The Paris Review once asked Ernest Hemingway when he knew he wanted to be a writer. He interrupted the interviewer to explain that he had been so innately and intimately connected to the written word that to suggest a timeline around his relationship with writing was an assault on the art. I like to think that my connection to fashion is similar, though the operative words here are "like to think."
Until the time I was 18, I was subject to a school dress code that was so inflexibly homogenous, it is a true wonder that any product of that environment has since been able to cultivate a sense of individualism. I would wear a teal Allman Brothers T-shirt (to this day, I do not think I have heard, or at least recognized, a single Allman Brothers song—I just liked the graphic), a red Adidas zip-up hoodie (it kept my head safe), and one long black skirt from a neighborhood in Brooklyn called Midwood that is so conspicuously uncool, it would be a crime to proclaim it otherwise.
I didn’t realize I looked like an Orthodox Jewish groupie who had maybe worked out one time in her life, maybe not, and as such maintain that my purported enthusiasm for fashion was earnest.
I thought I knew everything there was to know about it when, in reality, the breadth of my experience reached no further than 59th Street, where Bloomingdale’s resides. I’d criticize outfits seen in magazines as though in my red hoodie I knew any better. When I lent praise, I did so in a manner that quietly but crudely suggested that my approval was akin to fashion Michelin stars.
Of course, this narrative changed when I packed my bags and moved to (read: studied abroad for a few months in) Paris. Having abandoned the long black skirt that defined my youth, I was now committed to a pair of beige wool trousers that made my hips look three times their size, a silk tank top that fit as though it has been made for a turtle, and a black leather jacket that was actually pleather (I know this because it peeled at the elbows). There, my Michelin stars were worth nothing more than a clumsy joke.
It was only after I successfully snuck into a Christian Dior fashion show at the Tuileries Garden one Friday afternoon that semester that I realized this. Upon stepping across the threshold that separated the plebes from the experts, it had never been so obvious that I did not belong. I knew nothing—so much so that as I stood at the top of the bleachers of the fashion arena and waited, dutifully respecting those seated in front of me while a palpable sense of desolation set in, I renounced fashion altogether.
I renounced fashion and then I went home and started a blog called Man Repeller. Weird how things work out, right?