Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

My Place in the World According to Fashion

My fashion sense has always been more about function over style. Well, that is a lie. My clothes are not entirely functional and I do choose them based on fashion. But the fashion sense I buy into doesn’t seem to quite fit any one group’s style. The graphic tee shirts are a bit hipster, but I get them too big which doesn’t mesh with that. The glasses are functional and a bit minimalist hipster. And I like hats, which can also be viewed as hipster or trendy. But that is where my forays into that culture end. My jeans are functional at making me look decent without looking cool. And my cargo pants would have been cool about a decade ago. Now they are just the male equivalent of carrying a purse. And given that I’m indecisive in my needs on any given day, having the extra space for rations, books, electronics, entertainment, and money is a good thing. My preference for convertible pants / shorts is one that is relegated solely to the travelling style, though most travelling zip-offs are very short up top to facilitate hiking. I want cargo shorts that can become pants so I don’t have to travel with as much gear. I need them less for hiking and more for urban and general wear use. My shoes – well, boots – fall squarely into the functional and traveling style. My hair started out as non-conformist, a middle finger back at the system and the cool kids who looked good and knew how to dress. Over time it just became my thing. Anything that sets you apart from the crowd becomes your thing. And while I don’t have a huge emotional attachment to it now, I’ve received repeated requests from friends (most often women I’m dating) to keep it and not to become a short-haired dude. It means that maintenance is more of a hassle and that I look like a hippie and/or druggie (yes, I’m aware). But it seems to attract the women I’m attracted to, so it wins out. And the facial hair can stay or go, I’m mostly sticking with that out of habit.

And so my general look is one that doesn’t quite fit any group. Part hipster, part outdoorsy, part alternative. None of these are done well enough to get me cred with any of the groups. None of them are done enough so that I’m embraced into the group. And so I exist in a weird fashion world where the ensemble I have put together doesn’t quite follow any set rules other than my own. And my fashion is one of the things that sets me apart from everyone else. It is possibly one of the more individualistic things to me. This strikes me as odd since I don’t really identify with fashion or dressing a certain way. I guess just because there are no labels for what the total package adds up to.

DC is not known for fashion. And when the businessmen, lawyers and politicians get out of their suits, they put on whatever they put on. And somehow I still don’t seem to blend – being somewhere between too trashy to be professional and too put together to be salt-of-the-earth. And while I don’t quite blend in at home, boy do I not blend in overseas. Europe is mostly very aware of how to dress. Greece, Italy, Germany, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Sweden, Iceland – these are lands of skinny jeans, white slacks, v-neck sweater vests, scarves, tapered button down shirts, thick-rimmed glasses, trendy hats, belts that cost more than I spend on my entire outfit, and accessories that somehow complement the whole package. I feel almost too trashy to go to a restaurant in those countries, let alone going out to a club or a nice establishment.

And here I am in Australia, where the fashion is something I cannot get a hold on at all. The nightly scene seems to match the European sensibilities. Converse is the acceptable dressed up dressing down. Put together with tight pants and well-tailored shirts, the guys heading to the bars know that they look sharp. And the ones in suits headed out step even further beyond that. And at the same time, during the days I pass plenty of guys who would fit in perfectly in the US in the 80s – loose tank tops over huge muscles, images plastered on shirts, touches of neon. If I saw a “Frankie Say Relax” shirt, it wouldn’t seem out of place. And the majority of people in the day occupy this world of style that doesn’t seem to have a coherent theme. Not too dressed up, not too dressed down. Not particularly distinguished. No seemingly unifying themes.

And yet somehow I still look like a tourist.

One comment on “My Place in the World According to Fashion

  1. waggadventure
    December 2, 2011

    I’m a recent arrival in Aus and find the ‘fashion’ hilarious. At least you are in the city! We’re in the rural part and menswear is football shorts or maybe board shorts and singlets. Suits…I can’t see ever wearing any of mine here. It’s a casual country…

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This entry was posted on December 2, 2011 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney).

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