Why I’m Okay With Standing Out

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This might end up being my Joker manifesto, but I promise you it comes from a good place!

Menswear guys are funny to me. Most of them seem to abhor standing out and actively avoid any semblance of calling attention to themselves. In fact, a lot of menswear media is built on this (from the industry and its enthusiasts), focusing on basics and versatility. Coggins references this in a recent substack where he provides a list that is not avant garde as this apparently comes later (I question whether or not the goal of menswear enthusiasts is to get to that stage at all). In essence, his list should work for “90% of men, 90% of the time”.

It seems that most menswear guys is that they want to dress “nicely” with personal style, but they also want to fade into the background and be relatively unnoticed, cautiously steering clear of trends, quirky pieces, and being bold. They want to optimize for that 90% of all situations. However, I personally find this at odds with the reality that classic menswear and any of its related aesthetics is something that is definitely noticeable, both in terms of formality and overall aesthetics. This leads to many discussions on the anxieties of dressing, like being self-conscioius about whether or not a classic piece of menswear like the Double Breasted Jacket calls too much attention.

One side of this is perhaps due to the age-old Beau Brummel quote that menswear guys tend to take very seriously: “true elegance consists of not being noticed” . This belief is now in conflict with the fact that classic menswear has lost its status as the de facto aesthetic-agnostic clothing a guy can wear. They bemoan the days where all you had to do is wear a button up shirt, trousers, and a sportcoat to look “nice”. Derek of Die, Workwear labeled this the “lingua franca” quality of classic menswear in a discussion with G. Bruce Boyer. But this simply isn’t the case anymore! As dress codes have become nearly non-existent (outside of work and special occasions) and paved the way for plenty of sub-genres to erupt and cohabitate the fashion space, classic menswear is just another aesthetic for someone to wear. It’s more of a hobby, governed by personal taste rather than hard rules and appropriateness, again outside of the workplace and a few special events.

Classic menswear is [now] a subgenre of Fashion. A guy in a bespoke suit or even an OCBD, straight leg jeans, and white socks + loafers is going to stand out whether you’re compared to a guy in a tee shirt and jeans or someone in Rick Owens. Hell, even if you compare two guys in suits, the dude in a broad shouldered Husbands Suit and flares or even soft Ring Jacket blazer and pleated grey trousers is going to be markedly different than the more mainstream approach of a slim two button electric blue suit and tan shoes.

In other words, if you choose classic menswear or any of its related genres (like workwear or ivy) as an intentional aesthetic to wear in your free time, you will probably stand out in someway or another. Even if you slouch around, play it cool, and have a few menswear friends, you’re not going to be completely invisible! To me, wanting to be anonymous while remaining in classic menswear is a fools errand, at least if you’re into the way we dress (which granted, isn’t restrained). That’s why I’m here to say that it’s okay to stand out! At it’s worst, it’s something to brush off (please don’t consider being called dapper or “Mr. Suit Man” a form of persecution). When it’s good, it can lead to some positives, like making new friends or helping you discover some confidence (though to be clear, clothes can only go so far lol).

The good thing is that menswear has its fair share of people who do stand out and embrace it, at least in recent years. There’s already a documented phenomenon of all the punks who have gotten into menswear, either as enthusiasts or working directly in the industry, providing an edgy and often irreverent take on classic clothing. With the rise of “indie culture”, we’re also seeing skaters and artists enter the menswear scene; I remember the guys at J. Mueser telling me that most of their clients were such people and not traditional/professional types. It seems that menswear is finally opening itself up to people of different backgrounds and interests to express themselves, rather than it being a static uniform of lingua franca. To them, menswear becomes a new place to insert some personality and expand on how a suit already stands out, which is presumably why we’re seeing berets, chunky soles, and introductions of other aesthetics (like skate or western wear) creep its way in.

So with this fact, as well as all the discourse lately about the post-pandemic world, Working From Home, and what we’ve been wearing to Go Out (especially this past winter), my Patreon Discord has been fascinated with this concept dealing with Standing Out and often wonder why I (and most people I associate with) seemingly have no issue with it. Its even a question I get in my DMs all the time and I honestly don’t have much to say other than to embrace it, because we will stand out regardless. So that’s why we decided to discuss Standing Out on the podcast!

