Have A Tangible Experience With Menswear

Words and photos can only go so far for menswear education and inspiration. Sometimes you just need to touch grass.

Grass meaning clothing. And touching meaning, well, touching and wearing.

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Josh and Rob of Joyride.

Joyride Vintage is probably my favorite vintage store of all time. I think I vaguely remember visiting them for the first time. It was way back in 2014 or so when I was also starting to be friends with Spencer. Mind you, I was still around 18-19 years old and still incredibly shy and new to this world of [vintage] menswear. Stores were incredibly intimidating, especially luxury ones at South Coast Plaza like Ralph Lauren or Canali, because I never felt comfortable to try anything on. In other words, the “menswear look” I was after felt unattainable. Intangible. I had to rely on myself and felt resigned to scrounge eBay, Etsy and the thrift. If I couldn’t find it or if I was burned by a faulty measurement (whether it was on me or the seller), I had to accept it wasn’t meant to be.

To my surprise, the guys at Joyride were incredibly kind to me. They asked me about my current menswear journey, what I was studying in school, and were always interested in how I balanced my appreciation of modern clothing with my enthusiasm for vintage. But the most noteworthy thing they did was encourage me to try on anything in their store. The Joyride guys knew that I wasn’t making much spending money back then (and I was still picky and shy) but they liked seeing me wear the stuff they stocked. So each time I visited I tried on everything: sportshirts, leather jackets, hollywood jackets, big pants, and of course, suits and sportcoats. Even if it didn’t fit, they told me to try it. Rob (the owner) would always point out the cool details on each garment, many of which were things I had only seen as a photo on the internet. The intangible had become tangible.

Of course Joyride wasn’t the only one who did this. Most vintage stores and enthusiasts were always open for Spencer and me to check out their collections, try things on, and feel the garments. I’m sure they were also familiar with the fact that vintage clothing (or cool clothes in general) can come across as mythic and how hard it is to get a real appreciation for something unless you’re able to physically experience it for yourself. I’m also thankful that these open people still existed, albiet more rarely, when I moved onto to contemporary classic menswear. Non-poly hopsacks, lambswool sweaters, and non-vintage silk ties all went from being words on a page written by Simon Crompton or G. Bruce Boyer to something somatic. If it wasn’t for all of these experiences of touching and trying on clothes, I probably wouldn’t be as passionate about menswear as I am now.

Overall, it seems that the theory of personal taste isn’t enough for someone to truly develop an interest in menswear. In order to get a holistic interaction with this hobby, you should try to have a personal and tangible experience with it.

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Every time I visit a menswear store, I touch and handle as much as possible (if they let me). You never know what you’ll connect with!

Before I continue, please try not to get hung up on defining tangibility (despite the fact I’ve used it many times in the intro and bolded it) because it’s intentionally meant to be a vague term. To me, it simply means to have a personal experience with something, preferably in a physical way. And yes, I know that this is such a redundant topic because menswear is already a physical thing, but hear me out.

Tangibility is important because a lot of menswear information (or experiences in general) comes from just reading and looking at photos online. Not only is there not as much context, but we tend to take words as they are without seeing how it actually applies to your individual context. For example, it’s one thing to learn that wide lapels are superior when reading a #menswear blog (like mine). It’s another to actually see it on yourself. When you’re able to physically put it on and see how it looks on you (and maybe reflect on how it makes you feel), you’ll learn that all of these codified menswear beliefs can translate to a tangible experience. Seeing a wide lapel on your own body helps you understand the broadening effect it has. The height of the gorge is not not just an arbitrary design (I mean it kinda still is), but can contribute to how trussed up or slouchy you see yourself.

This is why I always recommend in-person experiences like visiting an atelier or vintage store (though not many are keen on letting you try on things) or at least try to visit your local flea market or thrift store. Places that have a myriad of clothes for you to handle first hand are the best, even if you don’t find anything you want to buy. Vintage is especially great for tangible education, since you’re just exposed to so many fabrics, design details, and silhouette variants. And as I shared in the introduction, the friendly shopkeepers who are open to talking are also a wealth of information (the best ones are the ones who engage with you on their own). You don’t need to rely simply on online blogs or just window shopping!

