Would you believe me if I said “no one”?
A couple of weeks ago, Berkeley Breathes released a post on his substack, which was a “take down” annotation of my bold pants essay. In it, BB questions my [intentionally] vague and general uses of terms like “menswear” and “tailoring”, as well as question what exactly do I consider “advanced”? Most of it is him using my essay as a springboard for a larger commentary against most of the classic menswear world, though he does agree we have different backgrounds. For example, he says that a lot of what I consider to be “out there” is actually quite normal for trads. Berkeley finishes off with the fact that I don’t want to be (or be considered) an authority, yet I tend to hold up others as authorities; I actually prefer the term inspiration as these people tend to not jot their ideas down as rules to be followed.
Overall, I think that the critiques are pretty valid, provided that I have a post-modernist and removed view of ivy (and most menswear). We can chalk this up to how I’m 25 and I live in Los Angeles after all; outside of menswear enthusiasts, I have not met anyone who dressed ivy-trad-prep outside of adopting the look for the aesthetic. But what’s interesting is that he latched onto what a few people have critiqued my blog for. I’ve been told that my writing is rather odd (bar the bad and passive grammar), namely by how vague and reaching it can be, with odd connotations a plenty.
Now clearly the blog post isn’t for BB. I certainly don’t think any trad guys need any reminders about how cool and versatile bold, colorful trousers can be. They also don’t need to be reminded about what is and isn’t ivy or how others will perceive it to be in their New England world where loafers, cuffs, white socks, and OCBDs are the lay of the land. It’s also not about people
If we expand on this mindset, a lot of my blog posts definitely aren’t meant for #menswear guys in general! I don’t think that people in the industry (or hardcore enthusiasts for that matter) need to know the value of tassels or why pleats are cool. They also seldom have need for spearpoint collars and the differences between 30s and 40s ties; most #menswear writing is about being stylish and perfectly contemporary. Most guys in that boat are quite wealthy and have traditional jobs, which makes most of my clothes (and lifestyle) quite oddd to them. I mean people couldn’t care less about boba hangs I have with my friends. All of this begs the question: who do I write for?
The answer, in full narcissism, is for myself. I’m not exactly sure why I do it, but like I said to BB (and alluded to in the essay on influencers), I have no desire to be an authority on menswear. I am not a historian, I’m not that strong of a writer, and I love making grand statements and thesis without any real thunder. My style is quite broad and I can wholeheartedly say that I don’t believe in outright stating rules or guidelines to follow; I don’t even recommend any specific brands and typically feel hardpressed when people ask me for my suggestions. I can leave all of that to the Boyers, Cvetkovichs, and Cogginses of the world.
A little bit of rest is written to really be whatever I’m feeling at that given time, recording my journey through menswear. It was never meant to be a guide (and I do my best not to write guides or overt brand recommendations). Its supposed to read like ramblings of an early 20s Asian American who barely has IRL menswear friends, is far removed from the industry, and takes way too many photos of himself and the few people he knows. To me, living in a suburb of Los Angeles and primarily hanging with friends who game and couldn’t care less about clothing, everything about menswear is fascinating and new, which is how I hope it comes off in my writing, photography, and podcast.
Also, I briefly went over a related topic when talking about the 3 Year Anniversary of the podcast, in which Spencer and I talk about why we started Style & Direction and who we think it’s for. There’s also a bit of this in my response to Berkeley Breathes. This essay is quite similar to what you’ll find in those videos.
Honestly, this blog is a bit of a weirdo compared to others because I really do think of it as an extension of the tumblr I had way back when. No, it was not a #menswear tumblr where I would repost photos of The Armoury and write about how men should wear suits to be taken seriously- it was, well, a regular tumblr. It was where I posted photos of my food, reblogged gifs from Sherlock and Star Wars, and most of all, wrote about what I was feeling. And as you can expect, my feelings jumped around quite a bit. I wrote about what it was like to date or the process I had when writing film score. It wasn’t a dedicated tumblr to menswear or even for a SuperWhoLock fandom aimed at getting tumblr famous. My tumblr was just for me. And A little bit of rest follows in those footsteps.