And to provide structure to the following conversation, the podcast is mainly focused on Standing Out in classic menswear in extracurricular life, aka contexts that are not tied directly to the day job. We’re more about figuring out the issue with Standing Out in regards to going out to dinner or hanging out with friends, two things where its more important to be yourself!

As you listen to the pod you’ll learn that Spencer and MJ, two of my closest and longest known friends, have been pretty much desensitized to standing out. In fact, if you read this blog and identify with the typical audience demographic, you probably don’t mind it either! We’re all pretty biased at this point, because we’ve never really tried to consciously blend into the background. My friends and I have been standing out in some way all of our lives, so being bold by wearing clothes is hardly the worst thing to happen to us. While we may not dress to specifically stand out, we don’t mind when we do because it happens regardless. And we’re okay with it!

Maybe we’re what Coggins considers the latter 10% of menswear guys.

Podcast Outline

  • 05:27 – Topic Start
  • 16:33 – “Menswear Trauma”
  • 22:36 – Context
  • 25:12 – Non-menswear friends
  • 37:09 – Just Be Cool
  • 52:46 – When Not to Stand Out
  • 1:00:03 – Disneybounding and Positive Attention
  • 1:05:36 – Editing Outfits and Being Ok with Standing Out
  • 1:16:12 – Wrap-up

After recording that podcast, I realized that I had a few more thoughts I want to add on due to two recent events. One was hanging out in Little Tokyo doing weeb stuff with my non-menswear friends, who you may recognize in the article header from old blog posts or my Instagram (if you’re a longtime follower). The other was attending the alumni weekend at my high school, which was quite a big deal since it’s been ten years since my high school graduation.

In both situations, I realized that I (and my friends) have all been standing out in some form for a long time. My non-menswear friends are still the bold and open nerds they’ve always been. And the three classmates that actually came to the alumni weekend even told me as much: they knew me for my love of Star Wars, movies, and my unfortunate romance troubles. The first two is quite interesting, as we all had to wear uniforms for 12 years and we could seldom bring anything IP related to school; this means I really must have stood out. But they also brought up how it was cool that I had the friends I did (and increased them over the years), as they knew my passions weren’t always shared during our time in high school.

I told those classmates that if I never had those friends or learned from them how to be confident in myself, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten comfortable wearing the clothes that I do today.

Looking back at all my old photos (thanks Facebook Memories!), I’m reminded daily that I was fortunate to have such an interesting friend group who was unperturbed at the idea of standing out. It’s not that we only stood out, but more so that we knew what we liked and didn’t mind what other people thought of it. However unlike the punks or skaters that have come to characterize the current indie aesthetic, my friends I kept were on the sillier side, the nerdy side!

We were all weirdos who not only loved Star Wars and Disney but also anime, cosplay, and every tumblr fandom you could think of. And at a Christian school where wholesome conformity was prized, we stood out. Badly! My friends and I weren’t the quiet types who slunk into the background. We were loud. Weird. Some had dyed hair. They brought stuffed animals to school; I brought legos and action figures to entertain myself when they weren’t around. We’d play card games, sing show tunes, and do weird voices before and after class. We took a lot of photos, not for social media, but just for us. We were on that side of tumblr. If we actually had improv or theatre (apparently my school was too fundamentalist to include such things), I’m sure we’d be some of the people you’d cringe at. But honestly, we still were theater/comedy/improv kids at heart.

What was cool about my friends was that even though we were quite odd, my they were incredibly inclusive and open. The friend group had everyone who didn’t fit into the typical cliques of school. We also did our best to do other things in the school as well, because we knew that being bold (let’s just call it weird) couldn’t be the only thing we did. We served in student government, sang in the choir, played an instrument for the worship band and orchestra, and overall, participated in school like any other student. The only difference was the personalities and how comfortable they were in standing out. They even were the ones who showed me it was okay to take a shit ton of fun pictures and to be at ease when a camera was around. These qualities would carry over into college, as a few of my high school friends attended the same university. And as you could probably expect, I made friends with similar people in college and even in my postgrad years.

