June 17, 2011

Fashion and Identity

Steampunk fashion. Ever heard of it? Neither had I, until my brother Joe mentioned it the other day. “I think I’ve finally discovered my style,” he said. Intrigued, he told me to check out The Gentleman’s Emporium, an entire online store devoted to “authentic period clothing.” The site contains everything from canes and suspenders to vests and field trousers. Steampunk Threads, another online outfitter, describes steampunk fashion as having “a definite Victorian look and feel, often embellished with wildly creative bits of hardware or technology that might have been conceived by a Victorian mind.” While it’s hard to envision a 6’2” man with arm-sleeve tattoos sporting a top hat and monocle, I have to say that it’s pretty great that at 32 he’s been turned onto a fashion that he identifies with, even if it’s one that dates back to the 19th Century.  I always love a good paradox.

Original Interpretation of Steampunk.

Contemporary Interpretation of Steampunk. 

Reflecting on my own style and fashion sense I have always been drawn to a version of the classic aesthetic. What can I say? I love nautical stripes. When buying a piece of clothing, I always ask myself, “Is this too trendy? Will this be out in a year?” Because if it is, I’m most likely not going to buy it, unless it’s $20 or less, which is just why H&M is so great. I certainly don’t mind paying good money for clothes, but generally only if it’s a well-made, timeless item, such as designer denim, probably my biggest fashion fetish.

J. Crew.
What I love about designer denim is that it is typically made in the U.S. with good-quality fabric. Most important, though, is that the fit is always so well proportioned. To me, shelling out $170 for a pair of perfectly fitting Paige Denim (my personal favorite brand) is completely worth it, not only because the quality and the fit, but also because (a) they will likely never go out of style and (b) it’s the primary component of (in my opinion) one of the sexiest female wardrobes – tight jeans and a t-shirt. Jeans are an everyday staple for me.  They're kind of my Steampunk.

Ad for Paige Denim.
Along with a good pair of denim, a classic fashion sense allows me to feel comfortable being me without feeling like I’m posing or attracting too much attention or being too consumed by what’s trendy, which ironically makes me feel free to take on pieces of other aesthetics at any given time. To me, the neutrality of a classic style allows me to be an amalgamation of everything I want to be, because I hate being boxed in. (Hell, even making the statement that I like a classic aesthetic makes me cringe a little, but if you looked at my closet that’s mostly what you’d see.)

What's great about fashion is that it's whatever we want it to be -- for Joe right now, it's Steampunk.  For me, it's a Classic embodiment, with a twist of whatever I'm in the mood for.  And while my brother and I differ a bit in our fashion aesthetic, what we do share is an awareness of our chosen styles being in harmony with our identity, which along with us, evolves over time.

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