Insert song here.
It’s hard to imagine being into menswear without fit pics. After all, the taking and sharing of fit pics are proof that an interest in [classic] menswear has evolved from being a practical linga franca of clothing into hobby for personal enjoyment. And yes, vanity is certainly involved at this point!
I’m reminded of an old article by Simon Crompton in which he posits that “clothing is not important”. In it, he likens clothing to cooking, as both activities are practical and a form of expression, but rank rather low in terms of overall importance. In short, you have to eat (and you have to put on clothes) everyday, but the method in how you do it and where effort (and creativity) is allocated is up to individual taste. If we wanted to be an ascetic, we could eat and wear the bare minimum, which is perfectly acceptable. It is also fine to be indulgent in it as a form of creativity or personal expression. A lower “art” obviously, but an activity that is more about fun. You don’t have to be a chef creating new gastronomy recipes or a designer drafting patterns. Cooking and menswear as a hobby means you can have fun making French Toast or putting on a variation of ivy as your outfit.
In my opinion, taking photos of both add to the enjoyment of the hobby! It’s fun taking a photo of something that you’re proud of, especially when you get to share it, in both public and hobby-centric communities.
At its core, the taking and sharing of a hobby pics acts as a bit like a currency of participation in said hobby. It’s one thing to simply cook the food—it’s another to take a second (and only a second) to document it, whether its yourself and for others. This might not be the best analogy, but the social media aspect of it is almost like moving from playing Jeopardy at home with your friends to starting a team to compete at bar trivia with local patrons. It’s not necessary for the overall theme of trivia, but it’s a fun step to take to show interest and dedication. To put yourself out there for reception in exchange for your participation.
To be clear, a fit pic can serve different purposes and illicit a myriad of reactions all depending on where they are shared. In private, they act as self documentation, showing a narrative evolution for in the hobby. In regards to fit pics (outfit pictures), they can signal a few different things due to the different ways you can share them. To the general public, it plainly shows that you are interested in said hobby; even if you may be smiling or doing an activity, I am certain that someone will understand that you’re showing off the fit. And when posted in a community (like MFA or Styleforum), its about affirming that participation to others who share that interest. It can act like an simply update, a not-so-humble brag, or an solicited (or at times unsolicited) invite for feedback; I guess this can still happen when you post in the general public (the non hobby-centric world) .
It goes without saying that how a fit pic is accomplished (like the photographic elements as well as the posing) can affect reception as well.
Obviously, fit pics as participation currency don’t always have a positive effect on people. Focusing too much on the reception/reaction and the overall tribalism and perceived peer pressure have formed how people approach fit pics today. You might feel obligated to participate at all times, allowing the taking and sharing of the fit pic to override the fun of creating outfits. You could also fall into the trap of optimization and hustling, to capitalize on the reception and clout that a fit pic may potentially generate. It’s quite a shame as fit pics are supposed to be fun, at least to my friends and me.
Since fit pics are central to “menswear as a hobby”, Spencer, MJ, and I decided to discuss it on this next episode of the podcast. It’s a bit different that our other topics, as talking about fit pics is more of a “meta” topic on the enjoyment of clothing, but I think that it’s important nonetheless.
- Topic Intro – 05:42
- Our History with Fit Pics – 15:01
- Additive and Documentarian – 27:57
- Are Fit Pics Necessary? – 34:28
- Creativity/What’s Important – 45:52
- Our Process of Fit Pics – 59:13
- Wrap-Up – 1:17:26
Like with previous podcast-essays, I don’t want to retread too much, but I really want the takeaway of this to be that fit pics are supposed to be fun. Taking photos in general is supposed to be fun, so why can’t fit pics be as well?
Perhaps this is just my background, but I guess I really do have to thank my friends for getting me comfortable with the camera, both behind and in front of it. In the Standing Out essay, I noted that my friends would take photos all the time, including non-hobby related occasions. Faux-serious portraits and goofy candids were contained in those early days, shared amongst friends’ Facebook albums. Once I was in college, I met Jon and Tim who helped ease me into more “serious” photography, aka using the camera as a tool to get the shot I wanted. They demystified the art form of taking photos, showing that a “cinematic” shot can become second nature. Jon specifically taught me how easy it was to take what I’ve learned and spin it into a self portrait; despite not using social media that much, he would experiment with DSLR selfies quite a bit!
