18 February 2014

Revisiting Denim

Acne Roc Cash

The last pair of jeans I owned were from the debut Silent by Damir Doma collection. Since then my wardrobe has consisted of wool trousers – great for Winter, but hardly the most practical option for daily wear (dry cleaning bills add up!). I had been thinking about buying jeans for a while now because they seemed such an easy option, but I hesitated because the time just did not feel right. My relationship with clothing is incredibly personal, and the process of building my wardrobe has been consciously slow. It is, and has been, about learning. Dress is a dialectic between the body and self, and in that respect I see it as an avenue to learn about how I relate to my body, and how I relate to my self. I know that all sounds rather complicated and overblown, but it is actually quite simple. 

I am fascinated by why some clothes feel natural the moment you put them on, and why other clothes feel intrinsically wrong even though other people may say they suit you. My own experience of dressing has mostly included the latter, and I think that is actually a valuable thing. Mistakes are essential to learning, and when it comes to dressing, the majority of us probably have more mistakes in our pasts than we care to admit. Embrace them I say, that is how you learn. Whether or not is the best way to dress, I find it easier these days to dress according to feeling rather than look. Ignore the mirror, wear what feels right. 

I have worn everything from baggy skater jeans to spray-on skinny jeans, and both extremes were actually a manifestation of the same anxiety. Baggy clothes hide the body, tight clothes reveal the body, and yet in both instances it was a way of negotiating a similar concern – I was not happy with my body. You either hide, or you scream. But in reality neither option is worthwhile in the long run. You have to find a middle ground, admittedly leaning in either direction, but one that ultimately feels natural to you. We all know that feeling of putting something on and not feeling quite right. That discomfort is readily apparent. You need only have a look around at fashion week and you can tell the people who are uncomfortable – dressed up but not feeling natural, clothed in costume rather than dress. That anxiety is almost palpable in the air, with the nervous glances, the careful posing, the self-conscious walking, and the thought processes behind it fascinate me.

Seeing as over half my wardrobe is composed of Yohji Yamamoto pieces, it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that I currently favour a baggier look. But whereas in the past it was a decision based on hiding my body, it is now a way of revealing my self. A small distinction that may not necessarily be apparent to others - what we think our clothes say, and what other people see rarely, if ever, match up. But in a way I do not think it matters, because as I have said, I am trying to learn about my relationship with clothes, before I even consider how others perceive it. Obviously dressing requires us to place ourselves in observer mode in order to create an image, but as both dresser and observer it can easily be about a personal view trumping the view of some imaginary other.

By virtue of how few clothes I own, I have formed a uniform. When you dress in black each and every day, people do not tend to notice the subtle differences in your dress. I looked the same yesterday as I did today, and therein is a great freedom. If my clothes stay the same, people have no choice but to see me, there are no clothes to hide behind. Admittedly this is not the case in fleeting encounters, for the black dominates and, to some extent, obscures, but for daily interactions it is quite a different matter. After spending years hiding behind (loud) clothes, it is nice to have a mode of dress that at once protects me from unwelcome eyes (to quote Yohji), but also blends into the background. A whispered beauty is always more alluring, or at least it is to me.

So back to the subject of jeans. They are at first glance the most democratic of garments, but of course things are never quite so simple. Difference in fit, difference in wash, difference in brands - they all mark out the prevailing social and aesthetic hierarchy (or to be more accurate, hierarchies). But they are something almost everyone owns, so the room is there for making a personal and meaningful choice. Almost every option is available to you, and that array of options can be dizzying. So needless to say, I went back to my uniform. I wanted a pair of black jeans that I could wear and forget about. Clothes are for me always about the feeling – they have to feel right, not just look right. 

I tried on three different styles – skinny, slim with low rise, slim with medium rise. Skinny jeans are something I used to wear a lot a few years ago, and having rather skinny legs, they were quite a noticeable feature. Something about that forward reveal of the body disinterests me now though, because I find a beauty in the dialogue between body and dress in movement (the way clothes are designed to be seen). Saying that, there is obviously still an anxiety there about body image, but it is less pronounced, and I choose to negotiate that in a different manner (no doubt a post to consider in the future). 

Low rises also featured heavily in my past wardrobes, but once you embrace the looser fit, it feels odd going back. Plus I have rather slender hips, so they never tend to look quite right unless I size down, at which point the thighs feel a touch too tight. Speaking of which, I tried on a few Saint Laurent pieces recently in order to see how they feel, and all I have to say is wow...I am underweight, and even I felt too fat for those jeans. Here again comes that idea of trying something on and seeing if it feels right. What I find interesting to consider is whether the Saint Laurent pieces would have felt right to me a few years ago? I know Dior Homme did, but even that was not quite as skinny as these, so maybe not.

In the end I went for a pair of Acne Roc Cash jeans. Slim, with a medium rise, and a black wash that fades when cleaned (although, as with the raw denim I used to wear, I plan on wearing these as long as possible without washing to get some decent fade patterns going). They felt natural to wear, but little things took some getting used to – primarily the size and fit of the pockets! I like pockets. There is an art to crafting the perfect pocket, and it seems to be one that for me Yohji has perfected. But here I have given them the benefit of the doubt and tried to get used to the difference, and it has been surprising how easy it is to get back into that embodied space and practice. I may not know how to ride a bicycle, but you will forgive me for saying that it is like riding a bike. Some things you never forget.

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  1. Great post



  2. Awesome post!

    I love your attitude to dress and build the wardrobe.
    I'm also learning my relationship with clothes every day, through trial and error:)

  3. I don't wear jeans but I love jeans.I think jeans is great clothing.

    Very nice looking,Syed♥

  4. I really enjoyed this post Syed, it's such a personal thing and you really can't listen to anyone else when it comes to getting it right. So true, once you go looser it's near impossible to want to go back the way. it just feels so alien.

    I only really wear one pair for say 8 months/10 months and usually need another pair, for the fit change or size. Currently I have a pair of raw Levi's 511 Selvedge, got a 34 so the waist was slightly higher and they fit me great.

    Buckets & Spades

  5. I can relate to this article on so many levels! Who is the sweater by?