All of these experiences with such people reinforced my idea that standing out and being bold (or weird) was not a bad thing. Sure, we may not have been cool in a popular/mainstream sense and may not have “optimized” high school and college, but we were cool to each other. I’ve got to count myself lucky; other nerds may have felt the need to hide their interests or weird quirks in order to hang out with people, but not us. We were all equals during our hang outs, even if we had different fandoms or hobbies. Being around them was a bit of a safe space, whether it was in public or private. As long as we weren’t a dick, we were all friends and were encouraged to be ourselves!

To be fair, I’m certain that my experience isn’t unique. I’m sure everyone had nerdy friends (or were nerdy themselves) in someway that was weird and stood out! Which is why I’m surprised that people are so concerned with standing out later in life, especially when they get into clothes which is something incredibly noticeable. For me, I can immediately see how being around this positive and bold friend group lead to me exploring menswear. In fact, I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them!

As I say in the podcast proper, my interest in menswear was burgeoning within me even before I met Spencer or Raj. Gatsby and Gangster Squad were formative yes, but mainly for pointing me toward vintage; I started to like wearing suits and ties before then. You might think that it might have been off putting to my friends, to go from wearing tees and skinny jeans to suddenly donning gingham shirts and tan shoes as well as fedoras and spearpoints. But that simply wasn’t the case. They were all for it! Yes there may have been slight teasing since I was the only one who exhibited a true interest in classic/vintage clothing, but it wasn’t anything more than teasing a different friend for getting a TARDIS Blue dress or an waifu body pillow. It was all in the name of fun and not serious at all; we were used to it and it perhaps acted as a bit of a gauntlet to prep us our skins for being okay with standing out with our oddities in a more public setting. Plus I’m not surprised that a guy who was into the bolder aspects of menswear (aka not just wearing a suit like Barney Stinson) came from this group of people. It’s why I can’t knock cosplay or LARPING because it is the root of how I approach Cinematic Dressing.

To that point, I think the acceptance of my menswear hobby was because my friends knew it wasn’t out of place for our friend group. Everyone had made the conscious decision to embrace their boldness and with it, the probability that they will stand out in some way. We had a friend in high school who was crafty and made an epic Lugia themed snuggie/hoodie and wore it out frequently (and even violated school uniform policy). In college we hung out with people who did creative make up and challenged gender norms with their clothes. And of course, there were guys who were unafraid to wear anime/fandom/internet themed shirts and caps and even put such themed accoutrements on their car, laptops, denim jackets, and backpacks.

They probably saw my interest in menswear as any other bold, outward facing interest they all had, just expressed in a different way. Instead of a doge dad cap, I liked fedoras and berets. Instead of a TARDIS dress or a big anime tee shirt, I wore blazers and ties. Instead of Pokémon sneakers, I had loafers. Instead of obsessing over the best Yu-Gi-Oh! deck build or stats for Genshin, I focused on Button-Pocket Harmony and Proportions. We all have our weird interests!

They may not have been Dressing Cinematically through classic menswear, but they all were characters of some sort! Being around these amazing people taught me that we that we all had our fandoms and that it was okay to express them (they did it before, when I was more vocal about my love of film score). Thanks to this equalization of interests, I never felt bad for standing out. I may have been the only one in a suit, but I wasn’t the only bold one. We were all weird — it was all a difference of personal taste, but that was okay!

The egalitarian acceptance my friends had for hobbies and interests was incredibly fascinating to me. It was probably implicit that vying to make your fandom or hobby into something “superior” would ruin the dynamic of this diverse and positive friend group. We all knew that life has plenty of more “important” things things than to debate silly things that we still totally felt strongly about. That’s why there wasn’t any overt evangelizing! None of us tried to make the others watch Sherlock or go through all the episodes of One Piece, that is unless someone specifically asked. In the same vein, I didn’t attempt to change anyone’s style. I had no speeches on looking professional or how being “well dressed is a form of good manners”. Because that wasn’t why I got dressed (or at least it wasn’t the main reason); I was only concerned with my expression of what I wanted to look like and being empowered to actually wear it. Perhaps the menswear world needs to be more concerned with their own outfits and less concerned with evangelizing non-menswear people into dressing up.