By that logic, it’s not really written for anyone in particular. Instead, it’s written as a self exercise. Just like with my tumblr, I got tired of venting to friends; writing those anecdotes and thoughts down was a great form of therapy. I posted them because that way if anyone asked, I could simply send it to them if they wanted to know without me spewing text paragraphs in real time. This blog simply takes that root and focuses it on my menswear habit, all written without a care of who reads it. At any time, I can send an essay to curious people who want to know why I wear things the way I do. If you stumble across it random, that’s great! It doesn’t change what I do or how I do it. I just know that I have to write it
That idea about “why” I wear things the way I do is also one reason why I don’t really think about the audience when writing my stuff. As I stated in the beginning, I think I have an interesting context that is pretty far removed from the menswear world. I also have a different approach to menswear in general, focusing more on intentional aesthetics/subgenres and slouch rather than formality/acceptability levels, period accuracy (to an extent), and wardrobe building. It’s not that I don’t care about those things at all, but rather I don’t feel like its worth the energy to write about. I’m much too concerned with what I want to say about my own clothing (or my adventures in wearing it), as narcissistic as that sounds. And thankfully my lifestyle/context has not once required a hard corporate dress code, at least during the past 3-4 years.
That’s why my blog is also clearly not for people who dress too traditionally or formally. It just doesn’t apply to me! Clearly some people don’t understand that, as I always butt heads with people who take issue with wide fits or even the idea of slouchy #pocketfisting. I am completely aware that many of the things I do can’t really be worn in a high level corporate office, which is why I don’t try to cater to that crowd. And not only do I not work in a place that requires a dress code but I also don’t have an overly judgmental environment, so I literally can’t relate to people who need to dress safe or fit in. This makes me want to write a brief essay on how my dating life has been since some people ask that, but in short, I’m not concerned about how my style affects this arena either.
I think all of this drastically reduces exactly who the blog is “for”. I also suspect that I’ve curated my life into a context that makes sense for how I dress and express myself. A bit of a self fulfilling prophecy that resonates best with people who are in similar fields and hobbies. That’s probably why I mainly hang out with other creatives or people in the industry since they have similar approaches to classic menswear (and life, believe it or not), rather than those with traditional jobs or conservative modes of dress. Though to be clear, I also have friends who prefer to dress corporate and that’s okay too!
It’s not that I don’t think that there are things to learn from the blog on a wider scale, as I do try to slip in some historical context and precedent in my essays (as well as some “budget” ideas), but they are rather small compared to my own observations and points I try to make for myself, as wrong or wild as they may be. The nuggets of application may be small and honestly do require a bit of work to figure out how to use them for yourself, especially if you come from a different background than I do. It’s more so about expanding an understanding about menswear and all the subgenres within. In fact, my blog posts could even be seen as me trying to convince myself that what I’m wearing/doing is cool and valid. The opinions are strong yet the words are vague, a sign of true, deluded narcissism. I just know that I have to write about what I do, otherwise I’ll feel like the item or the style move just isn’t authentic to me. A weird compulsion, huh?
That’s why I’m sometimes surprised I have any sort of audience, since by my own admission, I don’t write with them in mind. I’m constantly humbled at the fact that some of the best dressed people in the world (both enthusiasts and guys in the industry) read my blog, though honestly, they probably follow my IG rather than actually read what I have to say. Like I said before, I don’t think I’m saying anything particularly new or challenging to the wider world of menswear. It must be quite boring to read about #pocketfisting and workshirts when many of these people have been doing those things for years. The thing is that I haven’t, which is why I write about it. You don’t have to try those moves or pieces yourself, but I’d be happy if you did too! It’ll be proof that I’m not alone.
In fact, I feel like my blog is simply an exercise in audacity. I’m 25 (at the time of writing), in the beginnings of a career, and I have some of the weirdest views on vintage and contemporary menswear around. I wear ties everyday, take photos of all my friends, and write essays on things that certainly don’t matter or apply to most people. I also grew up going to Dapper Day and wearing period accurate attire. The sheer incredulity is matched only by the absolute confidence I have in my words- these two things should be enough to negate any true authority I have.
