I’m not a large person. Not in stature nor in presence. So I overcompensate by being bawdy and by making “dress clothes” my normal attire.
The former is for shock value. The latter, attention. Much like dying my hair and collecting flair in high school.
The latter, however, is difficult for kids of my stature. My neck is a size smaller than the smallest dress shirts sold at JCPenny. Suit size? 2 smaller than the normally offered smallest size at almost ANY department store.
Years ago, I found refuge in Express for Men’s small 1MX shirts. They were great…until they did what women’s stores often do and make their smalls mediums and so on. So their smalls no longer fit me.
Then they made an XS. Like American Eagle before them…my day had come! Or so I thought…
It all began with wanting to have an untied bow hanging from my tuxedo.
No, I’m sorry, that’s getting ahead of myself.
It began when I realized that thrift stores were good for more things than cool vintage t’shirts. My style today is very different from high school me. Very. Anyone still knowing me who had known me then (there are still a few), can attest to this. Still, pictures are worth more than words, so here:
To understand why I dress as I currently do, I figure I might as well do an entire history, at least as far back as I (a) can remember and (b) was picking out and largely purchasing my own clothes.
I middle school, I dressed. I blended in and had a couple of friends. That’s all. Nothing fancy, maybe one or two shirts that I really liked. Only one person called me out on wearing those two almost exclusively, alternating days. They were polo shirts that fit me well. I had always been given hand me downs and shirts that were far too large for me, so these well-fitting polos made me feel cool. I wore ties only to church and often with short sleeved dress shirts. Sometimes, I could be caught in a pair of black pants, a navy double-breasted blazer, a white short-sleeved dress shirt with a button down collar and the jacket unbuttoned. Atrocity. Pure atrocity.
Hanging out with a boy named Mark (who was several grades ahead of me and had his own car) got me more into punk and hardcore music. I began to dress the part more, mixed a little with what was cool (in my mind): JNCOs and Airwalks. To keep things simple, I kept my head shaved. As I got a little older and more daring, I started dying my hair regularly. I’d grow it out and bleach it. Cut it short and have bleached tips. Grow it out and bleach it then dye it red. Blue. Black. It was my thing. I also painted my nails black. Slowly, my t-shirts got smaller as did my pants.
No, I wasn’t getting fat. I was buying clothes that fit. Ish. They were often small, kind of like scene kids do today buying girl’s jeans.I don’t remember why or how, but I got more into emo. Maybe after I broke up with my first girlfriend. As I liked the emo scene I began to dress more as I saw they did. There weren’t a ton of “emo kids” at my high school at this point so I did my online research:
covered my book bag with patches and buttons (flair, as per the movie Office Space)
wore low-top, black Converse All-Stars
dark jeans with the cuffs rolled up
tiny band t-shirts and ironic children’s shirts from thrift stores
died my hair black
At some point during this transition, I found out about (or at least began to rock) pins and patches for my bookbag. It evolved slowly and I still own it today. I think my hero was Kelly. I didn’t know her personally, but she was a year older than me and had the coolest bookbag I’d ever scene (haha, play on words). She was and probably still is the most punk rock person I know.
One day, walking through the hall, she stopped me and bowed to me, like one used to bow to princes or kings. She told me that the was so impressed with how awesome my bookbag was. She was my bookbag idol and she told me how awesome mine looked! SWEET! We became good friends and ended up going to homecoming together (see photo).
This whole time, my style remained similar. When I joined the theatre department in 2002, I maintained the black hair and bookbag, the small shirts and jeans. However, by senior year, I had toned down on the hair changes. Those theatre kids, ironically, mellowed out my inner punk. (I say ironically because theatre kids are insane)
With the theatre department came a plethora of new friends. One in particular, Mary, was the theatre goddesss of sorts. She was a huge flirt and tons of the guys thought she was God’s gift to Men. We hung out quite a bit. She introduced me to the finer points of thrift store shopping, and it was with her that I purchased my black pinstripe suit. Having this in hand, I realized that I should probably go to prom again: I had gone the previous year and discovered I had a penchant for Tuxedos with Tails. However, this suit was purchased at a fraction of the cost of renting a tux. I knew I’d look like a baller, so I secured a date and attended.