While evangelism didn’t play a factor in my appreciation of this hobby, I was actually surprised that my friends did take small steps to indulge me. Just as I attended Anime conventions and marathons with them, they showed their support of my menswear hobby in their own way, like wearing a tie when we hang out or even coming with me to Dapper Day at Disneyland, showing that there is nothing wrong with standing out (but a little support helps). I’m not surprised that some of the menswear would rub off, as some developed a true interest in clothing for themselves (like MJ). Perhaps they always were into it but just needed a friend to unlock it for them, just as I learned to get into more anime and video games that I wouldn’t have normally done. Overall, it didn’t matter to me that I was the only one who wore a sportcoat or milsurp/workwear during hang outs, but I welcomed the company. After all, friends make any interest better and makes it easier to stand out.

Now, years after high school and college, I try to continue the philosophy these old friends taught me—that it’s okay to stand out and embrace your interests! Obviously my friend group and context has evolved since then to involve people who are bit more fashion and creative inclined (which for some reason people need as a requisite to be into clothes) but I’m happy that all of these people seem to already have the same mindset. They are all huge dorks, geeks, and nerds who are very silly people; I’m not surprised that some of them have a background in theater or improv or are interested in cosplay and multiple fandoms. The best part is that my new friends (at least relatively speaking) are also quite egalitarian in appreciating and upholding other people’s interests, which naturally leads us to being okay with standing out in our fits and understanding other modes of dress. Whether we’re together or alone, we would stand out anyway!

Silvia wears avant garde designer clothing. Spencer wears milsurp/workwear. Nguyen has Vietnam’s take on 1930s tailoring. MJ likes incorporating Japanese elements to Americana. John likes sexy tailoring. Annie likes thrifting. Isabel is bookcore with her appreciation of craft and comfy clothes. There’s also plenty bold people in my Discord.

You might even say that being okay with standing out was imperative to have this wholesome community of friends, both IRL and online. In my experience, it leads to a positive feedback loop where everyone involved is able to dive deeper into their interests and explore things (not just fashion) through personal creativity rather than function. This is why we’re all okay with standing out. You’ll see all of us in our chosen aesthetics, whether we’re playing board games or eating KBBQ. Because we’re all weird!

Keep in mind that it’s not that I’m never anxious about being out in public in my fit. It does suck to get a jeers or to think that you may have potentially fucked up an impression. But we’ve learned that sometimes this doesn’t matter in the long run; the people that matter won’t care if you Stand Out. After all, it’s important to also have some self awareness.

The podcast episode goes into how we do a few edits to lessen the impact as necessary (think work or special events). At this point, we’ve all developed a wide swath of style moves that allow us to dive into different themes (or characters) that are simultaneously appropriate and authentic to ourselves and our interests. We know that a tie might be too much for a backyard BBQ or that a green suit is probably not good for a client meeting. But on the flip side, we also know when it perfectly fine to wear a double breasted blazer or crazy dunagrees in good company, like to trivia, playing board games, or grabbing a burger. In the realm where we have control over our environment, which increases in the post-pandemic world, it’s actually fine to be a little bold.

In that same vein, while my high school and college friends were all weird, we weren’t blasting anime music in the common areas past curfew (Christian schools man) or wearing full cosplay to class; they were smart enough toned it down when necessary. However, they also know that being unabashedly themselves was also fine to play into. Being bold was how they became friends in the first place, leading to them picking careers or even finding their romantic partners. Above all, these old friends of mine taught me how play it cool while still being myself and providing support and a safe space while necessary.

I will say that it is probably infinitely harder to get into a hobby, especially one that is as bold and outward presenting like fashion, later in life. When you have more to “lose” in a social capacity, it can be difficult to navigate how you express interest in what you enjoy. A guy who discovered the anime Demon Slayer may prefer to keep a lid on his interests if anime is too different than what he normally is into. However, if he was always into anime, I’m sure that guy would be unafraid to talk about the latest episode. In that way, its better to take the leap with Standing Out earlier rather than later in order to build up that thick skin and tolerance to the social “consequences”. That’s probably why my friends and I are okay when we Stand Out in our clothes— we’ve always been standing out.

That’s why I can only think of the positives that came from embracing it. Sure, there may have been awkward times where I was a little too much, but the positives always out weigh the bad. Perhaps there’s something there about not trying to optimize your life or focusing on the opportunity costs, but rather to go with the flow and do what you’re comfortable with. Again, I wouldn’t be here or have the friends (or even a few romantic partners) I’ve had without being comfortable in my own skin whether it was about my clothes or other aspects of my interests and personality.