Ultimately, the blog should read more like an Ethan M. Wong costume guide rather than a specific rule set for others to follow; I do think that the state of menswear blogging and journalism has warped that view, resulting in people assuming that I aim to be an authority along the lines of Coggins, Crompton, and Boyer. I definitely like being a hard pill to swallow, as most of the critiques leveled against my specific biases, generalizations, and liberal use of menswear terms/themes only plays into how I continually get ideas to write! There’s a sense of meta-ness here, at least in my mind. I’m reminded of Scott Aukerman, who loves the fact that people don’t get his comedy; that very idea is what’s funny to him.
If I could actually sit down and create a profile for who this audience is, I would say that it would be….me. Well, not me exactly, but people like me! Guys (or gals) who are removed from typical menswear crowds, who live in SoCal (or a place that isn’t NYC, but still quite metropolitan), who are nerdy but also a bit artsy/indie, and most importantly of all, have strong ideas about differing aesthetics (especially how to differentiate them) and how certain items can signal specific vibes, even if it’s just an internalized one. The target reader would also be someone who doesn’t really work in a corporate environment or much more broadly, has a lifestyle that allows for an artistic style POV and a nearly-purely aesthetic driven approach to dressing without much restrictions. Oh, and being quite silly helps.
That profile definitely sound like me (to no one’s surprise), but it also sounds like some of my IRL friends who have benefited the most from my blog: MJ, Nguyen, and Adam. These guys have different specific backgrounds, but they all share qualities of that profile, each resulting in a great style that takes from all the inspirations I lay out. Its great to see the differences between eras in lapels and comprehend the different subgenres of style similar to different types of indie rock or analyzing film. For example, all of us live in LA and have no “real” connection to typical menswear backgrounds (no well dressed grandfathers, no clothing heirlooms). We have vague, post-modern/pop culture lens of which we view #menswear that results in a few nuanced outfits like Adam’s “Silver Lake hipster meets rugged ivy” or Nguyens 1930’s tailoring redux. Maybe that comes with all of us being Asian American where there is a sense of self awareness and adoption of things that aren’t technically our “own”. Could be the subject of a future pod/essay!
Ultimately they understand that anyone can do what I’m doing because menswear (or rather, personal style) comes from a place of introspection and intentionality (and perhaps a bit of idealized aspiration, but not too much). Once you know what you want to look like, then it’s about finding those pieces and wearing them to your effect. And their lives don’t require the traditionally menswear lifestyle: MJ is a computer science student, Nguyen works at a media company, and Adam is a freelance editor. They all are allowed freedom to wear what they want when they want to, which makes them a perfect reader of the blog.
A lot of my connotations, biases, and analogies stem from a this removed mindset/context. In that annotated piece, Berkeley asks why I call my trousers bold when they aren’t that bold of a color (most are indeed muted) and most ivy (and #menswear) guys wear Nantucket Reds and yellow chinos all the time. While that may be true, a film editor or a journalism student in the OC may think those pieces as bold! Even I consider them bold because I never would’ve thought that I’d be a guy who owned (and wore) trousers boasting hues of orange or purple. And making that connection to the skaters and punks in 2007 LA makes sense for my and this “audience’s” POV. It’s one that only exists for niche people, though I am happy when other people can see what I’m trying to say (since it’s proof I’m not crazy). After all, I have no plans on being a fulltime freelance writer; I can only write about what I know!
And in talking with these friends of mine that share a lot of the same qualities of myself, I’ve realized that they barely read the blog; most people I know skim through the countless words and photographs. However, their outfits are clear evidence that they are able to discern aesthetics, signal what they want, and do it with slouch. Many of their best stuff came independently of my own thoughts, which is why I’m able to reference their fits simultaneously in a lot of my blog posts. Great minds [eventually] think alike! It’s no wonder why many of these target readers are already (or become) a good friend of mine (and get to benefit from the cool things around SoCal that I frequent).
What’s surprising most of all is that they were able to find their own style without needing a step by step process or analysis; no specific store links or eBay listings either. They are able to take my [hopefully] coherent ramblings and learn what signals ivy to them or how to do slouch in their own way. It helps that they are able to have open minds and discuss other things like film, music, and art, applying that creative and broad approach to menswear. All of those things have distinct aesthetics and varying degrees of subjectivity/objectivity, so if you’re into it and come from a place of non-menswear like I did, you’ll probably jive with the writing (and with me too). I guess if I did have a mission, it would be to have my friends (or people like me) learn why I love clothing and how they can get into it too! It’s proof that you don’t have to grow up in the East Coast or in London to enjoy classic menswear.
