Forgive me because this post isn’t strictly about fashion.
From the time I was in junior high I had a real interest in the kind of art and culture that was somehow unsafe, unwanted or blatantly loud in the face of normalcy. I don’t think I really understood the attraction then, but now as an adult, the reason is glaringly obvious.
I was a quiet kid – not by nature but by necessity. Like so many kids with a secret I was stiffled by the fear of being found out and as a result chose not to act like myself. I studied the way other boys talked and how they walked. I took note of the things they made fun of and vowed never to do them again. It was survival.
As I grew up, this behavior became routine and almost second nature. In many ways the muffled version of myself became almost as natural to be and certainly easier. I started to honestly lose track of where the line was drawn. The belief that maybe my secret would disappear if I kept just still enough, was deep and engrained and dangerous. It was around this time that my interest in culture began.
I found myself attracted to music by the Deftones, Iggy Pop and Johnny Cash. I read books by Kurt Vonnegut, watched movies by John Waters and became obsessed with street culture and in particular the work of street artists. I was fascinated by people who were distinctly different than the mass of the world and yet still thrived and sometimes even became celebrated because of it.
Working within the confines of my world, I was able to get my highschool to allow me to start painting the branches of the trees about campus, culminating later into a project where I constructed and planted a tree in the commons made from dead and painted branches. No explanation, just a bold and bright tree out of nowhere. I can distinctly remember the faces on the crowd of kids that first day. They were confused, excited and happy to see something new and different.
At another point I spent a semester in art class painting a giant roll of paper towels. Each foot or so featured a new portrait, a landscape, whatever. I put every creative ounce I had into that paper towel roll. When I was done I put it into the locker room towel dispenser and sat back and laughed as people went to dry their hands. I was a weird kid and I knew it – but what I was learning, underneath the rebellion, was how to tell the truth. Each thing I did that was quirky or weird, that made people laugh, that pushed into the boundaries, made it safer for me to let that person underneath start to come out.
My love for art, bright colors, bold statements, and their ability to make you uncomfortable and at the same time excited, translated into every part of my life. One of the biggest pieces to be influenced was my personal sense of style. As I watched my art idols like Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Invador do their thing, I mimicked their confidence by pushing my own limits, getting people to notice, and daring them to accept me. Oddly, amidst all the fear that I had, I started to develop a reputation as a fearless and confident person. What I was doing was opening my own door, leveling the ground for me to walk on.
I know that this blog isn’t usually personal, but today I thought that I might use this post to explain why I care at all about art or fashion. This act of dressing up and showing the world who you are has a deep and real meaning to me. Subversive style, be it in art, fashion or music inspired me to stand tall in my skin and gave me the confidence to tell the truth about the person I had quieted for so long. On the surface things like fashion and style seem shallow, but when you look closer you can see their real and true power.
Below is the trailer for the film Outside In: The Story of Art in the Streets which is based on the groundbreaking MOCA exhibit Art in the Streets that featured dozens of incredible street artists who until then had never really been celebrated. Check it out, and if you’re in a rut right now, I challenge you to embrace the style of your life and to create a world that allows you to be fully a part of it – as yourself.