This is all probably why it’s always been fairly easy for me to take fit pics quite regularly. If you look through the entirety of my instagram, there is a recurring theme to all the outfit photos I post. The framing is always the same (I always leave a more headroom than footroom) and there is a focus on natural light, especially when it comes to indoor fit pics. Even if the location is atypical (aka not at my house/backyard, church, or regular haunt like Old Town Orange), there is still a commonality in the vibes. It’s almost like I’m drawn to finding these similar places for a simple outfit pic. This guiding light (lol) not only makes it easy for me to take “selfies” with my DSLR, but it also helps guide my friends who sometimes help out with a fit pic (it’s almost like a toll fee for them, as I take their photos often). Effort is still applied, but its a fun effort, one that you should enjoy not unlike cooking a cool meal or attempting to get 100% completion in a video game.
It probably helps that I’ve always been into photography. That’s also why I’m not surprised that most of my menswear friends also (or eventually) display an affinity for photography. It’s almost like that an appreciation of aesthetics naturally leads to other interests, which can be fun to combine and play into each other. We may not be Anne Leibowitz, but we can certainly make believe and have fun with our menswear hobby.
In the same vein, fit pics gives us the opportunity to be models. It’s a way for us to see a human form in the outfits we’ve put together, and show them off in the way we see in our head but with our own bodies. Real life is obviously the best way to “show off” an outfit, but like a studio recording vs. playing a random street piano, it’s fun to get what we want in a place we can control and express our taste. In that vein, I do liken my approach to fit pics more as a self portrait, because the focus isn’t only the clothes but of me wearing my clothes. Its nice to show what a non-traditional, non-professional “model” looks like wearing classic menswear (especially in the Asian American demo).
A fit pic is definitely a “lesser” art form compared to photographing someone else or more artistically focused self portraits, but it’s still fun to exercise some photographic prowess and even in self-documentation/social media masturbation. And like masturbation, it should be fun. It can be clinical sure, but it’s better when it’s an enjoyable experience.
That’s not to say that it was never awkward, whether back then or now. I can see how the process can cause anxiety, as a fit pic seemingly requires the wearer not only to have good taste in clothes but the ability to be photogenic (also a thick skin for social media if you choose to share them publically). If you also aren’t into photography, the entire set up (even if you do use a phone camera) can seem daunting. That’s why I admire those who take the challenge and put themselves out there to try; I think they realize that they are already a little weird with their fashion, so a self-masturbatory fit pic adds an incremental amount of weirdness.
For me, my first outfit pics were always taken by other people. It was a bit of a favor for me to ask, usually of my college roommate (who was my high school bestfriend) or other friends during a hang out. They were always happy to do it (as I always take photos of them on a whim), but it is interesting to get around the idea that you are showing off your interests…and yourself; it doesn’t help that bystanders may see the process who are not your friend. Because I had to depend on other people for those early fit pics (I had a shitty phone), it meant that those days were extra special for me to document, as other fits were relegated to phone selfies. Usually these were at events or friend gatherings; I would sometimes feel bad that my “regular life” fits weren’t documented at the same level.
It wasn’t until I graduated and started working at Ascot Chang that I fully came into my own with fit pics. I was literally alone with no one to take my photos. Thankfully I figured out how to set up my remote fire (Canon has an app that allows you to see what your camera sees) and thanks to a relatively low key working environment, I was able to experiment with taking fit pics in my free time. It was obviously awkward as I had to rely completely on my self for this (as opposed to my awesome friends), but it was completely worth it. Inside was obviously easy but it taking them outside in the back alley was great, as I got familiar with natural light and built up a tolerance for lookyloos. Eventually it got to be repeatable, which meant that I could now photograph every fit, which was important because as I’ve said before, I genuinely love every fit I put together.
Now it’s second nature. At this point in time my friends know what I want! Most importantly, I know how to get the photo I want when I’m on my own. Taking a fit pic is quick and easy, with the main “timesuck” being the posing and the editing, both of which are fun! I think that other people are finally noticing how easy and enjoyable this can be to enhance a fashion hobby, especially as we’ve apparently seen a rise of fit pics during the course of the pandemic.
As I stated earlier, I consider menswear a true hobby and so taking fit pics is no different than sharing photos of your hobby. The social media accounts of my high school friends were Valencia-filtered sunsets, family members, and their latest anime doodles or Gunplas. As time went on, their feeds have evolved to include film frames, PC builds, recipes, crocheted Pokemon, books they just read, and so on. They know that social media is personal and that it’s fun to show what you’re into, without the desire to become an influencer. Best of all, they knew that my fit pics were simply my version of what they were already doing, just with the focus on clothes (and my face by extension).
And like other hobbies, the enthusiasm just keeps coming. I have never felt an obligation to post, at least in terms of showing participation (or perhaps loyalty) to the menswear hobby. If there is any obligation, it comes from the fact that I love the outfits I create and that I get to take a photo of it. In other words, I don’t wear the clothes for a fit pic, but I take a photo because of the clothes. I want to capture them, to do the clothes justice. You guys know that am proud of nearly every fit I’ve worn, as I avoid feeling “meh” or unenthusiastic about my clothes. Even when themes seem to repeat, I still enjoy taking a photo of myself wearing it. In fact, I look forward to it!