Of course, that’s not to say that everyone who reads the blog and listens to my podcast fits into that profile. It’s just who I’ve noticed really get it, and rather quickly at that. But even then that’s not true, because if my DMs and the few who have made the decision to support me (and Spencer’s) signal anything, it’s that clearly there are people who enjoy the blog. All with vastly different backgrounds and style journey stages than me. I will always be surprised and humbled by that fact, especially when beginners say that they like it. It’s still quite tough for them, but that’s why the Patreon Discord exists, so I can communicate with people better (since the blog is not meant for beginners) and most importantly, they can talk to my other stylish friends who can give other perspectives. In general, the blog should incite conversation and discussion; it’s not supposed to be a one stop shop with all the answers!
It’s crazy (and humbling) to me that people enjoy my ramblings despite the fact that it is written from a place of pure vanity rather instead of accessibility. I mean if they can find my obsessions with spearpoint collars or button-pocket harmony accessible or gleam something from my excursions for boba (or the local brewery), then it means I’m not alone. I also love engaging with people who have contrasting views, because I never want to be held as an authority. I definitely don’t think I’m better dressed than any person (at least sometimes, lol), as my only real difference between me and a “normal person” is that I’ve made the conscious decision to write and photograph nearly everything I do. And hey if your contrasting view shapes my journey, then you’ll be documented too!
And honestly, if you needed a true guide or recommendation/review, there are plenty of other people who do that. Countless colleagues and friends write great menswear content for their own books or periodicals. I just don’t know how to distill my content into easy buying guides since they are so inherently tied to the personal journey and connections I have with them, as wrong or as wild as they may be. I don’t even really have much desire to try every brand out there in order to find the best. I’m too concerned with what I know I like or what I want to try; I definitely try new things, but it’s not done on a regular basis nor does it really fuel my journey (which as I’ve said before is primarily based on aesthetics rather than brands). I also don’t think that my opinions are even worth that much- its why I try and share other people as much as possible, just to prove that not only am I not alone, but that other, much cooler or clout worthy people do it. I’m not original tbh- I’m just a regular dude who treats a blog like its his livejournal and takes photos, with menswear splashed in.
Like I said in my essay on influencers, I’m going to continue doing this for as long as I’m alive because, well I’ll always be writing about my life. Menswear intersects with it a lot, influencing what I do on trips to what I wear to hang out with my friends. I’m glad that my journey eventually coincides with what other people are looking for. For example, I got into cotton suits around the time where business suits were falling out of favor. I also started wearing milsurp pants as we looked for alternatives to bizcaz chinos. It proves that I’m also a product of current trends (as micro as they may be in classic menswear), as well as my own introspection. And if I do it, you can be that I’m going to write about it.
It’ll be written for me to reference later in life, but hey if it works for you too, then I’m doubly as happy. 🙂 Chances are we’re already friends because of it; the blog definitely is better to “absorb” if you find we have a lot more in common than just liking clothes. Why else do you think the Discord is poppin?
Now there isn’t a podcast episode on this topic, but this stream discussion is the closest you’ll get to it! In it, we dive deeper on the similarities between Spencer, MJ, and me and the the rest of the Patreon Discord/blog readers. We learn that despite coming from different backgrounds (ie, not Asian-American or from Socal), there is quite a bit to latch on to that makes what we [strive] to do different from other menswear content.
In the end, we conclude that our method truly differs from the CM mindset, which as Derek writes in this chain, is quite stifling. I don’t really think of clothing as a plug-and-play exercise and simply think of things as versions of “costumes”(or POV) that I can slide into, provided that it [loosely] makes sense for me. The guys I associate with tend to do what Derek says: think about things historically and sociologically, with a bit of levity and self awareness, leaving the idea of using the accessible linga franca at the door. Like he finishes off with, it takes a different view of yourself.
I think my friends and I have that.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget that you can support me (or the podcast) on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. I also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.
Always a pleasure,