There’s a scene pretty early in the film Looper where a futuristic mobster, played by Jeff Daniels, has a chat with Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. In this conversation, Daniels spends the beginning of it making fun of Levitt’s fashion—his outdated tie especially; I’m paraphrasing but he essentially makes the comment, “Even in this advanced world, you’re still dressing like those old movies.” It’s an interesting moment—both in the film and for me personally—because it points to the fact that with all the advancements made in modern society, high fashion still emulates the Hollywood of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. As someone who’s obsessed over every kind of film I could get my hands on and watch, it’s not without good reason. People still wanna dress like James Dean because James Dean is still the coolest guy in any room and that suit you think you look so dapper in, I’ll bet money on the fact that you wish you could wear it like Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
I grew up loving movies, especially ones from the 60s and 70s. Saturday mornings were spent by the TV watching weekend double features on the local channels—a time in life that introduced me to Burt Reynolds, Bill Cosby (before The Cosby Show), Robert Deniro and a cavalcade of Kung-fu and Blaxploitation films that helped to warp my young growing mind. I loved these movies and the characters in them like they were close friends and all I wanted in life was to grow up to be like them. They owned their style, 100 percent. Everyone owns a white shirt, but Dean made it his and nobody I’ve seen has worn a fedora and turtleneck sweater as good as Cosby—hell, I don’t even smoke but I still think about smoking a cigar just because of that guy. I know these guys were stars and they had stylists and make-up artists and all types of people who made them the gods they seemed to be on-screen, but that’s a moot point. At the end of the day you can where whatever you want, if you don’t have the flair to pull it off then you just don’t have it. It’s a lesson I learned early on as I started buying my own clothes trying to look like them. I may have bought the right things but I couldn’t make it work for me. (Not at that time at least.) It was especially rough considering that I was trying to dress like actors in the 70s while being a teenager during “the baggy era” in black culture.
Other than the fact that my parents found it deplorable, I never got into that phase because frankly, I just didn’t find it cool. Shirts as long as evening gowns, shorts sagged to the point where you might as well just be wearing pants; it was a dark time for everyone. Meanwhile, I’m still stuck on nostalgia for a time that I never even experienced, watching films like Lady Sings The Blues and Mean Streets, wondering why my own generation couldn’t embrace the essence of cool that Hollywood still obsesses over to this day—and also wishing that I could have just an ounce of the swagger that Deniro had in his younger days. Nonetheless, despite ridicule about the slimness of my jeans or shirts, I carried on (and thankfully enough people got out of that “all baggy everything” phase) and as I transitioned to college and adulthood, I started to discover myself more and more when it came to fashion. I became focused on finding my identity within the clothes I wore and began to deviate from wearing things just because they were popular. This was probably the moment that I realized just how influential those movies were on me; I would go shopping thinking about scenes in Easy Rider or 8 ½ or hell, even The Mack, trying my best to figure out how to take what I liked about characters there and how I could adapt it to my own sense of style—and my budget especially. I may not have it all together but it’s definitely coming together nicely, merging the past with the present and putting my own personal stamp on what I wear. Contrary to popular belief, style is not effortless—it involves trial and error but most of all maturation. Anyone can wear clothes and look good but what makes it yours. I can look at the same exact outfit on 5 different people and it will look different on each of them; clothes don’t make you stylish they only make you trendy. So at this stage of my life, I find myself trying to express who I am through what I wear; and as I still figure out who exactly I am in this post-grad life of mine, I’m also figuring out what to wear. That’s the one thing I think learned most from those movies I spent every weekend watching, you do what’s for you and make your own path.