WBaker is a denizen of the Streetwear and Denim subforum, and mostly favors brands that make him look like a movie protagonist. Here, he tells the story of a moment that made him think about the way he dresses, and even the way he thinks about clothing.
“Your jackets’ on inside out”
‘Chayyim’ is the code word. Take a left out my front door and you’ll trip into the block’s corner bar, a busy basement where the going rate for a stool is half an hour on the curb. You say ‘Chayyim’ to the door guy. Chayyim is the owner, so he’s not to be confused with the toast ‘l’chaim’. Once you’ve ‘Chayyim’d’ yourself past the door guy someone will sherpa you down a flight of stairs that make you realize how bad stairs can be. The door at the bottom opens to a low-ceilinged, bowling-lane-sized bar. The stools are for people who waited on that sidewalk; you’ll stand on a perfectly empty two square foot plot of land at the edge of the bar. I see this as a plus, drinking to the point of oblivion on a bar stool comes without the buckling and bending alarm system thoughtfully provided by the legs.
One late night, drink in hand, I stood alone following protocol. Saying ‘Chayyim’ doesn’t guarantee a plus one. On this night, however, a friend of a friend’s roommate’s landlord – a random lady – decided she was my plus one.
I like my two by two at the bar because it looks like I got in trouble and people aren’t supposed to talk to me. Mind you this isn’t that ‘saucy bad boy’ type of don’t talk to me, rather its that ‘I might talk at you about Japanese Blade Runner Blaster model kits for three hours’ type of don’t talk to me. When I go to a bar alone I talk to my drink, and find most beverages to be well spoken.
“Your shoes are all ‘GQ’, how much did you spend on them?” she said, taking perhaps her first stab ever at talking to another person.
“Tomenosuke used way too light an amber tint in the resin for their blaster grips, considering how well they got the knurling…” I gurgled into my drink.
She called my cardigan ugly. Asked if it was on inside out. Suddenly I felt like I was on the receiving end of some negging pickup routine ala The Game: See How You Like It.
“I mean if they’re gonna get the underside of the Steyr .222 bolt action dead-on with a working receiver, why cop out on a spray gun paint job over vacuum metalizing…” I said, abiding by the cone of silence that is Chayyim’s 2×2.
She was setting up this point about, to quote her, how “A portrait is any painting in which there is something wrong with the mouth”, thereby meaning she liked my outfit because the cardigan was wrong. She spoke with this bullshit-meter-ticking ‘just thought of that’ tone. I’ll admit to listening to Radiolab and stealing its better talking points for casual conversation with friends, so maybe the devil met the devil that night.
She said she was an artist, and to prove it she gave me a business card that did in fact say “Artist” on it. I want to get business cards that only say “You just gave me a business card and I didn’t want you to feel left out”.
I’ll have to talk with Chayyim about upgrading to a three by three one day. Maybe Geller will make a “do not pet” vest I can don like a service dog.
Like a top 5 song, the portrait shtick bounced around my head for a week or two after. I’m hasty to mistrust others so I did some googling and it’s a quote from John Sargent, a new-to-me turn of the century American painter. Oh sweet nirvana! Not only did I learn something new, but my reflexive mistrust had been vindicated. There are only so many days in one’s life where you can both learn something new and be proven right. I’ve learned to hold dearly to those fleeting moments.
As I first got into dressing myself with gusto I made the error of becoming obsessed with the individual garment. I’d hunt for these epic-overdone-protagonist pieces because when they’re draped alone on a white plaster mannequin they seem like the solution to life’s problems. I got into garments that excited me from the hanger without even thinking about the outfits they’d be Frankenstein’d into.
I started posting outfits onto Styleforum around 2011 to mostly negative response, and rightly so. Once combined, my “über-cool” pieces were a muddled mess. Without strangers on the internet and even stranger ladies in bars I’d still dress like The Dude got hired by UPS:
Mr. Sargent’s words capture how visually satisfying it can be to defy a base reality. Hearing a trite line about portraits broke my habit of dressing in a way that was putting sprinkles on my sprinkles. I found my outfits more exciting when the effort I put into the crazy stuff was matched with the effort I put into my basics. Basic button downs, trousers, and T’s can make a better canvas for when I wanna wear that single button belted officer jacket and cream side-zips.