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It’s a phrase most people would read as absolute gibberish. But to a select — and growing — group of people, it’s the ultimate burn. “Most swagless homie.”
Translate the phrase into something that the average person would understand and it’s simple — intuitive, really. It’s a friend who has bad taste and style, doesn’t get it, or just doesn’t care.
Translate the phrase to real life and you have something more complicated. That an insult centered around your buddy’s whack ‘fits caught fire indicates an interest in menswear that is reaching How I Met Your Mother-levels of mainstream acceptance. Menswear’s strengthened grip is forcing guys to care about style and affecting the dynamics of relationships. Guys are now invested in what they wear not because they have to dress up for work or a partner, but because they want to impress their friends (and internet acquaintances) and be able to keep up in conversations that (let’s get stereotypical) were once about women, sports, video games, and beer. No one wants to be the person everyone else looks toward to man the camera when the crew takes a picture. That shit hurts.
when ur most swagless homie changes their outfit twice before leaving the crib https://t.co/VENWt91Xyj— Four Pins (@Four_Pins) May 2, 2016
The phrase “most swagless homie” was created by popular Twitter account (and once-upon-a-time blog) Four Pins. Four Pins, throughout both its blog and blogless existence, has found ways to talk about menswear completely in contrast to the staid and dry writing of the past. It opened up the world to a whole new audience. “The fact that there was this really influential community, throwing Molotov cocktails into what was, for so long, such a stiff discussion just felt necessary," GQ Style editor-in-chief Will Welch told Business of Fashion of Four Pins’s methods earlier this year. “Most swagless homie” is just the latest phrase added to the lexicon of style-conscious men (to describe these Twitter users generously). It works by providing some ironic distance from fashion, and it opens up a new avenue through which people can roast their friends. Or, as Lawrence Schlossman — who ran Four Pin’s website, remains in charge of its Twitter, and is the brand director at Grailed — says: “It's just typical relatable low-hanging fruit bullshit for the timeline.” Everyone has a friend with no swag at all.
“I don't know if it was ever — like, if you search those words, if someone else had used that phrase before," says Schlossman. (It was used only once previously, in May 2014, by Twitter user Mike DiCaprio. It’s doubtful this influenced Four Pins.) “But I definitely feel like that was me as Four Pins popularizing that kind of way to describe that one dude in everyone's friend group who… it's not even so much that they're not trying, it's that they don't care.”
The meme was born July 28th, 2015, in the mid-afternoon. Four Pins applied the phrase to Tyra Banks’s already-memed “we were all rooting for you” scene. That was almost a year and a half ago, but the meme feels like it’s been around much longer, by design. “That's the thing, finding something that I think is funny that other people probably find funny as well and then completely overusing it to the point where it almost becomes its own joke,” Schlossman says. If you doubt the power of this, ask someone who follows Four Pins what they think of Nike’s Roshe Runs.
when ur most swagless homie correctly pronounces "dries van noten" pic.twitter.com/OxSKEf4cjr— Four Pins (@Four_Pins) January 6, 2016
The way Schlossman tells it, the meme is successful because, like all good internet content, it’s a scenario people can relate to now. “As menswear got more popping and is something that more dudes started thinking about, I just picture a group of five dudes going to brunch and everyone is talking about whatever shit they copped that week or want to cop and there's the one friend who's like, ‘Why do I hang out with these dudes?’ Like, they have no interest and don't give a fuck at all. And maybe he's getting roasted.”
Menswear might have been strictly for the nerds before, but now it’s unavoidable. As Schlossman lays out, today’s guys are casually shopping together, going to a brunch where “everyone is taking a ‘fit pic,” or talking about their purchases. Dudes have to catch up or get left behind.
“I think it's important to be with a crew that values the same things that you do, so, yes, having friends who care about style is important,” says George Korkian, a 23-year-old video producer from Oklahoma who called out a friend as the “most swagless homie” on Twitter. On its face, the concept is simple: Surround yourself with people who share similar interests. It only stands out because clothing typically isn’t the bond on which male friendships subsist.
Not only can common bonds form around this interest, but others point out that it’s better for them to be with stylish friends. “I definitely think that having stylish friends is good because it gives you a second opinion on things and kind of validates you,” says Nicholas Padesky, a 19-year-old student from Wisconsin who was (jokingly, he insists) tagged as a swagless homie.
The most swagless homie can only exist because the opposite (homies with swag) also exists. This in itself is a revelation. It’s easy to look at the numbers: Menswear’s the fastest growing category — not just in fashion, but in all of online sales — and $29 billion was spent on men’s clothing in 2015. But it’s more fascinating to think about the real-life implications. If this much more money is being spent on clothes, there’s an obvious increase in interest in menswear, and it seems like we’re starting to see the trickle-down effects of that — your friends start dressing well, and you want to dress well, too. Conversations form around clothing, you all go shopping together, you discuss clothes, brands, trends, new releases. And then, of course, there’s the guy without a clue, the most swagless homie.
crazy how they made a map of everywhere ur most swagless homie took a fit pic pic.twitter.com/HqjZh3PBy2— Four Pins (@Four_Pins) July 5, 2016
Although most references to a most swagless homies are in-jokes, there can be a where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire principle applied here. Cole Norton, a 19-year-old student-athlete at Oklahoma State who was referred to as a most swagless homie on Twitter, says that the title is appropriate. “I found it humorous ‘cause I know I don't have style,” he says. Norton’s response proved Schlossman’s hunch correct: A most swagless homie is really the most unconcerned homie. “Style is overrated,” Norton asserts. A lack of style “shows that you are confident enough to not care about what clothes go well together in order to impress others.” When I ask Norton if, as the most swagless homie, he ever feels left out, he says no.
Norton isn’t alone in his indifference toward the label. There are people online who own the title and have changed their Twitter name to “Most Swagless Homie.” That in itself is a way of participating in the joke but also maybe copping to something — especially when you consider that, based on their tweets, many of these accounts seem to have an interest in clothing and style. Or, like everything on the internet, maybe they’re just fucking around.
Scholssman adds another dimension to that, too. “I have this perception that a lot of people enjoy [the phrase] because they see part of themselves as that person as well,” he says. As the popularity of menswear grows, there will always be the guy wondering WTF is so offensive about a pair of Roshe Runs.