I take my outfit photos near the end of the day, when my clothes have had a “full day’s work”. If I’m out, I try to take a fit pic wherever I happen to be, so it feels like a natural extension of my life (at least as much as possible). I don’t need much context, especially since in most fit pics, my background is my yard or outside of my bedroom. When I do go out, its still taken in a relatively sterile spot with good light, like an alleyway or one of my church’s many hallways; I’m not about to disrupt a restaurant or boba shop by posing for a fit pic in the middle of the eating area (but fun flash pictures get a pass).
What’s funny is that I realize that my expresses and poses have gotten a bit more somber over the years. My old fit pics on MFA used to have a big ol grin. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve gotten more comfortable in my skin or just more “mature” with my style (or maybe I am just trying to be a thrift trap at this point). I snap a smile every once in a while, but most of the time I save those for the photos with friends when I’m at an event or hanging out; perhaps I want my solo shots to feel more serious (though portraiture has always been able to be comical).
On that note, when we do take photos out and about, it’s never a distraction and my friends and I are never taken out of the hang when the fit pics come around. Perhaps that’s because we’re so used to the system at this point, though I’ve heard from newer friends that they aren’t used to photos taken efficiently while still maintaining a fun, genuine feeling. I definitely think that people enjoy getting their picture taken, when they are feelin’ their fit (and themselves) and when the photo product is good! Overall, a fit pic is almost like a positive ritual for this hobby. It really does remind me how people are excited to take a photo of the steak they grilled or the latest wood carved spoon, all when the work is “finished”. They know the photo is not necessary, but it is still additive to the experience.
It’s interesting for me to reflect on the purpose of fit pics because I am quite aware of how silly they are and put effort into it (because I enjoy them). To be clear, I don’t share every outfit I’ve ever worn, at least publicly (referring to Instagram and fashion communities). I used to do that, but now many of them are stored in my archive. Most outfits are disjointed but there are occasional themes, which tend to inform my essays. I state this in the podcast, but I usually think my personal fit pics are the best examples for the concepts I am into. Brand editorials and menswear figures can only go so far— my friends like to see something on me in order to be sold. It humanizes menswear and makes it applicable in a relatable way.
I actually think fit pics are mostly utilized mainly as references/examples for blog posts rather than simple social media content, at least in recent years; that’s because I also want to share photos of other people (aka showing off my photography habit). As you can probably tell, the blog has more outfits shared on it than my social media presence, usually posted whenever they are pertinent to a topic. However, I still like sharing outfits on my Instagram, as well as on MFA or my Patreon Discord (I haven’t been active on Styleforum in years). Why? Just because they’re fun! Likes (and most engagement) don’t really matter in the grand scheme of life (nor are they necessary in the use of socia lmedia), though seeing something perform well is nice to see. I’ve never had great engagement, at least compared to other menswear figures and enthusiasts. I feel like I see the same names over and over again— it’s cool to see people who really care (though what constitutes caring is quite loose on social media,
Whatever the “purpose” of a fit pic is (do hobbies need a practical purpose?) I think definitely think it was important for me to take fit pics and get comfortable taking them. Most importantly, the activity has been a big part in giving me confidence. It wasn’t the likes or social media accolades, but simply to abet my self-criticism in a positive way, for my fashion choices, my physicality, and my photography. If we focus on fashion, it is only through multiple fit pics that I was able to figure out why some garments are best for slouch or how important proportions are. It also helps to show that I know what I’m talking about (which in the grand scheme of men’s clothing is still a small amount); perhaps it shows that I at least attempt to put my aesthetic ideas into action.
On a social level, well, its clear that it’s good to be comfortable with being perceived. If you can’t stand seeing yourself in clothing how will you handle others seeing you in public? I’m sure therapy would’ve been fine too, but years of taking fit pics and putting them out there (via this blog or reddit) have gotten me to a point where I am quite comfortable in my skin (here meaning clothes). A fit pic is a controlled system, but I’m also quite fine now with a random snap that isn’t meant to be a fit pic; hell it might retroactively be one since I’m always wearing an outfit I enjoy. This might have taken longer if I didn’t get used to the “ritual” of taking a fit pic!