Tangible experiences can do wonders when you’re first starting out, but it doesn’t have to stop there. As you guys well know by reading this blog, it happens every time you interact with menswear, whether you’re out shopping, just checking out a trunk show or new store, or even curiously asking a friend to feel his jacket. You can through fabric books to get an understanding of fabric weight and texture. You’ve got to try on a shirt to see if a certain collar design frames your face and he tie you want to wear. It’s tangible to together garments in your closet to see if you want contrast or to go tonal that day. It’s also tangible to folding your clothes and Ironing them. Making an outfit in general is tangible. So is wearing it out to work, among your friends, or to spend time alone at home or at a coffees shop. Tangibility involves everything you do after you get inspired on the internet.

I think that this is one of the reasons I like to wear an outfit I’m excited about everyday. I love my clothes and “doing” my hobby as much as possible (like playing the piano or a video game with friends), but I’m also aware that constant engagement adds to how I connect with my clothes. It’s how I know that Esquire Man is my look or even that tonal dressing is new and intriguing for me. This daily tangibility lets me learn about what I like or gives me an opportunity to experiment. It’s also how I am able to see what to alter to get a “perfect fit” and what to look out for when shopping. Tangibility leads to real data.

Think of it like practicing the piano (as a beginner) or if you’re an amateur already, fiddling with notes on a page when you get a burst of inspiration. You might have an idea of what you eventually want to sound like, but being tangible will only help you in that journey. Maybe it will help you understand the concepts you’re trying learning; conductors still play through the score on a piano in order to “listen” to the composer’s intended sound. Or it may reinforce what you already like. It may even lead you in new directions that only add to your expression!

I firmly believe that diving into tangibility is the best way to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of clothing. Why? Because it puts your personal taste to paper. Even if you don’t have an intentional taste yet, you’ll immediately gain at least some preferences when you get to handle that thing. All theory needs praxis, including menswear.

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Getting dressed everyday is a good exercise in executing personal taste while also allowing you to connect with your clothes. Future outfits (and perhaps purchases) are built on what I take away from each outfit. It also allows me to appreciate and love the things I already own!

I realized that tangibility was the thing that was missing from my previous essay on Evangelism. As much as I love writing about preferences like silhouette or the perfect OCBD, I knew that words on a page do not compare from a tangible experience. They mean nothing until you do it for yourself and form your own, first hand opinions.

If we simply followed what the internet told us, we’d all dress like a real estate agent from 2013. It’s easy to be dissuaded from wearing period silhouettes or incorporating quirky details that are seldom seen thanks to pragmatic internet blogs dedicated at helping you “stand in” . But what I’ve learned is that nuance of the upholding the niche or even what goes against mainstream convention lies in what you can experience tangibly. Yes, dumpy khakis that are pooling at your ankles don’t look too good for a classic menswear look. But that doesn’t mean you need to be stuck with super slim khakis either! A full cut beige military chino that is hemmed or cuffed to a shivering break is also worth consideration. And if you try it on for yourself, you may find that you actually like the clean drape!

In fact, this is how most of my friends truly got into classic menswear. They already knew the “theory” of high rise, full cut pants (because I always seem to be asked “why are your pants like that”), but would say that it wasn’t for them. It wasn’t applicable. But when they had the opportunity to try them on, they could see why I did it. It wasn’t for “fashion’s sake”, it was for the elongating figure, the comfortable feel (of the width and no polyester), and the slight touch on the top of the shoe. Of course, this may lead to other things like seeing how a fuller cut jacket just makes sense proportionally against such trousers. Or maybe they want to see what a soft collar, non non-iron shirt feels like. The Menswear Singularity develops from a point of tangibility.

This has honestly been my main approach to style, even if I haven’t stated it outright. I don’t like to do something just because I read or saw it on the internet. It’s not real until I get to touch it. That’s why I like to try on and experience as much as I can in order to make an informed opinion (or add to my canon of taste). Berets, rugged pants, safincore, and white socks– it all started with me trying it for myself (with plenty of documentation to boot). You may have already noticed this throughout the blog– I don’t cover something until I have a real experience with it that sticks with me for a long time. After all, if I am against dispassion, then I need to do everything I can to make the things I’m interested in into a passion (or at least know for sure that it’s not for me).