I’m not sure if its a hot take, but I think it’s good to be known for something because everyone I know has a moniker. It could be anime hat guy or Yu-Gi-Oh! guy or menswear guy or music guy and so on. It’s how you make friends and find people with similar interests instead of keeping them inside. It’s actually funny to note that I’m known more as a photographer than a fashion guy among my everyday friends (especially in that Asian American Discord I talk about), simply because I love taking photos of everyone!

Overall, it seems that the decision to be okay with Standing Out comes with a certain personality or purview on life. Some people may not want to stand out at all, which is totally fine; you don’t have to if you don’t want to! Fashion is all about expressing these internal feelings in a visual/wearable way. Simon recently had an excellent piece on how he feels comfortable in his own style, which is understated while still being smart.

But if you have any inkling to do stand out which you might have if you read the blog regularly, I think its worth following that thread (with as much caution as you’re comfortable with)! This is probably why I have a lot more in common with the menswear people who are more nerdy or creative rather than the ones who dress in tailoring to be professional or timeless and avoid being bold at all times. There certainly is a theme among the company I keep. After all, personal taste/expression is really the only difference between a friend wearing a French Maid dress and me wearing a khaki suit and camp collar shirt to trivia night; I’m typically with people who see clothes in that way.

It’s not even about being around people who are creative or being in a metropolitan area or even about clothes specifically! It just comes down to the fact that I was incredibly lucky to be around people who were okay with standing out, which naturally passed on to me. There’s a reason why we’re always taking silly pictures, going to Disneyland, and doing karaoke. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without these friends, even if they weren’t directly involved in this little menswear obsession. These high school and college friends taught me so much about having a thick skin and about being bold and perhaps even a bit weird in our interests (and personalities). Ultimately, I’m about bringing this energy to menswear.

I think the company I keep now as an adult (which has gotten quite broad over the years) have the self-awareness to admire the incredulity of our personal clothing choices, so while they stand out, no onefeels out of place. It’s not that they are fashion friends but that it’s not surprising that they are into a variety of bold interests that include fashion. It’s not even tied to classic menswear. They all feel empowered to wear whatever they like and be who they want to be. And believe you me, clothing is not the only thing that makes us stand out. Whether they’re menswear people or not, we’re going to stand out anyway.

Why not embrace it?

(Maybe next time we need to talk about what we consider to be “cool”)

Recommended Reading

  • The Importance of Having Friends and Communities – It helps to have context and fellow friends in menswear so you don’t feel alone.
  • Slouch – Being comfortable and approaching styling with “ease” is a great way to being a bit more approachable and natural when wearing classic menswear.
  • Who I Write For – A reminder that the blog and podcast aren’t necessarily for people concerned with fitting in. Spencer and I are into niche clothes and standing out, which also plays into our non-traditional career paths. So don’t worry if nothing here applies to you; it’s written for the guys like us.
We did a stream after the release of the podcast episode. Marco was a surprise guest!
We’re cringe, but that’s okay.

The infamous photo I always refer to. I might be dressed weird, but we’re all weird anyway.
Only a group of dorks would wear this to watch a movie. And we’re that group of dorks!
This was always my context!
They always took silly photos which was something that stuck with me all these years later.
Us playing a game of ninja during a high school event (I’m assuming as we are not in uniform).
And even if it wasn’t clothes, we stuck out!
I was fine standing out even if my friends weren’t there. Whats the difference between this and wearing a beret to a dinner with my mom?
Still that guy today! No shame.
You’ve gotta love it when your friends participate in your quirks too. I’m not surprised that a few of them started to develop their own interests in fashion later on!
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So a decade or so later, we’re all used to being around each other. Even if it means wearing sportcoats and paraboots.
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Taken after a day looking at weeb stuff.
Shout out to Jeremiah, wearing a boating blazer to this red carpet themed worship service in college.
My friends teased me, but that was okay. It’s not the worst thing in the world!
Jeremiah was actually quite formative in getting me comfortable with menswear. I eventually got into bolder clothes!
Also shout out to my friends for coming out (and participating) in my first Dapper Day in 2013.
After all, we had done cosplays before.
Halloween on campus brings out Sherlock, the Tumblr Dash, and The Doctor.
Jeremiah was always cool.
Shout out to Beto for the awesome mustache and the bolo tie!
We’re also just silly people.
Spencer and Jay have also been doing this for a while. This was high school, if the lockers wasn’t already an indication.
This should be a soy face meme.
We’ve been taking pics even before IG existed!
Meeting Raj really helped step up my game and my confidence in wearing menswear on campus. He had no issue with standing out.
He wasn’t phased even if the people around us didn’t dress up.
Of course, I was always the bolder guy.
A good attitude and good friends is key.
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We have that energy seven years later.

