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You Can Blend, But You Can't Hide

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Last Weekend...

A friend from San Francisco visited me in New York. He brought one pair of Nikes to wear with his Henley and jeans and over the course of the weekend, called a fedora “a cool hat.” After I saved his life by not allowing him to buy said hat, I asked him how he made his style decisions and he told me, proudly, that he was just trying to “blend in.”

I love fashion because it’s the last great cultural art in which everyone absolutely has to participate. No one has to know that you are listening to The Chainsmokers on loop in your headphones and Kindles can mask your sixth reread of The Catcher in the Rye, but even if the jumble of letters that form most swagless homie and Raf Simons mean absolutely nothing to someone like my friend, he still thinks about what he wears with purpose. You can blend, but you can’t hide.

As much as I know it pains this friend, he has to spend money on clothes. And, like most men I’ve encountered outside of the #menswear space, he worships at the altar of Banana Republic; if guys could mainline the experience of putting on a new pair of khakis, I swear we’d have a national crisis on our hands. But he absolutely has to wear something, and Banana Republic serves up standard fare at great prices and, with locations in malls across America, makes looking presentable as convenient as eating at the Olive Garden.

Friend is familiar with publications like Esquire and GQ, but doesn’t read them. Which is fine, no one needs them to get dressed; his jeans fit well and his sneakers weren’t terrible. He operates more like a school of fish, picking up on the signals and changing course based on the path of others. Men are dressing better, but many seem to care as much as ever: not really at all. But, to continue the oceanic metaphors, a rising tide raises all ships, and the men who actively care about what they wear is swelling, dragging everyone else up.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a press preview for the relatively mainstream online retailer ASOS. A parka collaged with different punky pictures hung from the rack, a very literal interpretation of Raf Simons’s iconic parkas, and it makes me laugh now: thinking of my friend a year or two from now, simply trying to blend in by wearing a Raf Simons-inspired parka, the new style for the masses.

—Cam Wolf, menswear editor


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