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Confessions of aPerformer
What do fashion and industry have in common? Absolutely nothing.
This spring, have fun. Play with your clothes. Mix patterns and
graphics, pair loose clothes with tight, big with small, girly with
punk. masculine with feminine, and cheap with luxe.
Jam a fraud. I suppose we all are, but
I am about to confess. Like good old
Bill, I have deceived the public. No,
I did not have sexual relations with
anyone at this University (literally, no one).
I am, instead, a criminal of style. The style
columnist, a style criminal? Gasp! Go on? I
will. My high crimes and misdemeanors are
" Sporting trendy but cheap plastic-lens
glasses for the purpose of impressing during
interviews and graduate-level seminars.
" Wearing pinstripe Vans sneakers for the
purpose of appearing indie while still stay-
ing true to my latte-loving, health benefits-
having yuppie roots.
" Donning large, black sunglasses for the
purposes of intimidating people while simul-
taneously checking them out under tinted
" Growing unnecessarily large hair for the
purpose of diverting onlookers from my oth-
erwise ordinary appearance and personality.
* Carrying large and ostentatious bowling
bags for the purposes of appearing urban and
- Dressing in mountains of black for the pur-
pose of seeming to be from New York City
when in fact being from New Jersey, land of
polluted highways and tactless malls.
Slowly, I have learned to stop being a wan-
nabe and start being a performer. All style is
performance, a way of presenting yourself to
The sidewalks of Ann Arbor, though not
as grand as the sidewalks of New York, boast
performers of all types. Some are stars, some
play supporting roles, some are bit parts
- short one-liners. But everyone plays a
role. Everyone wants to be a star, but in this
sitcom, your role is determined by your cos-
tume. Sadly, Michigan is full of Peter Gal-
laghers and Matt LeBlancs, Kristin Davises
and Jennifer Anistons (sorry, she is no star.
Now Jolie, that's a star).
Playing roles with fashion is not neces-
sarily criminal. As with gender, our social
identities are almost fabrications, a mixture
of symbols and codes meant to convey to
others our place in society and what mold we
want to fit.
To dramatize this idea, let me introduce
the current cast of our show, "Three Jeers for
the Yellow and Boo" (title still under focus-
group testing), which has been running off
and on for almost 200 years:
" Comic Relief: (Almost) Everybody
Ann Arbor style is pretty funny. Seeing a
gaggle of gals strutting in Uggs makes me
chuckle, likewise with guys in baseball hats
and hip-hopsters in baggy pants. Every show
has its type characters, flat and familiar but
comical. We have several, and they provide
a nice break from the seriousness and com-
plexity of classes and jobs.
e Villain: Townies
Isn't there something sinister about someone
pushing a baby walker in a mock turtleneck?
Not only do Ann Arborites support biased
parking laws, flood cafes with their babies
and cousins on weekends and holidays, and
downplay all the culture the University
brings to this would-be po-dunk town, but
they do so in genuinely bad clothes. Unfor-
- Cynical Sidekick: Artist/Existentialists
Wearing black from head to toe is not a
crime. Surely anyone wearing dark mono-
chromes is deep, introspective, profoundly
interesting. It says: "Yes, I read Sartre; Yes,
I listen to Nick Drake; Yes, I'm alone. We're
all alone, nobody knows anybody, and noth-
ing matters." Fun!
- Idealistic Sibling: RC-ers
My favorite moment in "The Family Stone"
occurred when Rachel McAdams's character
popped out of a dingy car wearing a baggy
boho skirt, chunky boots and tote bag, which
trumpeted the logo for "NPR." In Maize and
Boo, this character is played by our RC kids.
What better way to say "I'm a liberal ideal-
ist" than with grungy clothes that don't fit? I
can't think of one.
" Moral Compass: Faculty
Nothing says "I'm wise" quite like Cosby
sweaters, tweedy blazers and reading glasses
from the '80s. Three cheers for profs who
dress like old, white British men.
" Stars: Gender Benders
So this is a bit arbitrary, but who on this
campus uses clothes to their greatest poten-
tial, daring to stand out? Women in baseball
caps and ski jackets, clothes that look awful
on men, all of sudden become daring. And
when I see a guy in a colorful silk scarf and
pants so tight that I can see his cell phone
service provider, I'm thrilled at the cultural
This is all oversimplified, isn't it? That's
the point. Most people pick their style to
show a simple "type." Of course, everyone is
an individual and all that, but on the surface,
where it counts, we're all actors.
