What’s the link between fame and fashion? The Yale Look Book knows …

I was in Chicago a few months ago visiting my cousin when I learned that, in some super glamorous life that’s not my own, I’m “famous.” Here’s the scene: I’m minding my own business, plugged into my iPod and listening to I-don’t-remember-which indie-rock band, when this woman approaches me and asks to take my photo. A teensy bit creeped out, I obliged. Minutes later, in a different part of town, it happened again. Fast-forward to a few weekends ago when I was eating at Bleecker Street Pizza and these people just started taking my picture. Like, they just whipped Kodaks out of their asses and pressed that shutter button like whoa.

So if you happen to see my face poorly pasted to a body in some bootleg erotic photo …

Who cares about little old me, a tiny black boy dressed in copious amounts of black with a homohawk? Without sounding too narcissistic — even if ours is the most narcissistic generation ever, as recently noted in the mainstream media — there are at least two ways to understand why these women wanted my photo. Maybe I embodied some kind of stereotypical ideal for these two women: they saw me and thought, “That’s what a New Yorker looks like!” Or, “OMG, a real-life queer! Get his picture, quick!”

The other possible scenario is that because I try to dress fashionably, it might have seemed to those women that I was “famous.” I know that whenever I see fabulously dressed people, I immediately panic and frantically think, “Who is it?!?! Who is it?!??!” simply because they look so deliciously well put-together. And one of the worst things for the celebrity is to be captured in a moment of bad fashion. How many times have we seen pictures of frumpy celebs sneaking out incognito to get coffee only to be revealed and embarrassed in the fashion press?

Yet nowadays, it seems that we’re all famous, or that everybody wants to be famous in their own way, if “fame” means instant recognition by people you don’t know. If it’s true, it might be because we’re living in a generation in which images circulate widely and quickly, thanks in no small part to cultural favorites like Facebook and Myspace. I know I recognize a lot of people at Yale from their Facebook profiles, even if I don’t know them personally. Similarly, party photography Web sites — thecobrasnake.com and lastnightsparty.com — post pictures of hot people from hot parties all over the world.

Starting next fall, I will add yet another piece of narcissism to our image-obsessed generation, and I tentatively call it The Yale Look Book. TYLB is a blog I’ve started that will chronicle fashionable people right here on the Yale campus. To create the blog, I plan to hang out on Cross Campus during the lunch hour and ask to take pictures of random, fashionable folk in front of one of the college walls. Of course, I won’t take your mug shot so that you look bad; the point of TYLB is so that you look hot!

Like any look book, TYLB will hopefully serve as a style guide to the Yale community. If we’re living in an age in which anybody can seem famous, thanks to the circulation of images through Internet networking Web sites, then hopefully some Yale students will take more pride in how they present themselves so that they will be “spotted” in TYLB. Everybody wants to be spotted: It’s why we dress up to go out or why we update our Facebook status/profile every second. We want people to pay attention to us.

Some of you are squirming in your chairs, saying, “I just don’t care about fashion. I don’t care what I look like. Plus, fashion is silly.” How do you argue with that? Well, if your body is your canvas, as I often say, take the advice of an undergraduate friend of mine who recently added, “And you’re competing with all the other canvases.” Enough said.

More often than not, people who claim to not be in on the fashion project are the same people who know that they should dress up, even if only a little, before they go out or someplace important. The common misconception is that fashionable dress means having the latest threads, or even the most expensive ones. But for me, being fashionable simply means that we take ourselves seriously enough to not look like a Hot Mess in public.

Why not use TYLB as an opportunity to capitalize on Yale students’ general fabulousness by giving them an facebook-worthy reward for looking good?

So don’t be too freaked out if I approach you on CC and ask, “Do you mind if I take your photo for The Yale Look Book?”

“Come on, Vogue!”

Madison Moore wants you to make your body move to the music.