You might be surprised to learn that Streetwear and Denim poster @KamoteJoe didn’t start his journey looking like a photo edit of impossibly cool Japanese brands. We all start somewhere, and Mr. KamoteJoe is no different. Follow along as he describes what brought him to his current, stand-out style, and what he learned along the way.
“Mixing similar shades of color in the same outfit?” was a question I posed to /r/malefashionadvice some 3+ years ago in the middle of my junior spring of college. My other open tabs most likely included TSBMen (now Articles of Style), Put This On, A Continuous Lean, and Fashionbeans. Though I had a penchant for rules and how-to’s, I asked this question because I often broke this “cardinal rule” of mixing blue and black together in my early WAYWT posts, much to the chagrin of others. My then go-to combo were these Black Heschung derbies purchased on ebay for $40 and a Diesel x Self Edge Iron Heart pair found in a Greenwich Village Goodwill for $10. I liked them for rather innocuous reasons: I got them for cheap and people online told me they were from quality brands.
My early interest in clothes originated from two sources: the Styleforum Thrift and Discount Bragging thread and my being in a northeast liberal arts college where oversized fisherman sweaters and vintage Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirts dotted my peers like a Dunkin’ Donuts on the I-91. Back then, I barely knew what it meant to have a personal style. I was an international student starting a new life in the USA – and culture shock was the best way to describe my confusion with American customs and values. How could I communicate that I was beginning to understand these things? Through clothes of course! I made a habit of checking out the local Goodwill and frequenting ebay for cheaper clothing that allowed me to try All-Black, Vintage Americana, and the MFA uniform. I even started a photoblog with a dear friend as an excuse to skirt more pressing responsibilities. There was so much information out there that I never envisioned being able to narrow the endless possibilities into a concise vision of what I wanted for myself.
The time came for me to pack my belongings and head home to the Bay Area for post-graduate life. Because a “real job” was not waiting for me, I continued this thrifty approach until my breakthrough moment in the fall of 2015. I purchased a Kapital denim ring coat off /r/rawdenim with barely any knowledge of the brand and its offerings. Upon its arrival, I remember spending an hour trying to figure out the button configuration and how the heck I was supposed to wear it. It was the first non-form-fitting jacket I had ever owned and I could have easily passed it on as another expensive mistake in my style journey. But I didn’t bend this time.
Slowly but surely, I began trading my white sneakers, slim button downs, and bombers out for unconventional and wider pieces from more niche labels. One thing led to another and, feeling empowered to build up my wardrobe, I continued to scour Grailed and local consignment stores for the brands I wanted. As my style started changing, the impulse to purchase something based solely due to its label had waned. That’s when I thought to myself So this is what it means to have a personal style. It was no longer a question of what to wear but what would I wear.
To this day, dressing up in the morning is one of the things I look forward to when I wake up. There’s a consistent sense of pleasure that I derive from knowing that I’m wearing some of the best-made clothes out there. If you went and told my 2014 self that “Made in Japan” would dominate the care tags of my clothes, that I only wear slimmer fitting pants on a night out, and that I do not even consider wearing any tailoring except for special occasions, then 2014 me would have probably closed all those clothing tabs and chosen another hobby. It’s been a journey rife with mistakes and mishaps, but my fashion identity would not be what it is without this learning experience.
You’ll notice that my wardrobe leans towards Japanese Americana: Kapital, Engineered Garments, and Nepenthes labels (Needles, South2West8) to name a few. These are clothes that may seem normal from afar but there’s always a detail or two about them that makes them very unique. Kapital’s mantra of wearing clothes that make you happy really resonated with me and it’s made this hobby less about impressing and more about wearing clothes that are an extension of my personality. Looking to the future, I might venture into more Junya and artisanal label territory but I wouldn’t want to make any sort of compromise on my lifestyle because I still buy clothes that are meant to be lived in. What’s a garment without the story that the owner passed onto it? You carry your stories, values, and experiences on the clothes you wear – might as well enjoy them! I am still on an inexplicable honeymoon with clothing that has led me to the most knowledgeable, kind, and genuine people inside and outside this community. I cannot thank the Styleforum community enough for helping me find a unique way of expressing myself.