather loud conservation, rather it was actually his clothing that was the subject of such attention. A lady standing in her nightwear and slippers, draped in an oversized parka coat, noticeably scoffed as she passed the man on the way to the counter. An older gentleman stood with a walking stick and a tweed jacket looked on puzzled, occasionally turning his head away with a rather unpleasant sounding cough.

Slouched against the wall, he had his deep plum hat tipped to one side, with a brim so large it flopped rather comically around him. An acid green t-shirt visible, only slightly, underneath an unzipped white leather jacket with red piping and silver studding. His trousers could be more accurately described as leggings, were covered in thick multi-coloured striped bands, unfortunately I was unable to catch his footwear, but no doubt it had a similar larger than life character.

John Galliano, SS09

Whilst many of the onlookers saw this man with obvious disapproval and even almost with disgust, I had a quite different reaction. Although I would say his clothing was not tasteful to the point of being almost vulgar, it was in all honesty a wonderful extension of his personality. What I saw was an expression of character through the medium of clothing. However unacceptable it may have seemed to others, I was quietly glad that colourful characters such as this man existed.

I believe that fashion is essentially art, a form of art created through a functional inevitability. All humans have required protection from the elements and some sort of covering throughout history, from originally using animal hides and furs, to wearing a three-piece suit. What human society was quick to grasp upon was the variable opportunity of design that such an essential item could entail. From the possibility of marking all members of the tribe through the use of a specific animal fur to the uniforms of a football team. Fashion has evolved over time and through the invention of new technologies to a point where it can be used with ease, both creatively and freely, by almost anybody that wishes to do so. What that man meant to me was exactly that, somebody who had a taste of their own and dressed the way they wished, without fear of having to pander to the wishes of others.

Although the example may be an extreme one, to me this man showed one of the core values I believe fashion to hold. Similar to art, there are many looks and styles that we may like and others that we may not. Yet despite the vast variety and styles we would not personally wear, we are still able to have a certain appreciation for their creativity and vision. For me personally, fashion can never be 'right' or 'wrong'. Even with the most awful outfit, there is always, however small and minute, some feature or detail or redeeming value and creativity. As such I am personally never negative of any one person's style or taste, as it is this diversity and difference that makes fashion, art and indeed all the world so interesting and joyful.

Although I will admit that I find no joy in outfits that are lazily strung together or ill fitting, I find a world of joy in fashion that is approached with a thoughfulness and purpose. Anybody that puts thought into what they wear or what they design, or even take a moment to go over that, opens a world of creativity and design for others to see.

Whatever one wears, I believe, one should wear for oneself, not for others. Obviously if you have rules or uniforms for work or schooling, that is a different matter. However on a general scale, fashion is and should be a personal choice, inspired by the things that interest you and be a result of your own developed tastes. I find it odd when certain men say they shun the male fashion of fashion shows, because following fashion is 'girlish', yet feel perfectly at ease to wear similar clothing, often down to the exact specific garment types, as their friends. Essentially what they are doing is no different, they are being influenced by something they see and take interest in.

Yohji Yamamoto SS09

One of the best examples for my idea of fashion are the designs of Yohji Yamamoto. Although he may play with proportions to the extent that the garments do not seem to fit the models, there is always a creativity and character to the pieces. The phrase I find most suitable is 'old man style', in that men of the older generation are able to wear their clothes, rather than letting clothes wear them. Even if the garments are oversized, as they usually are in this case, the body having shrunk in old age, older men always have a character and personality so clear cut behind their clothing. We see them before we notice the clothing, something that is often not the case with younger people. With the younger generations what tends to happen is that individuals often find it hard to express their tastes or perspectives and as such do not at first become visible through their clothing. In a way I feel that once a person is comfortable with their own tastes and expressions, and can dress for themselves rather than others, no matter how 'wrong' their outfit choice may seem on any other occasion, for that person at that time it is the 'right' choice.

Fashion is similar to art in many ways for me, the greatest similarity being that is almost impossible to be 'right' or 'wrong'. Fashion is in its own way far more revealing an insight into a person than their artwork, poetry, writings or film making. Whilst the latter are usually only the capturing of a specific frame of mind or static thought, fashion is far more fluid. The joy lies within the fact that we must address our own personal fashion and expression to others for nearly every moment of our waking lives. The functionality of fashion that is inherent to its nature, means that we are almost always clothed, and as such we are almost always expressing ourselves. Creativity such as this is core to nearly every aspect of our lives.

Whenever asked why I enjoy fashion or art, the only answer I seem to be able to muster, however vague it may sound, is that I enjoy life.

Currently playing: Girls All Around The World ft. Lil Wayne - Lloyd / Pimpin' All Over The World ft. Bobby Valentino - Ludacris



  1. What a great observation.

    Love your scarf. So glad to see the fedora back..you need one..heheee..

    Yes, I love clothes with personality..a bit of nostalgic.

  2. Your pictures are great.

    Ahhh, sometimes old people dress eccentric and fabulous, but not everyone can appreciate this. I'm glad you do.


  3. This is the most inspired essay on "why" that I've ever read.

    It reminded me that I used to really focus on whether or not someone else's outfit was "acceptable" to me. When I was younger, I judged. Now I have learned that what a person wears IS what they say/think/feel about themselves. What a person wears IS that person, so what they wear is untouchable, not to be judged, beyond reproach.

  4. So true about why we love fashion or anything very "creative." I think it's not only that we enjoy life, but we also appreciate it! We appreciate the efforts people make to present themselves to the world and we appreciate the small things like this. My friend doesn't understand why people dress "ugly," but I like it because they're not afraid about who they are or what others think of them. Again, another very eloquent piece from you! Hope you're feeling better, sending positive vibes your way!

  5. nice observation, love the outfit esp the jacket :)

  6. I feel the same way. I don't see fashion as either right or wrong. People all have their own interpretation of it and who is to say they are wrong or right. That's why I dislike a lot of style shows like style police. They sit there spewing out judgements on others outfits and deeming themselves as the authority on style. Seriously - who said they were? Like that man -- they would definitely write him off as gawdy and unstylish. But, he does have style -- his own. It many not be everyone's tastes but he must be admired for having his own style. I remember reading somewhere that bad style is better than no style. I'd have to agree. I'd rather see a man in lime green tshirts and white studded leather jackets than a carbon copy of a mannequin in the hollister store. Even then -- I wouldn't say his style was bad. I"m being a little redundant. But, I agree with you!

  7. you have such an eye for style... i'm truly envious!

  8. I would have loved to have a chat with that wonderfully colourful character. I have the same idea on the subject of fashion. It's great to have someone expressed the idea so eloquently.

  9. trying to imagine that man proved fruitless so a few characters came to mind when I saw people scoff or myself had a bad reaction and I have to say - I do think there is right and wrong to a certain extent in fashion. I view fashion as a necessary art, it serves a function
    shoes that one can't walk in would do beautifully in a museum but would incapacitate an actual person, albeit temporarily
    midriff shirts baring less than perfect physiques (as conceived by society, something we can't turn our backs to) would get someone humiliation more than reverie
    I do believe in not thinking TOO much what people will say but I am not for completely disregarding the reaction of those around us - since it is a reflection of something.
    not 100% of the time, but let's not be shut off to criticism in the name of "art", "creativity", "individuality"
    sometimes things just look like crap on us.

  10. kiss from a kindred fashion spirit :)

  11. you write so well dapper kid~ and i love seeing people who dress the way they want and not care what others think. i truly wish i could b like that and have more confidence!

  12. you always write such great posts :]

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    Dinh Trung