May 26, 2020

Quarantine, shopping, and identity

On Sunday I purchased an overshirt from Dehen 1920. It was the first item of clothing I’ve purchased since early March before quarantine and work from home started in NYC. For most, not indulging in fashion for two months and a half isn’t something they’d even notice, but for me it was an interesting experiment.

I’m by no means a fashion addict, but I’ve often felt the impulse to keep up” with the rest of the world that many of us follow blindly. Whether it’s the latest hyped new brand or a new season of a favorite brand, it only feels natural to purchase an item, almost as if it was how I define myself.

Once you partake in an activity for a long time, it becomes part of your identity. You become a soccer player, book reader, drinker, etc. This identity is not just for you, but for the rest of the world. Sociologist Erving Goffman, in his influential The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, uses the metaphor of theatrics to describe how we interact with each other. One aspect is having a pre-existing role” and costume” with which an actor can establish better social cohesion. Giving yourself and the people around you a label makes it easier to navigate social interactions.

The problem is when your identity is tied to consumerism. I often felt like I probably should get something from Noah’s new season, because well, I’m a fan of Noah, right? While I never purchase clothes I don’t like, many items I own started from an I should get this because it feels like something I’d own” train of thought, which is not an intentional way to live. Wasting money is bad enough, but the loss of agency you feel when you purchase without thinking through is often embarrassing.

The good news is that identities are like habits - once you stop engaging in them they go away. Being stuck at home for almost three months has had plenty of negative effects on me, but at the same time I’ve had space to rethink a lot of assumptions about myself I shouldn’t have had about clothing and shopping.

Don’t get me wrong - I still like clothes. After all, I just bought a $276 overshirt (to be fair, sales I’ve made recently covered most of the cost). But the shift from I’m a clothing fan” to I am a person who likes clothes” that I’ve made has ironically improved my appreciation. I had no idea what Dehen 1920 was until a few days before the purchase - I didn’t need a fancy lookbook or someone to approve of it on Instagram for me. My organic interest in the brand and its history was enough.

With many states and cities reopening this and next month, I encourage you to rethink assumptions about yourself that may not be relevant anymore. And don’t worry, a review of the overshirt is coming.

January 21, 2020

Noah’s Sweater is Proof They’re More Than a Streetwear Brand

Image via Noah Image via Noah.

It has come to my attention that many people consider Noah strictly a streetwear brand. I mean, yes, the founder used to work for Supreme. Their social media (and team) includes many skaters. Their clothes often contain a lot of branding. They’ve sold (and sell) skating accessories.

There’s no denying that Noah gets its voice from subcultures such as surfing and skating. They’re a political, anti-establishment brand. However, putting them in the skate/streetwear brand box overlooks a large portion of their output and designs.

Take, for example, the Vertical Stripe Intarsia Lambswool Sweater (or as I’ll call it from now, the sweater) from FW2019. This is a classic merino wool sweater — a staple of dads, 2009-tier menswear, and dudes who get all their clothes from Uniqlo. You probably wouldn’t skate with it, or feel particularly rebellious. It wouldn’t look too out of place at Club Monaco. Even then, it is a Noah piece.

Now, to get a little off-topic: this sweater rules. It’s thick but breathable and very soft. The stripes add an understated uniqueness (a staple quality of more dressed-up Noah items). The sizing is big enough to feel cozy and let you layer underneath if you want.

But that’s the point: This is a well executed sweater you can wear to a date, party, formal event or even work (if you’re sad enough to work at a place that doesn’t let you wear whatever). Its roots lie with classic menswear, but they’re mixed with Noah’s penchant for the unconventional.

Look, I won’t lie to you. This sweater is very expensive. I only own it because it was on sale and even then I felt guilty about the purchase for two weeks. I’m not trying to persuade you to buy anything (although, you should), but rather to take a look at Noah’s contributions to contemporary menswear outside of streetwear.

Image via Noah Image via Noah.

December 24, 2019

Yearning (1964)

Note This review contains spoilers and assumes the reader has watched the film.

Director Mikio Naruse’s style has been described as like a great river with a calm surface and a raging current in its depths”. I can’t think of better evidence than his 1964 film Yearning.