Now my strong taste starts to makes sense. My dislike for low rise slim pants or low buttoning, inharmonious jackets isn’t just there for no reason. It’s because I tried it on. Same goes for not being into overly structured things garments or even certain color combinations or fabrics. All of my strong opinions are based on a tangible, practical experience On the flip side, this works to reinforce positive feelings. I think this could explain why I love wearing tailoring (with a tie) over being casual. I know how it all felt when it was on me and I want to repeat that feeling.

Ultimately, this is about doing what it takes to connect with your taste and add to the story of your style. Somethings have short stories, like knowing that you want a blue jacket, so you go to the mall and buy one. But sometimes things take longer, especially if you have a more specific or even niche taste, and so the tangibility aspect comes in sections. It can take repeated visits to a store or even multiple rounds of thrifting in order to fully satiate what you’re looking for (a healthy dose of introspection keeps you true to your tastes). Whichever the case, the tangible experience should give you something to take back and learn from. Tangibility is meant to create an authentic connection because well, you’re the one experiencing it!

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I like listening to music which leads me to play the music I like to listen to! It’s helpful in understanding it while letting me do something fun. It’s no wonder why I think of my hobby of music and menswear as nearly the same thing.
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You could say the same thing about Marco. He always dives deep into his passions and combines them tangibly (like getting fitted while being appropriate for riding) which results in a deeper passion for his clothes.

I think that this dedication to tangible praxis is shows up in my other interests as well. You guys know that I love film score and orchestral music. At first, I’d always try to play the music I’d listen to, learning it by “ear”. It wasn’t enough to listen– I had to tangibly be a part of the music. This lead to writing music, first by doing my own mockups of my favorite cues and then by writing my own music. If I wanted to put my “knowledge” to something tangibl. composing was the best way to “show” what I’ve learned.

It’s not necessary to for any music fans to do this, but I definitely felt like being “hands on” and crafting melodies and orchestrating them let me connect with the music in a special way. It helped me appreciate the nuance of the orchestra, learning how each instrument contributes to the vibe of a piece. Going further into theory (as limited as my knowledge is) really helped me simplify the complexities of chord construction. It was all in service of developing preferences in what I listened to and wanted to write.

Perhaps this is why most of the people who respond well to the blog are often some form of a creative or have some sort of discerning eye: it’s because they know the importance of having a tangible experience as it pertains to developing taste. Many of them like to make movies as well as watch them, take photographs in addition to consuming them, paint what they feel as well as see their favorites in a museum. Or hell, it doesn’t even have to be a “high art”. My friends, in addition to being bold, simply like to do things. Being tangible simply adds to how they experience their interests and hobbies, allowing them a medium to put their preferences in action. It makes sense that such people would extend this to their budding interest in clothing, as trying it on or visiting stories is how you make it tangible.

Maybe this is because we are all curious and obsessive. We feel a need to dive deep into our passions and our interests in any way we can because we are intrigued to know where it will lead us. This could also be because we grew up with the internet and we’re aware that things are “fake” without some kind of tangible experience. Clive Thompson has an article on what it means to indulge your weird, off beat obsessions. And while we aren’t scientists who will find the next vaccine or even on the path to the next great American novel, we still want to follow through on what we like to the fullest we can. That means painting for fun in the park or writing a blog for no reason. And for menswear, that means…well doing everything you can the clothes you own or hope to buy.

To be clear, none of this is mandatory for any menswear enthusiast. You don’t need to try on everything in order to “truly” love clothing. Nor do you have to get fitted everyday! But you can’t deny the benefit of getting a little tangible with it as much as you can, based on your own context and taste. I’ve met guys who dress up after work because that’s when they’re allowed freedom to do so. My friends in LA (where there virtually no tailoring stores) go out to the thrift to look at what awaits, even if they don’t buy anything. I also just like hanging out with pals because I know that seeing garments in person is much better than just viewing it online. Anything can be an experience, which I’m starting to believe is the true metric of authenticity as it pertains to clothing. Inspiration can come from anywhere, but tangibility is how it becomes personal to you.

Tangibility is the focus of the next Style & Direction podcast which obviously serves as a follow up to the previous one on Evangelism. As you’ll hear below, tangible praxis is the main way people truly turn an interest in menswear into a passion– at least based on what we’ve seen with our friends and people in our discord. This is why we encourage people to make friends, get out in the world, and make outfits as much possible. The more hands on you are, the deeper your understanding is. While taste is the guide for how you acquire clothes and where you get inspiration, it is only truly informed by what you tangibly experience yourself.

