A Letter on Fear
July 20, 2010
From “Hymn for the Unknown King”
July 23, 2010

Ok, so I have something to confess. I missed a decade of American fashion. Maybe two.

Who knew that an unbuttoned collared shirt atop a white T was ’90s? Not me. As are, apparently, rolled-up pant legs, acid-treated jeans, and shoes with those hidden roller wheels. It’s a shame I got a pair with landing lights last week. Ah, L.A. Gear.

I know I’m not one to care awfully much about how I look—often to my detriment. But I’m curious what passed me by the last decade or two. I got the saggy jeans thing, and just decided to ignore it. I never did rat tails (though I knew a hot guy who did), I’m not much for bangles of any kind, and I don’t sport the skin-tight, too-small-for-me gay look. Am I missing something that I could dabble in?

Wikipedia tells me I missed the boat on darker denim—the effort to formalize the casual look while still being casual in a formal way. In other words, I missed the opportunity to be everything and nothing to everyone or anyone. Now that’s stepping out on a risky fashion limb.

Pantsuits (à la Hillary Clinton) came into fashion, but there’s no translation for a 28-year-old gay male short of cross-dressing. Polos have recently reinvented themselves, and I’ve even seen a popped color or two. I thought they were somewhat anachronistic, but maybe I’m the one out of touch. The question is—can I only pop polo collars, or do button-up dress shirts work, too?

Boot-cut jeans (dark denim, of course) also seems to have been a thing for a while, but such a short while that I missed it. I’m not sure I’ve even seen them in stores.

And where to shop? My fashion-savvy gay friends flock to places like Express, dismantling pile after pile of neatly folded t-shirts selling at an appalling $25 a pop. All of them are gilded with designs and slogans that have nothing to do with anything: COURAGE. PRIDE. LOYALTY. What? Is Express trying to instill values through their clothing? To most of my friends, all that seems to matter is the fit and the color. Why not have solid colors sans moral crusades?

I, meanwhile, scour the shelves at Old Navy and wonder how the selection there is any different—at a price point $20+ lower. I’ve bought Express t-shirts and jeans, and to be quite frank, they’re all full of holes. My Old Navy collection is doing quite well, thank you, and might even pass as designer. To the less savvy, anyway.

But the problem persists. I suppose I wouldn’t be so concerned about all of this if I didn’t feel like an eyesore in social situations. But the fact is, not only do I not know contemporary fashion (which might not suit me anyway), I don’t really even know what looks good on me. I’m fine clinging to the ’90s straight-cut, light-denim, Starter-plastered, high-top-topped fashion lines if I only knew that it suited me.

Which is why, more conscious of late about how my gay self wears anything, I remain as neutral as possible. Earth tones. No awkward cuts, slips, dashes, logos, or combinations.

Until, that is, someone can come to my aesthetic rescue?

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