While in San Francisco a couple weekends ago, shopping in the Haight & Ashbury area, I overheard/saw a rather interesting exchange between two girl friends. I hope all of my female readers learn something about fashion and friendship...
So, I’m sitting down toward the back of this nice little clothing store waiting for Althea to try stuff on and I see Girl #1 standing, back to the wall, with her boyfriend. I can tell it’s her boyfriend because they’re holding hands and looking into each others’ eyes like they’re Joey and Dawson. They don’t look particularly happy to be there, but they do seem a bit anxious. Then Girl #2 comes out of her dressing room and I see why.
It must be noted that Girl #2 was a cute, short (around 5’3”) Asian girl with shoulder blade length hair, and slim with olive skin while Girl #1 was white, had shoulder length brunette hair, taller (maybe 5’7”) and had fair skin. They were in their early 20s. Most importantly, I’m guessing 7 out of 10 guys would agree that Girl #2 was better looking.
So Girl #2 comes out wearing this incredibly cute skirt that has a Japanese feel at the top, but a shortened day dress feel at the bottom. It looked a lot like the picture here only it had more of a sailor’s color scheme like this. Anyway, upon seeing her come out of the dressing room I immediately wanted to yell to her “BUY THAT DRESS!” This wasn’t some kind of guy-gut reaction. This wasn’t me looking at an attractive young woman and thinking she looked hot. This wasn’t me wanting to get in her pants. This was just me wanting to give her my opinion, rather my advice.
Let me give a little background as to why I consider myself someone to listen to.
I’ve been something of a fashion nut for a decade. I’ve benefited greatly from my under-privileged youth in that I didn’t start going to Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift and consignment stores only after it was the ‘in’ thing to do in the latter part of high school and on through college.
I’ve been walking the aisles of Goodwill, going through piles of clothes since I was in elementary school. That means not only do I have an eye for clothes in a tough market, but I also know how to make the most fashion sense out of little dollars and cents. Similarly, since I started working before most of my peers - I was cutting grass at 10, selling candy in school at 11 and working at Pizza Hut by 15 - I was used to using my own hard-earned money to make major purchasing decisions with regard to clothes.
A lot of people can’t really understand the importance of this lesson, but one cannot undervalue the significance of knowing the difference, both emotionally and financially, between a $45 Ralph Lauren polo and a $28 Roundtree & York polo that looks the exact same. Or one pair of $120 Nike Air Maxes that all the cool kids have vs. a pair of $65 Asics 1030s that no one has ever heard of. Especially as a 15, 16, 17-year old in a high school of 1,000 or 2,000 students.
This means that I didn’t have the kind of money (or parents) to follow whatever the latest trends were in brands and styles. I had to figure out what was worth another five hours making pepperoni pizzas or raking leaves in a matter of minutes while in the department store.
These factors have helped me establish a high regard for my inner voice when it comes to buying and wearing clothes. It’s helped me develop my own sense of style outside of what kind of clothes I can afford. Now that I have more disposable income - to buy that Michael Kors tie or that Banana Republic coat - I've simply advanced, rather than altered my style. Sure, I wear jeans, t-shirts and button downs just like every other guy, but you’ll also see me wear two-ties at once (circa 2002), you’ll see me wearing my tie on the outside of my button-down and sweater, and you’ll see me wearing a solid-colored t-shirt over a button-down and tie. Yeah, I love ties.
It’s been rumored that some others have done one or all of these things before I ever started doing it, but I have yet to meet a single person who can prove it. And this is to say nothing of the diversity of shirts, shoes and jeans that I own, along with the dozens of suits and Brooks Brothers button-downs I’ve scavenged from thrift stores. When I design my own line, it will be known for its expertise in layers, matching textures instead of colors, and value. Every clothing item I buy has value. I like to think of my personal style as being as boundless and vast as my personal interests. I pride myself on fashion as much as anyone this side of Kanye West. I love walking into a party or bar and knowing I’m the best, or at least most uniquely, dressed guy there. I love getting dressed up just to go shopping because it lets the store hands know to leave me the hell alone because I know what I’m doing in Gap or Nieman’s more than they probably do.
Anyway, I apologize for my rant (and self-aggrandizement), but I just had to lay a bit of foundation before moving on to my last tidbit to explain why I know a thing or two about fashion. And why that girl should listen to someone like me and not Girl #1.
I absolutely LOVE women’s fashion. I know it’s bit weird to hear a straight guy say that, but it’s true. My best female friends know it. My girlfriend knows it. Even my co-workers know it. I’m probably the only guy that approaches Perfect 10s to tell them how much I like their outfits and seriously mean it. I may even be the only guy that can go in the female section of any store and perfectly identify waist, breast and shoe sizes. I credit growing up with a mother only for this intuition, this skill.
