When I was a sophomore I lived with a sophisticated homosexual from Boston with a Diesel obsession. He had multiple pairs of Diesel jeans, indistinguishable to me by everything but the stitching, which rendered more than one pair of these things a little extravagant by my standards. But he was an extravagant guy when it came to fashion.
I myself had grown up wearing exactly what I wear today — predictable, unassuming preppy gear. To me, Diesel was nothing more than a leaded fuel. My idea of a fashion statement was rolling the cuffs of my chinos. Naturally my roommate and I got off to a great start. Within a week of living together, he called my look “frumpy,” saying my clothes were almost always one size too big for me. I explained to him that my mom always expected me to “fill out” in college, and we had been buying clothes to make room for some lateral growth. But even after freshman year, I had more or less maintained my high school weight. So my roommate was right — I was as svelte as the Hamburglar, and was dressing for Grimace.
I decided to take notice of fashion, and naturally I looked to him first. He had a few pairs of Diesel shoes, one pair of which seemed to violate all of the rules of shoecraft. They were stitched together like a Nike sneaker, but were made of lustrous and supple leather. They were pale blue, but not suede. Most jarring to me was their utter lack of a sole. The leather wall of the shoe, instead of stopping at a thick, protective piece of rubber, curved elegantly underneath the foot and disappeared inexplicably. I had never seen a men’s shoe without a sole before, and I never wanted to see one again. My roommate had spent over $100 on shoes that were hardly shoes at all. It was going to be hard to keep an open mind.
One thing that frustrates me about the fashion of our times is that expensive clothes don’t look expensive enough, and sometimes are meant to look downright cheap. Used to be that those who spent $1000 on their outfits looked like they had. The wealthiest had gold-plated gryphon’s heads on the tops of their canes, while the working class were lucky to have a pig’s foot covered in resin. The poorest had canes of gnarled wood with no tops at all. There were no rich people sporting canes of gnarled wood, reminding you every minute that their particular cane, though identical to the one the poor folks were sporting, was uniquely weathered by the House of Givenchy. That’s just annoying, frankly, like a pair of $300 cargoes.
I don’t care how much you paid for your shoe, but if it has no sole, you paid too much. There are people in developing nations who would gladly have taken your sole — the one you paid for and didn’t get — for their own feet.
If I were queen for a day, I’d fix it so you only had to pay for what you got — a fixed ratio of dollars to material used and labor required. A brass eye to feed your laces through should cost you a few dollars more than an eye of a lesser alloy. A shoe with a thick sole should cost more than a shoe with a thin one, and certainly more than a shoe with no sole at all. You will remember, however, that when Morty Seinfeld tried to impart this same wisdom to J. Peterman, he was fired on the spot. Seems that fashion neither about practicality nor honesty.
In the name of fashion, hipster kids are skipping school to pick through overpriced racks of t-shirts, looking for the thinnest, the oldest, and the most hideous. I call it the “irony tee.” Our generation, not content merely to infuse everything we say and do with bitter irony, is using clothing to do the winking for us. You see me in my Mickey Mouse shirt, baby blue and clinging tightly to my withered chest, and you think, “That’s funny! Eric Eagan is so hip he’s pretending to worship an over-worshipped American icon! He’s so middle America he’s not.”
And then the mind-fuck begins. “Or is he really middle America?,” you wonder. “Perhaps he really loves Mickey Mouse, goes to Disney World every year, and in a brilliant post-modern statement is allying himself with crass commercialism while seeming to eschew it. Does he wear such a shirt as a cynical commentary on the ubiquity of the commercial logo, or to elevate the logo to the status of high-fashion adornment?” At this point, who the heck cares. Post-modern fashion is exhausting. Wear what you want to wear, but don’t ask me to take notice.
Who can blame me for concluding ultimately that I would remain a preppy, roommates and A.C. Slaters be damned. Not because I feel particularly preppy, but simply because I’ve always dressed this way. It’s easy. One trip to the Polo store and I’m set for shirts. J.Crew or Brooks Brothers for slacks. Everything looks precisely as expensive as it is, which isn’t extravagant but always crisp and nice-looking.
I did, however, take my roommate’s original advice and abandoned the frump. I would like to think it becomes me. Naturally I gave all of my old clothes to the Salvation Army, and wouldn’t you know they found a new life? Just the other day I saw a freshman girl wearing one of my baggy plaid shirts as a kind of headdress. She looked like Erykah Badu meets Paul Bunyan, and she was coming out of ABP with a straight face. Now that, my friends, is a statement.
Eric Eagan has an utter lack of soul.