I can just imagine you all thinking “no shit Sherlock” after reading this lol

Podcast Outline

  • 05:33 – Intro
  • 09:00 – Learning on the Internet
  • 17:32 – Learning Tangibly is Better
  • 39:10 – Learning with MJ
  • 44:15 – Trying on Stuff
  • 59:35 – Putting What We Learned Into Practice
  • 1:05:18 – Wrap-up

Recommended Reading

  • Marco’s post on the “soul” of clothes. I think that being tangible is what lets you get at this!
This was one of the first full vintage suits I ever tried on. It was incredible to see all my preferences come to live and visible on my body.
Trying on garments, whether at vintage stores or the thrift, helped me figure out my preferences immediately. I think you can tell that most of my garments today closely follow what I wore before.
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Even if you don’t buy anything, it’s a great idea to look and touch in person. Vintage clothing is so unique and amazing, which is why it’s best to see it for yourself.

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It’s also a great way to internalize details and see how they affect a garment’s look apart from a photograph or words on a page. Just see how the low gorge works with the lowered pocket, as well as the Button-Pocket Harmony. I am aware that I am writing this as a caption on a photo.
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Sometimes its just great to see things that you’ve only heard about. It will either make you appreciate it more or know that you don’t need to spend time looking for one.
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I went to as many vintage sales as I could, just to get a feel for the clothing.
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I’m also very grateful to the enthusiasts who took the time to show me all of the amazing details. Back in 2014, it was hard to find a half-lined jacket (or even tweed) in the mall!

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The rare stuff can also spur something within you, whether its to hold off buying it until later or to add to your existing taste.
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I know that much of my taste is built on wearing true vintage garments and enjoying how they felt on me. Broad shoulders, lowered gorges, wide set buttons, big pockets, and a slightly longer length are all preferences that have stuck with me to this very day.
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Seeing vintage IRl also provides a better understanding of menswear, namely that many things we like have been done before. This is a 1910s jacket in cotton, which has a sack body and big pockets.
I try to visit stores every where I go. This was taken in London!
I love spearpoints not just because I saw them in photos, but because I handled them in person!
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It can also be fun to compare our repros to the real thing. It helps you learn details!
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Maybe if we weren’t so tangible with our interests, we wouldn’t be as obsessed with specifics as we are now.
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Feeling each others garments is a natural thing among menswear. It’s how I learned that vintage ties are wide but not thick.
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The best stores are the ones that encourage you to try on (and share) what they have! Now I know I’d like a Hollywood suit…someday.
After all, trying things on and comparing them to what I own is how I double down on preferences (a low vamp) or develop new ones.
I’m always trying on things. Sometimes they’re a winner, like these cat eye frames
Trying on things is also how I know modern sweater vests, even sized to a small, are just too long for high waisted pants.
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Or that the look of a Ludlow just isn’t right, due to its low buttoning point. Just looks off to me, especially compared to the other things I buy.
It’s also how I know that some modern brands make garments that align with what I like.
A tangible experience is how you’ll develop appreciation for things you may not normally see, like Engineered Garments.
Or to know what to potentially buy later on. (I didn’t and am not planning on buying this, but the photo was good)
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Actively wearing fedoras is why I know I enjoy them. Though you could argue this only happened through repeated wears.

