Having fun is the whole point of why I do this. Not a hard concept!
I have always considered menswear (buying it, wearing it) a hobby. It is, as a quick Google will tell you, “an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure”. Participating in this menswear thing has been something I do purely for fun and self actualization (through POV and Cinematic Dressing), rather than practicality or even social status (as there are better things to wear if those things are your priority). My approach is the same with video games, Legos, and reading books: I do it all to make myself happy. That priority is what makes menswear a hobby.
For others, menswear can’t be a hobby because you have to wear it. Menswear to them is practical and necessary, whether it’s for work or for the societal “requirement” to fit in and not be considered an outcast. Obviously this is false with the plethora of styles you are able to wear nowadays (complete with communities and esteem), but it is true that sticking with classic menswear would cover your bases. It is (or was?) the lingua franca of clothing. You could wear a sportcoat, and OCBD, and khakis almost anywhere: a first date, a casual (but not Silicon Valley casual) job, or on your day off. This versatility (and relative low effort) afforded to you by sticking with classic menswear makes it a practical thing first. The hobby part comes later on when you play with those basics by fine tuning details like materials or silhouette. But that’s not how it was for me. The detail part (the hobby part) is what attracted me to menswear in the first place. Or at least the specific part of menswear I like and wore.
To be clear, I’m making this differentiation in order to firmly state not only the theme behind the blog, but the theme that characterizes the clothes that I put on my body. This whole thing is a hobby. Collecting vintage ties, looking at inspo, and putting together outfits to wear is meant for fun; I just happen to also wear the efforts of my hobby in public! But like I said, this view obviously isn’t shared by everyone. It really comes down to how much outside consideration or context you include in your fashion choices. That’s why I exist specifically for myself and the few people who focus on having fun with this whole menswear thing.
If I look back at my life, this approach to menswear just makes sense. I’m not just a nerdy person who likes specific details– I’m also a collector. I grew up collecting Star Wars action figures and Legos. To be clear, it wasn’t that I had to buy all of them, but that I wanted to fill out whatever I felt was “best” for my collection. In other words, the metrics for inclusion were largely arbitrary despite my very specific taste. I didn’t want every Star Wars set that came out, I want specific ones; I left the podracing and lightsaber battle sets at home and focused simply on the starships (specifically the non-civillian ones). Thankfully I wasn’t alone on this, because my friends (who taught me to be comfortable with standing out) all had their own things that they collected as a hobby.
Now you might be surprised why I used a Lego metaphor instead of the typical music one that is much more appropriate for describing my approach to menswear. I am not surprised if some people view Legos as a “lower” hobby because it lacks the same type of “creativity” that other hobbies like music, photography, or painting might provide. These activities are still just as hollistic, as the hobby isn’t just about playing the piano or taking the photo– it still involves inspiration, a bit of collecting (references or multiple photos), editing, the final product, and performance (or play). They’re still considered a “fine art” even as a hobby, which makes their comparison to menswear (and Legos) much harder to make. But screw that, I’m sticking with this comparison because Legos are not just about collecting. Creativity of sorts is still involved and that comes in when you play. And I used to love playing with Legos.
If Legos was simply about collecting for me, they would stay in their box or be built once to be displayed on a shelf. That’s no fun! When I was a kid (and until I was a teenager), I would routinely play with my Legos. I built dioramas to reenact battles from the films or to make my own stories. Sometimes this required using my ships the way the instructions told me to; other times I had to cannibalize my old ships to create the things I saw in my head. Yes, I wasn’t writing symphonies or putting abstract shapes on a canvas, but I was still being intentional and making things that I liked. All for fun. You see, collecting was just a part of this Lego hobby. The other half is all about play.
Menswear is the same way. I have this idea of what the “diorama” (or goal) looks like and then I “collect” the pieces that the diorama requires. There are things on my list that I’m looking for (like a sportshirt or a grey suit) and they’re either worn the way the “set” envisions them (aka the expected way) or its recontextualized to fit the “new” way I envisioned. Whether it’s an outfit or a Lego diorama (or MOC), it’s not entirely unique but there is still creativity involved in the process of making the “thing” I want. It doesn’t even stop at this creating part; you still need to take it out to play. With Legos, I’d have fun by hold my X-Wing in my hand and “flying” it around the Imperial battlements that I designed. With menswear, I get to wear the fun by putting on my outfit and hanging out with my friends or setting a theme or occasion.
