A menswear dude on searching for self and style — and a sense of escapism — in New York City.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the rip: It’s a fact that New York has a higher drip per capita than any other city on the continent. The most stylish neighborhood is the Upper East Side around 2 p.m. on a Tuesday; nobody drips harder than a low-key Republican retiree shuffling out of The Frick after seeing an exhibit on Dutch Baroque Art, dressed in a chunky knit cardigan, a pair of pleated corduroy trousers anchored by fat two-inch cuffs and some luxe suede loafers. Sure, in SoHo I once spotted what looked like one of the lesser-known Jonas Brothers, but it turned out to be just another Professional Cool Guy™ in an oversized vintage tee and stonewashed, skinny-baggy jeans rocking Js that dropped before he was born. I’d rather listen to the Old Men of the Upper East Side™ rail against how thoroughly “urbanized” Manhattan has become while I shamelessly ingratiate myself with their long-suffering wives in a blatant attempt at becoming their next of kin so I can cash out on my share of the inheritance with the quickness. Shooters shoot.
If you live in New York, the sheer amount of drip on display is tantamount to a sensory overload of the best kind, though it’s one that can easily lead to a paralysis of choice when it comes to getting dressed every morning. Since starting to work full-time, I have some (read: very little) discretionary income of my own to spend on, naturally, outlandish clothing that my immediate family likely considers “a phase.” However, I’ve been struggling with defining a sense of style for myself: While I still gravitate towards the same pieces, it feels like there’s an abundance of riches when it comes to the options available to a modern-day menswear dude who’s way too invested in wholly nonfunctional idiosyncrasies, like raw hems and asymmetrical pockets.
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Am I scraggly-looking enough to pull off the louche sleaze of the scumbro? Dedicated enough to pull off the dark futurism of the diehard archive devotee? Or am I authentic enough for the rumpled elegance of the gradually maturing skater? My life has become one long version of the distracted boyfriend meme, except my girlfriend is the pair of cargo pants I just purchased and the girl I’m turning to look at is the Alyx tactical cargo pant that just popped up in my product recommendations, like the snake whispering sweet nothings in Eve’s ear.
For me, the Sisyphean process of deciding what to wear is a struggle of epic proportions. The brands that I gravitate towards today are as disparate as they are distinct, and investing in just a few pieces from each feels more like copping a bunch of dope shit on a whim than cultivating any sort of cohesive wardrobe. My closet is comprised of a constantly changing rotation of meaningless material purchases made in reckless pursuit of that perennial white whale: getting a goddamn ‘fit off.
The questions that keep me up at night are the probing existential profundities of our era: What does a scumbro wear on a first date to avoid immediately scaring away any and all potential partners? What can I cop if I’ve already blown my allocated clothing budget on one extremely expensive “investment” piece that’s supposed to be the last version of said item I’ll ever have to buy — but is really just the latest in a long line of entirely indistinguishable purchases? What if the closest I’ve come to skating is refusing to rollerblade at Rachel’s bat mitzvah bash because the colorway on the skates in my size clashed with the rest of my meticulously curated look?
Much to my chagrin, copping an indiscriminate amount of clothing isn’t a personality trait. When your sense of self is disproportionately predicated on a sad cycle of consumption, you’re doomed to drown in your own drip. I think about clothing constantly, often in a state of suspended cognitive dissonance, at once aware of how inconsequential my concerns are and wholly unable to unburden myself of them. Yet as a proxy for far more paralyzing problems, fussing over an extra inch of fabric on a pair of pants fresh from the tailor presents a tangible worry to tackle. Going off on some poor schmuck on Grailed who’s slow to provide my package’s shipping information is a great way to relax when the alternative is reckoning with a reality that seems increasingly surreal.
While so much of what’s going on in the world seems out of our control, how we dress remains decidedly in our hands. A fetishistic appreciation for the finer details of Japanese design seems like a small price to pay for retaining any shred of sanity as everything else around us goes up in flames, like some very real, very scary version of a “this is fine” meme. It’s fashion enthusiasm as escapism. No doubt climate change means that the beginning of a brutal New York City winter will be here in a hot second. In the interim, catch me reposting “can’t wait ’til it gets colder so I can really start dressing” roundups while I blearily scour paparazzi shots of Justin Bieber looking like a surly tween from the ’90s and reach out to every seller of ritzy hotel slippers that I can find with increasingly frantic offers. Like I said: shooters shoot.
Homepage image: Street style at New York Fashion Week: Men’s. Photo: Imaxtree