Saturday, November 10, 2012
Have you ever tried to explain how to attach a file to an email to somebody over the age of 50? Too easy. Try explaining the F*ck Yeah Menswear phenomenon to someone who has little to no interest in long conversations about the benefits of a softly tailored shoulder on your unlined sportcoat. Last night I dragged my endlessly supportive girlfriend to DUMBO to watch FYMW creators Lawrence Schlossman and Kevin Burrows geek out on a panel with A Continuous Lean's Michael Williams. "Explain to me," she said as we sat down in our taxi. "How did they get a book?"
I furrowed my brow, deep in thought. "Here's the thing, right? When us old timers started blogging, this hashtag menswear world didn't exist. Then Tumblr came along and it exploded – you suddenly had these nerdy guys spewing retarded amounts of information, opinions and fanboydom all over the internet, where others of their ilk could reblog it, add their own witty banter and pass it along. From the dust cloud that followed, a few charismatic figureheads rose up – lauded for their quick turns of phrase, encyclopaedic knowledge of hip hop lyrics and brash personalities. Lawrence Schlossman was their leader."
She nodded. "But wait. What's hashtag menswear? And what does hip hop have to do with anything?"
My frown deepened. "When people say hashtag menswear, they're talking about this specific group of guys on the internet who write about menswear from this very particular point of view, and on Tumblr a few of them were given special authority to tag certain posts with the #Menswear hashtag – which was a bit of an honour – and that's how that name came about."
"Okay," she said. "But where does hip hop come into it?"
I settled into my seat. "To answer that question, we have to go back in time to when most of these guys were young teenagers. You see, I don't know this for sure, but I'd hazard a guess that the majority of the top menswear bloggers started out skateboarding. There have always been two schools of skateboarding – punks, and hip hop heads. These guys were skateboarders who were also obsessed with hip hop. From the get-go, their love for skateboarding would have been split in three: One part the sport, one part the music and one part the clothing. As they got older and realised that enormous, fat skate shoes were kinda ugly, they would have transitioned into streetwear, starting with shoes. They discovered Nikes. They started collecting them. The more they collected, the more they researched on the internet and uncovered a secret world of fellow sneaker fiends who, like them, wanted to share their rare, mint condition kicks with the world. Kind of like fashion chat rooms for nerdy guys. There's always a lot of peacocking that goes on within these chat room walls, and as we all know, the most extreme peacocks on the planet are rappers. So it came to pass that the best way to one-up each other was to type clever hip hop lyrics alongside their postings about shoes. After shoes, it would have been denim. Not just any denim, but handspun, Japanese selvedge that they'd wear for nine months at a time without washing them, just to get the most authentic fades. Then, they discovered American heritage workwear. They learned about construction and geeked out over the family-owned factories that manufactured their favourite pieces. There could only be one place to go from there, and that's suiting – especially bespoke Italian tailoring. Just because their clothing taste changed doesn't mean their musical leanings did – now it was photos of old Italian men in suits with obscure Kanye West mixtape lyrics. And now, funnily enough, you've got these top menswear bloggers wearing Nikes again with their Italian suiting. It's come full circle."
*Snore.* She'd fallen asleep.
I gently nudged her awake.
"You still haven't told me why they have a book?"
"Okay," I said. "Well, Lawrence was the leader of the pack, right? And he and Kevin started this menswear parody site, basically making fun of menswear bloggers like Lawrence himself, by posting photos of men in extreme #menswear outfits, and writing blogposts about the photos in the form of rap lyrics. No piece of jargon was unused, and no in-joke was left unmade. First up, it was clever and hilarious. But the reason it was so brilliant was because it gave you a sense of inner circle pride when you got all the jokes. You could read it with the full satisfaction of a smug teenager who speaks fluent French among his lowly mono-lingual classmates. I love it because I got the jokes. And I knew other people wouldn't. It's the epitome of menswear hipsterism. Finally, they did it anonymously which made every single person desperate to find out who they were. Newspapers were even speculating about who might be behind it. A publishing company gave them a book deal, and here we are today."
The cab pulled up outside Powerhouse Arena. She shrugged her shoulders and followed me out the door. "You're a nerd," she said. "But what does jawns mean?"
I shook my head. "You know what? I'm still trying to figure that out myself."
Pick up your copy of F*ck Yeah Menswear today! It's a very good time.
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