May 14, 2008
What happened to style?
As I became reacquainted with my hometown, Vallejo, California, after living in San Francisco for two years, this question ran repeatedly through my head. What happened to dressing with authority, individuality and flair? Even animals, with their rainbow-colored plumes and unique scents, make an effort to stand out from the pack. So what’s up with this homogenous clothing trend and its diminished individuality?
Passing yet another sea of billowing white T-shirts and baggy jeans, it becomes obvious that young human males have officially tossed aside nature’s rules. Lamenting their laziness and lack of couture creativity, I recently approached my older brother to find out the reasoning behind this uninspired phenomenon.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “What’s up with the whole white T-shirt thing? Every time I see you and your friends, you guys are wearing the same thing.”
“And it’s not the same thing every time you see me…I wear a new one every day,” he added.
“I wear a new [white tee] almost every day. You can’t really wear them more than once, twice at the most. They start to look dingy. You gotta stay fresh, crisp. The tees are only about $13, so it doesn’t really matter.”
Clothes Cross Boundaries
All of the members of the white tee fraternity I talked with shared this line of thinking, although only a few took it to my brother’s level of wastefulness. These young men were from varied demographics, but shared some tastes and characteristics. They ranged in age from thirteen to thirty-one and represented many ethnicities: African, European and Filipino-Americans. While I didn’t ask about their household incomes, judging by their cars, the guys’ financial resources were also diverse. This physically disparate group was connected by a shared appreciation for comfortable, unfussy clothing and an admiration for hip-hop and urban culture.
“I don’t even really wear G- Unit [clothing] and all that anymore,” explained John, a high school senior, “These are so much easier. They’re cheap, they match everything. I don’t have to think about anything…Just throw on a white tee and a pair of jeans and go.”
Ernest, 30, said, “It’s how we do it in the V [a nickname for Vallejo]. We keep it gutter.” (I tried not to roll my eyes at this one. I have a hard time associating my fellow suburbanites with the word “gutter.”)