Other things fall into this mindset, including the “fine art” hobbies. Painting isn’t just about putting acrylics on canvas; it’s also about going to museums to getting inspired, visiting a shop to pick the paint, and settling on an idea. Yes, I collect film scores to listen to, but that’s apart of the hobby of musical analysis itself and composing my own music. Self actualization is always the goal, but Fun is involved at every point. Fun isn’t practical or absolutely necessary for any of these activities, but it is the whole point in why I do this. It’s why it’s a hobby.
To be completely fair, there are still parts of menswear that make it just as isolating as other hobbies. Music, art, and Legos are doomed to be enjoyed in private or at least in very specific contexts. For menswear, I’m usually shopping alone whether is perusing flea markets on a Sunday morning, checking out a local thrift store, or even just scrolling online. I also make the outfits by myself without much input. This is what menswear for me was like before I even started the blog or even participating in online forums, but I obviously still have spades of it today living in the pandemic world and working from home. Doing all of this was not dissimilar to crafting different Lego MOCs or composing music from the comfort in my room. The difference is that menswear can be taken out of the room to play.
The fun of menswear isn’t just relegated to when I make the outfit and put it on–the fun continues when I wear it out. I don’t have to use specialized equipment or wait until I’m home to have fun with this hobby. Menswear gets to interact with other aspects of my life (both positively and negatively) and this holistic aspect only adds to my enjoyment. Some people might use this as proof that menswear can’t simply be a hobby to which I’d respond by saying that this is what makes it the ultimate hobby. I can enjoy it at home and outside, no matter what stage of the “play” I’m in.
While a menswear hobby isn’t a fine art, I do think it’s been a fun exercise in personal creativity. I wouldn’t say its replaced my hobby of composing music, but as my contexts has lessened my availability to sit in a room for hours and compose, making outfits does solve that need for “creative” fun. Back in high school and college (before I got into menswear), I would make fanfares and cues nearly once a week, just to get my ideas out. Now my outfits are “created” ad infinitum without any indication of slowing down, at least as the past near-decade has shown. It’s all been for fun!
Thinking of Menswear as a Hobby is such a freeing mindset. At its core, menswear (at least to the level that #menswear media makes it seem) is really unnecessary, which I find empowering. When you’re able to bypass typical recommendations (or commandments), you really get to focus on what makes sense for you. Taste and cool go from being social mandates to something that you get to personally define. You’re free to experiment, join trends, and even reject the latest product drops. Standing out becomes a natural byproduct of participation you should embrace, not a side effect to avoid. It’s impossible to be completely independent, but there should still be an emphasis on personal intention that limits outside input. It’s a hobby after all! I’m not going to change what I do for fun just because someone else thinks its weird or “uncool”. The main metric for any effort in a hobby is personal enjoyment– everything else fades…only if you consider it a hobby to begin with.
This is why I always like to push people to figure out what excites them through introspection and inspiration. This is the most important part of a hobby, to find out who you are, who you want to be, and what aspects are fun and exciting for you. Once you have that, putting on clothes and “playing” makes for an enriching and empowering experience. It’s not unlike making the Lego MOC you envisioned or coming up with a catchy melody on the piano. The only difference is that you get to walk outside with your hobby proudly (and literally) worn on your chest.
Whenever talk about Menswear as a Hobby comes up, I’m reminded of the story where one of my patrons got reprimanded (thankfully softly) for wearing a green seersucker suit to work. It wasn’t worn too dandily (as I recall, it was worn with a simple OCBD and repp tie) but it is proof that some people can’t consider menswear a hobby, at least at all times. I share this because of the positive sentiment that came after: he decided that he’s going to work soberly so he could really dress on the weekend. To me this felt like a true separation as fashion as practical (work attire) and fashion as a hobby. Just look at the people I’ve met and featured on the blog who are able to do it. Even if they can’t go full send all the time, they find ways to express their fun. Yes, its practical to cover your naked body, but there is a lot of room for fun to be had in how you do it. Fun is isn’t a requirement but it is something that is possible.