On the subject of reception, I think it’s important to set expectations and boundaries with how you approach fit pics, especially when it comes to sharing them. Obviously it’s great to know that people like your outfit (perhaps even enough to comment on it), but it’s not great to focus on the amount of likes. It’s tough as I’ve made multiple references to currency in regards to fit pics, but deriving too much self worth from a fit pic’s reception isn’t a good way to approach social media. In my experience, it either goes two ways: you feel discouraged from participating in the hobby in general or you may feel the need to optimize and adjust your style to receive accolades. I always maintain that fit pics are meant to be a positive activity to take and share, so it may be best reserved for those with self awareness (as to how silly the activity is) or at least those who are confident to post regardless of reception.
I definitely try to keep those last two points to heart. Believe it or not, I still wear my outfits even if I don’t share them on social media, at least immediately. That is to say, I don’t dress simply for the fit pic— but I enjoy taking a photo of them anyway. Taking the photos and sharing them are always an additive experience to the clothing, not the prime reason. As a result, I’m not really that fazed if a fit pic flops on social media. I still enjoyed the outfit and I enjoy it so much that I decided to share it on my profile, making my social media presence more of a portfolio or public archive rather than something to “win”. I’m still quite surprised that my fits do as well as they do, as I always see myself as copying what has already been done before, just with my own taste (which isn’t that unique in the grand scheme of things); I also have plenty of fits that I that I know are not explore page worthy or even that “cool”.
Too bad— I’m going to share them anyway! 😉
In short, I think that fit pics are fun. They are best approached with a good attitude, with full awareness that it is not a necessary activity but one that can be additive. It’s all about the confidence and enjoyment that you are so fond of something that you can’t help but take a photo of it. You don’t have to share it, but that’s fun to do too! Not for accolades, but for camaraderie and connection with others who may enjoy it too. It can take some effort (like how you should like your outfit rather than feel thrown together haphazardly), but it should be fun to post and let lie. You don’t have to take fit pics, but it’s that you get to take fit pics. At a certain point, even candid photo of you that a friend snapped can be a fit pic. A selfie is good enough! Or if you’re like me and actually like the challenge of using a DSLR, then you can put a bit more effort into it.
If this (or the pod) feels evangelical, that’s because it is meant to be. I want people to feel enamored with their clothing and be openly proud of the outfits they create, because menswear is fun! It is not about obligation but about pragmatism, to feel as though your “work” is never done. However you do your fit pics, whether its clinical or editorial, it should always feel easy and natural. Some guys definitely play into the fun and silliness with it, whether it’s with the posing or the actual photographic style. They intentionally insert themselves into the fit pic rather than it just being just clothes (because otherwise, why not just take a flat lay of your pieces). Personally,I prefer it when you can see the person wearing it, as I connect more with people than with specific garments.
A photo gives you the opportunity to do you to do both!
Note: I know that my IG has been more of a general photo dump rather than a dedicated place for my fit pics. As I’ve said on streams, I never wanted to have a menswear-only IG account even though it can look that way (because I get fitted everyday). If you want something more akin to a fit pic only account, feel free to follow me on Tiktok (but I shit post there as well).
EDIT 6/21/22 – I just realized that I went through this whole essay without talking about body image. I know that it probably deserves its own topic (as I’ve never been fit or considered myself traditionally attractive) but body image and self perception plays heavily into the taking and sharing of fit pics. It probably doesn’t seem like it now, but I used to abhor getting my photo taken. I never thought I looked good, so I always made up for it by making intentionally ugly faces or goofin around when my friends snapped away; it would take away from how uncomfortable I felt about my body (and face).
Obviously the camera bug got me and soon I was taking fit pics nearly everyday. At first I did hide my face, not just because it was easy to take a chest shot for tumblr but because I was uncomfortable. But the more I took fit pics and explored general photography, the more I felt the need to put myself out there in the image proper (as well as the fact that there weren’t many people like me out in menswear). I told myself that it was to give context to my clothes, but it did eventually build my confidence in sharing my body to the world (even if its clothed). It obviously took a long time, but now I’m comfortable in my own skin. I don’t ignore my insecurities, but I do embrace them as part of me. A gym or altering my diet could certainly optimize the experience, but I’m also okay with where I am (health permitting).
I’m fine the way I am! In fact, I’m a a model— a model in the sense that I’m the best body to show off my hobby of wearing clothes my way. A fit pic gets to document it.
- MFA’s guide on taking fit pics
- Why are fit pics headless? – Die, Workwear
- Fun Poses in Menswear by Dan Hakimi shows the myriad of silly ways people post photos and includes a great analysis on Marco’s old dance-focused fit pics.
- A thread on Styleforum which shows people complaining about fit pic styles way back in 2012.
- My essays on Menswear Photography and Film Photography, which track include tracking the evolution of portrait-esque fit pics over influencer photography as well as fun editorial shots.
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The Podcast is produced by MJ.
Always a pleasure,
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Thanks for the shoutout 🙌