When did Aussies become scared of statement fashion?
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I used to have such cool T-shirts.
Somewhere between the time I started and finished University, the concept of having anything branded or emblazoned on your upper body became passé overnight. It would be easy to blame American Apparel, or Naomi Klein, or both, but something flicked deep within the male psyche and overnight that seed was pretty much gone. As Australian dudes emerged battered and manicured from the ravages of metrosexuality, they started to realise that dressing up was preferable to dressing down, and lucked onto the rule that the fairer sex have known for years; it’s easier to do it with basics. Denim looks better on top of a plain white tee, skinny black jeans rock harder with all-black tops, and nobody wants to see a big Nike swoosh on top of those carrot chinos, right? Right.
Whenever I went overseas, I would end up stocking my closet with basics from H+M and Zara rather than interesting and unique tees that I used to love searching out. The ones I still had were relegated further and further back into my wardrobe until they started going yellow around the edges. Because I have always been a follower rather than a leader, I know now this is not a unique predicament. In fact, outside of catwalks and Adidas lifestyle editorials in VICE, the only fashionable dudes in this country still wearing graphic tees either don’t give a damn, or are Tod Sampson, who is good-looking enough to never give a damn ever again.
Why did we become scared of statement fashion? Do not forget, this is the land of Mambo, known for some of the most outrageous graphic design that ruled men’s wardrobes for years. Short of the horrible printed Hawaiian shirt thing that’s coming back in a big way at festivals and events where nobody pays for drinks, there’s a wave of plainness threatening to drown us all. Horribly, I’m swimming with it rather than against it. The big moves forward are happening downstairs, where guys are wearing colours on their legs that they’d never have dared to five years ago. Just check the ASOS Australia men’s section for the range of super-bright options of offer – none of which will look good with that oversized band top or an illustration of a guy surfing on a dark blue Hanes. As the bottom gets brighter, the top becomes duller.
It shouldn’t be that unusual given that the Australian bloke is renowned for shying away from controversy. Back when I worked for Ben Sherman, I used to see dress shirts in all kinds of wonderful prints and colours, some of which I was allowed to pick and wear in store as a sales assistant. But none of them were actually ever sold to our market; they were prototypes that would end up mostly in the UK, where guys actually take risks outside of wearing red pants once a year. Sherman’s men’s stock for department stores here was limited to blue, black and grey, the three bland colours proven to sell to guys. And the only people who ever asked me why they couldn’t see what I was wearing on the rack were their wives and girlfriends.
It was when I was in New York last week and I opened up my suitcase to find something to wear for the day that I realised how utterly boring I had become. Kids there were rocking all kinds of crazy stuff, mixing and matching with amazing patterns and shapes. And I’m really not that old. Fashion says a lot about your personality, and it took a jarring stint in another city to realise these two things really weren’t matching up for me anymore. So this morning I decided to do something a bit different and go all-out. I was going to be bold. I was going to find that farting dog T-shirt from 1997 and wear it with pride. It was all going to happen. And now I’m still here writing in dark grey like a chump. I make myself sick.