The arbitrariness of hobbies is a quality I like because it just enforces how much of this is an intentional, personal choice. It might be “silly” (meaning unnecessary) or absurd, but that’s only because choices can defy convention. A hobby can still be taken seriously by its practitioner. In fact, it may even be more serious based on how much of yourself is connected to the clothing choices. I still need to be proud of what I make or play with; I’m not going to half ass a song or a Lego Set. That’s why I prefer to keep things on my purview with as little outside input as possible (within reason of course), because this whole thing is about what I like. That’s what makes it a hobby and not a something required.
As I say in the podcast, I actually disliked how people excused my attire once they found out I worked in the industry. It felt like a cop out, like my personal choices weren’t seen. While I sometimes think about what might have happened to my style (and the blog/pod) if I continued a career in menswear, I’m actually glad that I was able to separate financially from that world. Now I can focus on me! Its no surprise that as a result, my style has been able to be consistent; in fact, my outfits in the present contain more references in to my vintage days than ever before! This separation is good for my personal creativity as well as to stave off fatigue. Even composing music is meant for myself. I never had any plans to become a full time composer; I just wanted to make music that I liked to listen to. (This separation is also why I am against influencer culture).
I am aware that I’m pretty lucky to take this position. After all, my chosen expression of menswear (or fashion in general) is relatively safe for most contexts, especially in the post-pandemic world. Granted, I also work from home so the faux-trauma of being teased for menswear has little to no stakes in my life. I’m pretty much appropriate, if not a little odd (but not too far). I also started it quite young, where any strife from going full send into menswear all happened years ago. But I still do think that there are ways for you to get into this and enjoy having fun with clothing. I did it! And my friends do it too as well as the people in my Patreon. I definitely respect the ones who find some time to fully embrace the fun of clothes even if they can’t wear it as much as I can. The fun is what matters!
(Maybe there should be a future pod/blog on the concept of “occasion”)
If you can’t already tell, this whole blog is an exercise in walking through how I approach a personal hobby. If I was concerned with solely with status or traditional practicality, I would not wear most of what I wear today. At the very least, it wouldn’t be to the same level of aesthetic detail or obsession. My clothes would be about defaulting and getting by by min-maxing my effort, not about fun. In other words, it would not be a hobby. Thank God that isn’t the case! That’s why I’ve always felt that this was personal, serving as a diary rather than being a prescriptive guide. All my preferences work for me and how I have fun. And if you’re like me, they might help you have fun too (and if they don’t, that’s okay)!
As an aside, I think that focusing on the hobbyist aspect of menswear is the best way for it to continue forward. It’s not that evangelism is inherently important, but I’ve noticed that this is the most positive thing newcomers respond to (at least in my circles). After all, if you happen to be suggesting ties to your friend, you can’t rely on saying this decorative piece of silk is necessary for business attire. They’ll like ties when they see how much fun ties can be! [More on Evangelism later.]
Anyway, this topic of Menswear as a Hobby was the focus of the latest episode of Style & Direction. It’s okay if you think my mindset on this is weird– if you listen to the pod, you’ll hear about Spencer’s and MJ’s take. Funnily enough, it serves as a great capstone of sorts for the themes of authenticity and self-actualization that characterized the subjects on this blog for the last few years. In the end, this is all for fun. It’s freeing to look at clothes that way!
Obviously we can’t change someone’s entire paradigm on clothes nor can we help that other people have specific contexts that contain decorum you can’t escape. But there is always some time you can carve out to fully delve into this hobby. Whether you’re saving the fits for after 5PM or allocating the whole weekend, just make sure you’re having fun with your clothes. That’s what the hobby is all about!
- Intro – 9:13
- Was Menswear Always a Hobby – 23:29
- Being Creative with Menswear – 39:27
- How Does Our Hobby Stay a Hobby – 50:01
- Wrap-up – 1:07:24
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Always a pleasure,
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