It was going shopping with my mom, usually to Hamrick’s or other low-end brand stores for mothers and working women, that shaped my fashion savvy-ness. I learned how to tie a tie in Hamrick’s. I would’ve loved a father-son experience, but perhaps I learned more about the art of wearing a tie by learning in a department store instead of on a father's lap.
Today, I consider myself an expert in women’s wear. The first thing I notice about a woman is her face. Then I notice what she’s wearing. Those two things, better than anything else, tells me a lot about who that woman is. And since facial expressions are so mood-based, clothes are an even better indicator of one’s personality at first sight, I think.
It is my ability to interpret a women’s personality and personal goals, through fashion, and not simply her style goals, that have made me especially keen on giving sound clothing counsel to everyone from my mom to my best friend Stephanie, who was already a hell of a dresser before I even met her. Everyone loves an expert.
So, although I wanted to tell Girl #2, the now stunningly-clad Asian lady, to buy that dress, I refrained. I was hoping her friend, Girl #1, would see the happy and hopeful expression on her friend’s face not so subtly saying “pretty please say something good so that I can buy this dress!” Girl #2, wearing the dress, knew she had just tried on something special, something that would become a go-to outfit for the entire spring and summer in San Francisco. She kindly asked her friend, Girl #1, “so…what do you think?” Girl #2 did a ballerina’s spin to signify her internal glee with the dress.
But Girl #1, still standing next to her boyfriend, did not return the smile. Instead, she started with a look of distaste. I read this as her inner voice saying, “No fair! Now she’ll definitely look better than me.” Her distasteful look turned into one of scorn. This read, “No way I’m going to let her wear that short dress, enticing guys.” What the hell is happening, I thought, as I read the expressions on Girl #1’s face. I already knew what her verbal response would be.
“Umm…I don’t know. I don’t know,” said Girl #1. It was her quasi-tactful way of saying she didn’t want to feel bad about giving it the thumbs down outright while albeit increasing Girl #2’s self doubt. Girl #2’s face turned from downright giddiness to disappointment. Her shoulders dropped. Her arms laying motionless at her sides as if showing her mom, “look, it’s not THAT much above my knee!” But Girl #1 didn’t buckle.
I thought it was a closed matter and since Althea was still trying on clothes, I went back to looking around the store. But a couple minutes later, Girl #2 came back out of the dressing room. This time, she had her jeans back on. Under the dress! She was braving it. Putting herself out there for her friend.
Okay…so this told me two things. For starters, Girl #2 really wanted to buy that dress! Coming out of the dressing room twice with the same outfit means you definitely like what you have on. Secondly, Girl #2 really wanted Girl #1 to oblige her - as if she was her doubtful mother looking at prom dresses - and tell her the dress was nice. Even if Girl #1 said something simple like, “oh yeah, I think that’s better,” Girl #2 would’ve used that as ammunition to fire up to the register.
And what did Girl #1 do? She, of course, stood idly by saying little to nothing favorable until Girl #2 finally submitted to her friend’s insecurity-infused power. Mind you, Girl #1 wasn’t a good dresser by any means. She was wearing some basic skinny jeans that weren’t noteworthy to any degree, a solid color, short-sleeved hoody over a t-shirt and baby doll shoes. And her boyfriend was somewhere between Napoleon Dynamite and Fred Savage on the fashion scale.
Eventually, Althea came out of the dressing room and bought a dress I had recommended - that she looks absolutely gorgeous in - and we headed to the next store. I recounted the previous exchanges/happenings with her with this bit of editorial:
1. Girl #1 is a b*... She was too insecure to be happy that her friend looked stunning. Girl #2 should be concerned about this type of behavior.
2. Girl #1 had bad fashion sense. It’s bad enough she had insecurity issues, but it’s even worse that those issues overwhelmed the fashion buzzer that should’ve been sounding in her head telling her Girl #2 to “BUY THAT DRESS.”
3. Girl #1 uses her boyfriend as leverage in her friendship with Girl #2 (see #5).
4. Girl #2 has insecurity issues because, even though she knew she looked great in the dress, she relied too heavily on the counsel of her poorly-dressed friend.
5. Girl #2 is single. I gathered this not only by the weight she gave Girl #1 on this matter (obviously not because she’s a fashion expert) solely because she has a boyfriend.
6. Girl #3 uses how she dresses to attract guys. I know this because of the previous tidbits and because I left part of the story out.
While Althea and I were heading out of yet another store, I saw Girl #2 headed back in the direction of the store where she’d tried on that dress. She was walking, rather determinedly, without Girl #1 in what I hope was a quest to BUY THAT DRESS.