For now, I'm fine with the performance
of style - just so long as we're conscious of
the show. This way, perhaps, one fine day,
we may even start to break the sartorial rules
and become true outlaws, together.
Aymar wants to know what character he
plays. Snotty, urban elitist? Send thoughts to
n my residence as Statement fashion
guru, I've receive e-mails from the
fashion forlorn, looking for guidance.
Here are some of the important ones.
Remember, some fashion victims wish to
I love your column, and I really wanted
your opinion about something. I love polo
shirts, but Lacoste seems so expensive ... I
don't really have $80 to drop on one shirt,
but I really like the logos. Le Tigre seems
like a great low-cost option. They're styl-
ish and more in my price range. What do
A Fashion Enthusiast
Dear Enthusiast: Oh hell no. I think you're
painfully misguided when it comes to the
difference between Le Tigre and Lacoste.
Listen carefully: You never want to be
caught dead in Le Tigre, for several reasons.
First of all, Le Tigre is a blatant rip-off. The
brand was established in 1977 as a cheap
American imitation of the higher-end Euro-
pean Lacoste. Why would you ever want to
wear some off brand wanna-be high-class
copy of anything? The worst part is the bril-
liant makers of Le Tigre didn't even try to
pretend like they weren't emulating Lacoste
- just look at the names. In addition, choos-
ing another animal, the tiger, as the face of
the brand was a blatant display of idiocy and
non-creativity. On top of it all, the real brand
name isn't even "Le Tigre." It's "Le TIGRE."
BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS BETTER WHEN YOU CAPI-
It seems your main reason for wanting Le
Tigre over Lacoste is the price point. A Le
Tigre short sleeve polo retails for around
$50, while a Lacoste short-sleeved polo costs
usually around $75. That's really not too big
of a difference - you might as well spring
for the Lacoste anyway. It's a small price to
pay for not looking foolish.
It may seem like my opinion on this Lacoste
issue is elitist, but it really is not. Just because
Lacoste is more expensive does not necessar-
ily make it better. The problem here is you are
trying to achieve a Lacoste look with a clearly
off-brand substitute. If you want to save money,
go to the Salvation Army and buy something
cute for a dollar. Don't try to spend even more
on something that sucks.
What types of shorts are going to be
fashionable for spring? Is it better to opt
for a shorter length, or for solids instead
of patterned styles such as stripes and
Dear Breonna: I'm glad you asked this
question, because shorts are an emerging
trend this season. For spring, I am a fan of
the new formal short. Formal shorts are usu-
ally made of silk and are worn for evening. It
takes confidence to pull off the formal short,
especially if you are going to make people
believe it is something dressy. For daily
wear, looser, flowing shorts that hit mid-calf
are very chic - like those seen at Dries Van
Noten and Celine. I'm also becoming fonder
of the fitted short that hits above the knee.
But be careful when wearing these; they
don't look good on everyone, so make sure
you have the right body type. As far as mak-
ing the decision between solids and patterns,
But when it comes to shorts, always
remember to be tasteful. Just because spring
brings warm weather does not mean you
have to show off every possible square inch
of your legs and half of each butt cheek.
Also, steer clear of shorts so tight they make
your crotch look like it's eating the cloth off
your body. And always make sure when pur-
chasing shorts that they don't hang off your
butt when you sit down. Exposed butt-crack
is nasty as hell.
I am in desperate need of your fashion
help. I have a horrible sense of fashion! I
don't know how to dress at all, where do
Dear Anonymous: I'm glad you've come
clean with your problem and are now seek-
ing help. The first thing you should do is
figure out your personal style is. What kinds
of clothes do you like? Next, try to figure
out what cuts and shapes look good on your
body. Go to a clothing store you like and
trying on different fits of pants, shirts, skirts
or anything else you like. Whatever you
feel looks best on you is what you should be
aiming for. Once you've found a good bal-
ance of your style and your fit, start adding
pieces to your wardrobe slowly. If you go
on an all-out fashion binge, chances are you
will come back from your clothing spree
and find you've bought stuff you don't feel
comfortable in or don't really like too much.
By going slow, you can develop your own
personal taste over time. After this, be sure
not to let yourself revert back to your old
tasteless self. Take a little time every day to
look in the mirror and make sure you don't
look like shit!
Got questions of your own?
Faria can be reached at email@example.com.
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