What we wear can serve as a preliminary introduction. Where an ensemble selected is deliberate and for occasion, clothing can serve as a brief and tantalizing glimpse into an individual before the first words are spoken. While how we appear is more or less constrained by our physical form, our spirits are free to reside in the realm of clothing, a domain only restricted by one’s own imagination. Clothing grants us an element of control. We are provided with an opportunity to influence a first impression through expression of our subjectivity, an opening to improve how we’re perceived before an opportunity arises with dialogue. It’s almost a cliché to reiterate the importance of first impressions, but wouldn’t some semblance of control be nice?
What we wish to portray is often not who we are - instead we subconsciously try to project what we admire and what captivates us. The things that pique our interests are the same things we believe others may be interested in. What we admire, we believe others will too. We are drawn to the enigmatic in the same way we are drawn to a beautifully decorated, unopened parcel. The secrets, complexities and wonderful intricacies of a person are all enclosed within. Who wouldn’t want to make their own parcel more enticing? Tenuous analogy aside, what I strive to do is project some, but not all, of myself. Using dress as a subtle and tasteful prelude seems so preferable to the abrasive peacocking so prevalent today (not only in clothing.) I’ve found in my own experience that those too eager to reveal themselves are usually those who have nothing worthwhile to reveal.
My preference towards black and monochrome can’t be pinpointed to a single moment or epiphany. It was a gradual and conscious change that began with a very simple motive: to wear something flattering. From a purely aesthetic perspective, black is forgiving. It hides flaws and imperfections. It allows one to indulge in the activities of day-to-day life without risk. Simple. Pragmatic.
“Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: "I don’t bother you - don’t bother me".”
As my interest in clothing grew, so did my curiosity in why I dressed the way I did. Introspection can bring with it some interesting revelations. Excitement grew as I began to take notice of my own habits and the patterns that emerged around me. This manifested in a wild experimental phase. Shit. Can you say journey of self-discovery?
Discovery 1: I like my testicles too much to embrace raw denim
Discovery 2: I’m not skinny or cool enough to embrace the skin-tight, emaciated biker boy look.
Discovery 3: I refuse to wear a suit every day, or allow myself to succumb to smart-casual as defined by middle-class socialites and ivy-league jocks.
Discovery 4: Wearing loud prints or colours made me feel uncomfortable and acutely self-conscious.
Discovery 5: I wanted distinction without making a scene. I will do my utmost to avoid homogenisation, but I’ve never been brazen enough to resort to extremes. Maybe time will change this.
“Black is not sad. Bright colours are what depresses me. They’re so… Empty. Black is poetic. How do you imagine a poet? In a bright yellow jacket? Probably not.”
– Ann Demeulemeester
Initially, black was safe, a cocoon in which I could be comfortable. But as I grew, so did it. I first began to explore the ‘artisanal designers’ that worked within the darker niche. I was introduced to Maurizio Altieri’s now defunct ‘Carpe Diem’ and ‘Linea’ labels. I gawked at the $1500 boots and $4000 jackets, wondering what on earth justified the price tag. I was instantly entranced by the insanity of it all. I witnessed (through a laptop screen I should add) Carol Christian Poell’s exotic leather jackets imbued with titanium, leather sneakers dipped in rubber, clothes displayed on meat hooks in decrepit industrial showrooms; too fucking cool. I waded further despite my meagre means. I familiarized myself with Carpe’s off-shoots, and other designers categorized within the artisanal sphere, Maurizio Amadei’s ‘MA+’, Luca Laurini’s ‘Label under construction’, Alessio Zero’s ‘Layer-0’, the list goes on but I won’t waste your time. Each label was distinctive and individual, yet somehow synchronised in their call to me. Appreciation began to form. I guess it could be a natural response from exposure to artisanal mastery. The fabrics, the details… I soaked in the stimuli.
Then with the emergence of Rick Owens (I was very late to the party), his unmistakable ‘glunge’ (Glam-Grunge) aesthetic and those ridiculous proportions, I decided to peek begrudgingly into the more commercialised domain of fashion… It wasn’t what I expected. Here I found the billowing, relaxed silhouettes of Yohji Yamamoto that conveyed maturity and nonchalance; strikingly, an unmistakable sense of wisdom seemed to emanate from the wearers. I wonder if it’ll work for me… I discovered my favourite designer, Ann Demeulemeester. Her black was sensitive, androgynous and delicate. No adjective describes her work more flawlessly than ‘Beautiful’. Rei Kawakubo at ‘Comme des Garçons’ certainly made an impression with some of the most interesting and experimental pieces that I’m not sure can even be categorised as clothing. Alexandre Plokhov, subversive. Boris Bidjan Saberi, industrial. Julius_7, distressed and space age. I could ramble on forever.
I realised that the invariability of black was illusory. Certainly we could compartmentalise it to some degree, the ubiquity of this new wave of ‘street-goths’ stand as testament to this. But these are arbitrary lines drawn in the sand. Unlike ‘traditional menswear’, restriction is left to the agents themselves. There are no overbearing rules governing what’s acceptable.
It was amazing. All the forms black can take, the malleability of it. I don’t feel limited by it - in fact, quite the contrary. It seemed to open exciting new possibilities that I’m not sure could exist outside it. Monochrome is far from mundane, it allows for deeper immersion into other elements. Texture, proportion, shade, layering, all removed from the distraction of colour. While my wardrobe is not completely devoid of colour, black is certainly the foundation. The ease is in its neutrality. It identifies effortlessly with itself and integrates seamlessly with any other colour when needed. The simplicity of it is undeniably gratifying.
These days, what I wear has descended into a drab monotony, and that’s how I like it. The more radical pieces hang quietly in my wardrobe, untouched more or less, except on those days where I’m feeling just a little bit jaunty. Even then, I’ll never be mistaken for an unapologetic misanthrope. I love the coherence of my wardrobe. I love that by slowly discarding pieces that didn’t fit the puzzle, I’ve learnt to appreciate what I do have. I no longer pine over items that conflict with my vision, no matter how good it looks on Jude Law. A weight has lifted as I can finally appreciate without wanting. I feel self-assured. I’ve created a uniform for myself that provides some semblance of stability; a comforting constant in a chaotic and turbulent world. That’s not to say my uniform won’t change when I change, or grow when I grow. That would be senseless, what I wear will always reflect me in the present.
I hope this article isn’t construed as some pointless rhetoric, but rather an exploration of one’s own psychology, and its relationship with clothing.