This week, we feature another relative newcomer to Styleforum: Leanderthal, who can be found most often in the Classic Menswear WAYWT thread. In this installment, Leanderthal talks about inspiration, hobbies, and growing up – but more importantly, about why menswear is such an impactful part of his life.
I grew up in a small rural community in the central United States. I was raised in a log cabin, deep in the middle of the woods, and led a mostly simple and sheltered life. I first became enamored with men’s clothing after watching Fight Club for the first time. I became obsessed with Brad Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, and I wanted whatever the look was that he possessed: his bad-ass attitude and his vintage red leather jacket. Mostly that jacket though. But other than hoarding GQ magazines, I mostly chalked my ambitions up to a pipe dream. It didn’t seem realistic to pursue them, largely due to my roots and my up-bringing. It didn’t fit into my life, and I had no idea how I would even get involved in something like that anyway.
So instead, when I was of age, I enlisted in the United States military and eventually forgot about whatever it was that I thought I wanted to do in menswear…until about two years ago. Fast forward a decade. I found myself still serving, and while I was proud of what I had achieved, I hated the work that I did. I had become addicted to alcohol, and it seemed like my life was falling apart all around me. I was swinging at air, trying to keep my head afloat. It finally dawned on me that I had to stop drinking, and that I had to get my life in order, so in 2015 I admitted myself to treatment. I got sober, and I’ve stayed sober thankfully. But I found myself yearning for something; something that I didn’t have, but I didn’t know what it was. I had devoted most of my previous time to drinking and work, and I realized that I had no hobbies, and very few friends. I needed to find something for myself. I needed something that made me feel like I had a purpose, to fill the void I had dug myself into.
Then, one day, I was rummaging through my closet trying to find something appropriate to wear to church. In all of my drunken stupor, my wardrobe had fallen by the wayside, and I really didn’t have much to choose from. I was complaining to myself because apart from a few boots and tennis shoes, I really didn’t have any footwear other than a pair of black, square-toed derbies, which I hated. I decided that I needed to go shoe shopping. So, like any wise person, I turned to the internet to begin my search! Almost immediately I was overwhelmed with endless amounts of brands, opinions, and options. I had no idea what to look for or where to start. So I just started to read everything. I read all day that day at work about everything shoe-related that I could find. And I enjoyed it. I loved it! All those little dreams and fantasies that I had when I was a young adolescent started to resurface, and for the first time since I could remember, I became excited.
I decided that I wouldn’t buy a new pair of shoes, but that I would instead begin to build a wardrobe. A wardrobe that I wanted. I discovered websites like Dappered.com and Styleforum. I started watching how guys were dressing, and noted what I liked. At first I thought that I should build a formidable wardrobe of modest staple items. Things like a charcoal suit and cap toed shoes. But before I could even make a purchase, I started to become bored with the idea. I really didn’t need a charcoal suit. I worked a uniformed job, and apart from an occasional wedding or funeral, I had nowhere to wear a suit to.
I wanted to dress like the guys I was seeing on threads and in magazines. I wanted to wear what I wanted to wear, how I imagined it. I wanted to dress how I was feeling. I wanted to wear colors, and textures, and unique pieces. So, that’s what I started to do. It took me awhile to come out of my shell. I was scared of what people on the internet would think if I posted a picture of something I was wearing and they didn’t like it. It meant putting myself out there. I really didn’t know what I was doing. I was just trying new things every time, things that I liked. And I still am. What has changed is my confidence.
I still consider myself just a novice menswear enthusiast. Every day I am trying something new and experimenting. If I see something I like or that inspires me, I try it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I get critiqued, and I get complimented. But it really doesn’t matter to me either way. I am doing something that I take great pleasure in and that makes me happy. And every day and every ensemble is new and fun. Even if I don’t get it right! It’s always an experience that I love. My confidence has sky-rocketed since I started dressing how I like and how I see myself dressing.
Working a uniformed job gives me the freedom to dress as I please when I am not at my place of work, something I find very unique and that I am grateful for. Menswear has also filled that void that I once had in my life – that void that I used to fill with alcohol and depression. It has kept me alive, in a sense. Because of everything that has happened in my life in two short years, I have decided that it is fitting for me to change my choice of career. At the end of this year I will be discharging from the service, at which point I will go on to finish my bachelors in Fashion Design and Merchandising and begin my MBA. This is a whole new world for me, and I am ecstatic to be stepping into it.
You can follow @Leanderthal on Instagram @ollisleander