The Style in ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ Was Ahead of Its Time
09.22.17

A moment of respect for Napoleon Dynamite the Prophet, who foresaw normcore in the stars and predicted the Western period of Raf Simons over a decade before the designer would join Calvin Klein. In a pre-Instagram hometown of Preston, Idaho, where Lizzie McGuire’s sister reigned as queen, there lived a man blessed before his time with the kind of presence that would, in today’s world, no doubt launch a successful franchise of underground fashion meme accounts with 100% non-bot followers on pure virtue of his great moniker, authenticity, ability to detect trends before they trend and strong command of personal aesthetic.

Napoleon Dynamite was a thrift store pirate. He possessed the monk-like mental strength required to dig through one-dollar barrels of Salvation Army tees. Only patience, superhuman patience, allows for a man to find such wardrobe-defining trophies. In addition to a zen-like state of flow, thrift pilfering requires an answer to the question even the most enlightened of us will never be able to answer: What are you looking for?

Of course, his answer was never as clear as a concrete sentence or mission statement. Like a designer whose mood board tells far more than the collection’s summation in the show notes, Dynamite knew inspiration when he saw it and let the banal drone of daily life fuel his creative energy. The result: a graphic tee collection that is equal parts mockery of his district’s school system and its related color palette, an homage to his grandmother — Dynamite saw beauty in the gruffness of her being and the tension of their relationship (also reflected in his choice of retro optical-wear, seen on the face of nearly every influencer at least once this past year), a rebellion against his uncle’s inflated male ego and a proud tribute to Dynamite’s own respect for equine majesty.

We can talk about the jeans in this film whenever you are ready. The brands, which my eyes deduce are a combination of Red Tab Levi’s, Wranglers and Lee, are far less important than the cut and fabric: no stretch, thick cotton denim, high waist with a variety in the leg. Where Napoleon Dynamite preferred a tapered tube to tuck into his Moon Boots (shoes that immediately reignited the Moon Boot craze among ever luxury ski-resort visitor from Courchevel to Appi Kogen to Aspen), Pedro, Dynamite’s friend with no last name (the mark of a truly great artist-cum-celebrity) preferred a slight taper to cover his cowboy kicks.

Speaking of Pedro, master of belts, let’s consider, for a moment, a few others in Dynamite’s immediate circle who should be noted for their influence on Napoleon Dynamite’s own style and today’s fashion.

First there’s Rex, founder of Rex Kwon Do, patriot and self-defense instructor who taught a classroom of citizens that fitness was a lifestyle, that athleisure should be respected as fashion and that the whole package could be branded as a multi-million dollar business if only you market yourself right on Instagram.

Then, of course, there was Deb, a young Roxanne Assoulin.

Here’s Kip, above, in Fenty Puma Spring 2018.

(Thank you, Uncle Rico’s time machine.)

Here he is again in Prada.

Ah, and here we see pre-Petra Collins Deb (in a fanny pack, of course — all over New York’s Spring 2018 runways), preparing to shoot Kip for the cover of Another Man magazine. 

Napoleon Dynamite had complex relationships with all of the men of his life, but perhaps the most contentious was with his Uncle Rico, time traveling arbiter of impeccable taste, idolizer of Wes Anderson

…Not to mention worshiper at the church of Miuccia and Alessandro Michele.

But for as much as he disliked his uncle, there was no question that Napoleon respected his style.

Napoleon Dynamite was an artist who, above all else, found joy in the grotesque, in the uncomfortable, in the awkward. Though he is no doubt a founding father of today’s millennials’ preference toward irony, there was nothing ironic in Dynamite’s choices. This was an earnest man who took fashion seriously.

^ Above is a recent street style shot of a retired Napoleon Dynamite between shows at Pitti Uomo, which he attends as a hobby and because so many of the designers are his friends.

It makes sense that at the end of the film we see a bud of romance between our style hero and the very punk rock Deb. She, too, was tapped into a low-vibrating frequency of fashion. She could feel the cycle of trends circumnavigate the world years before we could.

The only person who rivaled her ability to identify and embrace “what’s next” before most would ever deign to entertain them (see above and below: the first whispers of today’s ubiquitous revival of the 1980’s Puff Sleeve) was LaFawnduh. A former model who walked in the days of the Supers, LaFawnduh was an early supporter of Molly Goddard, Jacquemus and wedding bonnets.

I would go so far as to say that the above wedding inspired this iconic pregnancy announcement, Instagram — the app, not to mention Céline Dion’s caped and capped all-white outfit.

So there you have it: the players whose collective style would unwittingly would define a generation.

Now, if I may: join me for one more moment of respect and celebration as we revere this poetry in motion.

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