The film’s plot concerns itself with themes familiar to Classical Japanese cinema viewers - generational differences, post-war change, and tradition versus modernity. A family-owned market is being threatened by a corporate chain. A widow won’t move on and remarry. A younger son lives an aimless life.

What I like about Naruse’s take is that he’s not too concerned with taking sides. The audience may be led to be on widow Reiko’s side as the rest of the Morita family plots against her, but her adherence to tradition and stubbornness are the true causes of the film’s tragic ending. Modern Western audiences may be confused as to why a widow is still living and working for her husband’s family, but once this idealistic pre-WWII Japanese attitude is accepted, Naruse’s criticisms are clear. It’s only a declaration of love (and thus a threat to Reiko’s devotion to her dead husband) that causes her to return to her own family.

In the last quarter of the film, Reiko’s actress Hideko Takamine’s subtle and tragic acting shines. After Koji, the younger Morita son, declares her love for her and follows her home, we are treated to a long and quiet train ride. They’re not arguing; they’re not even talking - Koji falls asleep. We only see Reiko’s eyes calmly looking at him, dealing with the emotions raging inside her.

When Koji declares her love and asks to marry her one more time, the audience (especially a modern one) is ready to believe that Reiko will accept. And she almost does, but she catches herself at the last moment and pushes Koji away one last time. Naruse is a realist, after all. Again, Takamine’s acting shines: she both fools the audience for a second but when she refuses, we believe her. She’s thinking of how guilty she’d feel marrying her husband’s brother and being part of the sale of the grocery store. In the end, we take her side.

I find the ending - Koji’s suicide - too melodramatic. It fits his rash and immature character, but Naruse could have taken this opportunity to show development and the Japanese skill for saving face during a tragedy.

Yearning is a must-watch for fans of Classical Japanese film. Naruse once again successfully marries the family drama of Ozu with the depressing realism of Mizugochi.

November 25, 2019

Adsum’s Work Jacket

Nowadays more brands claim a workwear style than there are jobs that require appropriate work attire. Since the heritage” boom of the early 2010s we have been inundated brands whose identity is wrapped in leather boots, painter pants, and work jackets”. Brand often get lost in this marketing effort and forget to make interesting collections that fit well together.

What I like about Adsum is that they aren’t a workwear brand. They make puffy jackets, high pile fleeces, and logo tees. Their lookbooks and social media show people relaxing at home, walking in the city, running, and skating. This is a label focused on making clothes inspired by different aesthetics that go well together rather than limiting itself to a niche.

All that said, today I want to talk about their Work Jacket in navy. I put the words in quotes in the first paragraph because the term is ambiguous - for what kind of job? Adsum doesn’t provide an answer, but it doesn’t matter. This looks like a jacket made for some kind of outside work. What’s better is that that it’s build that way too.

Image via Adsum.

While this isn’t a true deep winter jacket with down feathers or wool, the herringbone cotton and inner poplin lining give the jacket a thick, heavy feel. There’s structure to this jacket and a real weight to it. It’s perfect for transitional fall weather. The navy blue is not too dark to almost be black (how many brands do this?) but not light enough to look out of place with the rest of your earth tone wardrobe.

Everyone loves a corduroy collar - most of my outerwear purchases this fall have included one. This collar includes extra stitching around the neckline for improved durability. Adsum also goes a step further and included corduroy in their pocket flaps as a fun detail.

Adsum Work Jacket pocket flap

The other detail I like is the back pockets - two exterior pockets with shank closures. I’m way too paranoid to put anything important there but they fit the workwear” look of the jacket (imagine putting some work gloves in there). No one should complain about more creatively placed pockets, either.

Image via Adsum Image via Adsum.

Adsum’s sizing is simple - three sizes that should fit almost all body types. The jacket has a regular cut that allows for up to two layers underneath, making it a surprisingly effective dry-weather winter jacket. I wore it comfortably with a hoodie underneath in high 30s and low 40s weather.

The Adsum Work Jacket is a well-made outerwear piece that isn’t fashion - it looks good now and it will look good in 20 years. Instead providing a cheap version of a wardrobe staple (something almost every brand does nowadays), Adsum went out of their way to ensure this jacket will also last 20 years.

Adsum’s Work Jacket also comes in khaki and gray.