Unafraid!
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Tim is still around btw!
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They’re all used to it by now.
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And we still go to conventions!
Anime shirts, vintage workwear, it’s all things we nerd out about!
To be quite fair we dress a hell of a lot more subdued now, but the past only prepped us to embrace the times when we do stand out today.
We’ve been doing it so long that we simply don’t mind. We’re going to stand out anyway!
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Worn to board games in a boba shop.
Am I the boldest one here?
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If you keep my high school and college friends in mind, its no surprise that I made friends with bold people later in life.
Klarissa also never minded when she stood out on campus.
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Annie and I stuck out like sore thumbs on Caltech’s campus.
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Inspiration was my convention.
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Michael is fine!
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All my friends are.
Justin, the creator of Dapper Day, is quite bold.
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Worn to 626 Night Market.
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I’m glad that MJ got into it all on his own; I didn’t have to evangelize too hard 😉
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No one really cares! We’re all friends.
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Cory is an excellent photographer, so I’m sure he’s used to being around bold people.
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Can you spot me? (I wasn’t planning on swimming and I stopped by this party only for an hour or so before dinner lol).
I’m in a tweed sportcoat, but my friend is in an orange varsity jacket with crazy patches on one side.
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Boardgames!
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The friends I make now are also pretty okay with standing out.
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Designer clothing, tailoring, vintage, we’re all the same.
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Everyone I’m friends with is a dork in some way. And they embrace it!
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Our personalities are quite bold anyway!
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You can’t take us anywhere.
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Felicia is an ex-theater kid, cosplayer, and vintage enthusiast who inevitably stands out with her clothes and personality.
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We were quite extra at various Dapper Day events, like this one at LACMA.
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Linda is another example of someone who not only is okay with standing out, but plays into it every chance she gets.
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She and Justin (the founder of Dapper Day) are exactly what this blog post is about.
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I’m very happy to have been a part of Dapper Day for many years, because it was a great outlet for me to be myself!
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I was even on a panel for Dapper Day to speak about how personal style is empowering and how I deal with standing out.
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Marco embraces standing out with his clothing, but he also is a heavily into dancing and riding motorcyles. He has always stood out.
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Two different suits, both stand out.
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Marco also has friends who like to stand out!
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I’d say Silvia counts as well.
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You can be a PhD candidate keen on unlocking the secrets of space while getting a fit off.
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We all stand out, but its best to do it together.
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Get you a friend who can do both!
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Weirdos.
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We definitely stand out in our bar during trivia.
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You’ve gotta love Kayla.
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My girlfriend is a dork too. I made a decision to only date people who are comfortable being bold; makes it easier!
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We also sing show tunes at parties.
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What’s bolder at the beach: a beret or an anime nylon jacket? The answer is both!
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Again, we’ve been bold and standing out for a long time.
A long time.
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We don’t take ourselves too seriously, because standing out happens naturally when you’re around similar people.
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Theater kids at a diner. What else is new?
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Big clothes, big personality.
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She’ll make point five past lightspeed. And yes those are cat ears. If I can wear those, I can wear any piece of menswear.
Wands at the ready!
All of these guys made it possible for me to get into clothes and wear them proudly!

Thanks for listening and reading along! Don’t forget to support us on Patreon to get some extra content and access to our exclusive Discord. We also stream on Twitch and upload the highlights to Youtube.

The Podcast is produced by MJ.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan M. Wong

Big thank you to our top tier Patrons (the SaDCast Fanatics): Philip, Shane, Austin, Jarek, and Henrik.

8 comments

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  4. JJ Katz · June 29

    The essay at the beginning of this long article is, in my opinion, spot on and I entirely agree with it.
    I sincerley hope more CM enthusiasts embrance their individuality and start flying their freak flag more confidently.

    Like

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