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I also think it’s fun to just try on things you come across, like RRL’s take on a navy corduroy jacket.
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The cool things you see from tangible experiences always beat out photos online.
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It just helps you gain a more nuanced understanding of clothes and perhaps even expand your preconceptions.
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Sometimes you’ll be able to talk directly with the person who made that garment!
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Other times, you just need to try it on to know for sure it ain’t for you.
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Trying on vintage is how I developed my preference for short leather jackets.
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I’m working on a post on jewelry, but I wouldn’t have developed this interest unless I actively tried on cool things I found at fleas and vintage stores! It all starts with something tangible.
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Every menswear event is full of guys getting tangible with clothing.
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Spencer and I are always out trying things on!
I’m glad I tried on these OG-107s because I wanted yellow to add to my bold pants collection and it made me realize J. Crew is good (just not for tailoring).
Let’s not forget how trying on a Visvim jacket is what pushed me to full send Safincore. Even though I didn’t buy that particular piece, the visual silhouette and the feeling it generated while wearing it told me that it was applicable and natural to my style.
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I can’t imagine being me without Safincore.
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Being in LA, it can be hard to acquire the tailoring #menswear lusts after. So I took every opportunity to try on brands whenever they came into town.
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I ended up buying that same jacket via consignment about three years after the first photo was taken.
I think most people know that I need to get tangible to appreciate something, which is why everyone gives me stuff to try on. In this photo, I’m wearing Henrik’s short flight beret from AWMS. I’m sold (but not buying it anytime soon).
I also let my friends wear my clothes because I know that they’ll also appreciate and understand the details when it’s on their body. They’ll also eventually take it when I out grow it.
Here’s John trying on one of my old Spier & Mackay jackets.
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Jay is wearing my old blazer.
At Spencer’s birthday, Chris tried on some of Spencer’s tailoring that he doesn’t wear anymore. He ended up buying this Palm Beach jacket.
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Like me, my friends enjoy trying on things.
I like that MJ comes with our other friends in order to expand his non-classic menswear taste. You can certainly see that reflected in his style.
Spencer tries on a lot of things at antique malls.
Flea Markets are great too, especially since it exposes you to garments you may not normally find, like a vintage moleskin sawtooth.

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I’m glad that my friends are always keen to try stuff on, just to know “how it is”.
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John is another friend who understands the benefits of getting tangible. He always tried on my jackets when we hung out.
He eventually ended up buying a few off me when I got too big.
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That later lead him to buy other things for himself, like this second hand Ring Jacket linen sportcoat.
Isabel is the same way!
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Trying on different blazers at the mall helped her feel confident to wear in this old RL blazer.
I’m telling you, every hang out is full of trying on clothes and getting a feel for them.
These were the first flares I ever tried on.

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I liked the feeling, so I was ready and confident to cop when I later found one that hit all the right spots.
I actually forgot that I had even tried on waxed cotton jackets way before I bought one for myself.
I even got to see some cool vintage ones.
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All of it added to my personal lore of the Barbour, which was now more tangible than inspo photos from the internet.
I’m also constantly expanding my taste by handling garments in person. It doesn’t mean that I’ll buy it, but at least I’ll have an opinion based on a first hand experience!
I knew this wasn’t for me.
The kimono however, was.
I also knew I wanted a longer jacket.
Getting tangible is also the closest you can get to experiencing an item without owning it. I now have a taste for kimono style jackets and tiger camo.
Sunglasses always need a tangible experience. I never really liked aviators until I started trying on ones that intrigued me.
I ended up finding a few that I liked, all based on my previous experiences.
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This brown trucker jacket is a funny store. I knew I liked the idea of it, but I knew didn’t need a corduroy one.
I stumbled across a cotton one at the flea market but still passed.
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I eventually found one in a 101J style and knew that this was it.
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Ryan got this patchwork madras years ago after spending a lot of time trying it on (spread out through repeated visits)
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MJ is still on the look out for a white chore coat, all thanks to one tangible experience.
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It’s great to have menswear friends because you can at least experience their clothing in person, even if you don’t own it (or get to try it on fully).
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This applies to watches too.
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I’d also consider it “tangible” just to see how things are in person rather than just as a photo.
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Nothing compares to seeing this effect with your own two eyes. It was proof to me that menswear could be light and comfortable.
I also appreciate the friends who ask me to come along shopping with them so I can explain my preferences. It will always end up with me telling them to try things on.

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This was the opposite. I asked Ryan if I could join him for his P. Johnson appointment so I could see what it’s like!
Even today, Spencer and I still try on plenty of things to see what we can learn from it. It also makes it harder to pass on it when you see just how great it looks on you!
Jay did indeed buy this suit.
Another aspect of tangibility is how clothes interact with people.
I have such great memories around my clothes that it inspires me to wear them out more to gain new ones!
Even if it is as “mundane” as getting a great local burger.
Clothes are a part of real life, being a tangible part of everything you do.
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Wearing clothes out and around people allows you to understand how clothes make you and others feel! It helps you cull your taste and learn just how comfortable you want to be with the vibes you put out. I’m also lucky I haven’t had much resistance to my looks!
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The best part about friends is seeing the cool stuff they wear and seeing it person can be educational and inspiring. Much better than just images on a blog (I am aware of what I just typed out).
This tangibility is why I know I love menswear. Hopefully others can love it too!

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, Jarek, Henrik , John and Alexander.

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