Two proms led me to realize that dressing up was kind of fun. Though I was discouraged from wearing suits regularly, I found special occasions to wear them. Choir concerts, theatre productions, fancy dinners out, homecoming the year after I graduated. I discovered the amazing power of thrift shopping and EBay and amassed a superb collection of outfits. With Mary at my side, I became a clothes shop-a-holic. She was basically my personal assistant, getting me cargos, cords, sweaters and dress shirts.
She hated ties though. Suits too. So I had a great “dressy-casual” look. Thant changed when I picked up the Queer Eye book at B&N and subsequently watched the show with her regularly. I began to think for myself. Then, once I’d graduated and we hung out less, I broke free of her opinions and wore what I want.
The bow ties began with the desire to wear a tux but stand out. I was regularly reading The Style Forum and Ask Andy at work at SVSU and learning a ton. They made me go in another direction entirely, buying clothes I never would have desired and throwing out (donating) a lot of stuff that I never knew was wrong. I followed them to the letter and thus knew if I ever wanted to wear a tux again, I must learn to tie a bow. I can’t remember with any certainty when they became more regular, but I feel like people have always associated me with them. I only owned a few at first, mostly buying them in bulk from Ebay estate sales. However, wear something as eccentric as a bow tie more than once, and people will begin to expect it. In fact, I could wear one one day of the week and get asked the other six about the lack thereof. I guess you reap what you sow…
As a final thought, at long last I was able to find at least one of the old (2005) posts I used to explain my reasoning for my style. Let’s see how it’s held up through the years:
…reason for me to wear suits. Oh, I haven’t made that list here yet? Great! Now if you ever hear me spout this off, you can politely zone out!
1. They offer little exposed body making mosquitos[sic] look elsewhere for sustinance.[sic]
2. I’m never underdressed[sic]
3. They add mass and make me look bigger disguising the fact that I am, simply put, scrawny.
4. (not sure if this is true but someone once criticized me for this so I’ll put it) False sense of superiority. That leads more or less into 5:
5. I know I look decent, so I have one less thing to fret about. ie. I can focus on grammar, posture, breath, etiquiette[sic], without worrying if I look presentable. When dressing “up” is second-nature or commonplace, you carry yourself with more self confidence and are not uncomfortable in nice clothes.
Definite downside: What the hell does one wear to dress up? I have kind of solved that by purchasing a tuxedo and morning suit. Unfortunately, the morning suit is all but completely outdated in the US (Prince Charles and co wore them to HRH’s wedding however, and looked incredibly dapper to boot) and mine needs alterations. I’m lazy though, and cheap. My tuxedo too, has things to be dseired[sic]. Like being proper. After I bought it, I became anal-retentive about styling details, but, since it hardly sees the light of day (haha- it is meant as evening wear!) I am not concerned. It is mostly for fun now. Again, though, dressing up for a wedding bings[sic] these two pieces to mind but I would not want to be dressed similarly or better than the wedding party (think prom tuxes…YUCK!). My tux is not classic by any means but it also doesn’t have 17 buttons. But, I digress.
So, it is obvious this was written both quickly, and before the prevalence of built in spell checkers. A shame to be sure. However, many points still hold up. I am not longer scrawny nor do I have a false sense of superiority; anyone who talks to me for more than five minutes will know that. I do, however, not worry about how I look. I never have to worry about not looking good in photos (except I do tend to make too many funny faces), and I am most certainly rarely underdressed. I certainly feel I’ve reached a happy medium today. Found my personal style, if you will. It’s been a long time coming, but I am comfortable and recognizable. And really, what more can one ask for?
What follows are the photos I was able to find without actually scanning any prints. It is by no means all inclusive and I am certain some are out of order and some dates are incorrect. Still, it serves as a nice overview of (some of) the many styles I’ve maintained through the years (2000-2005 roughly). Cheers.