A few years ago, I found myself sitting at an airport bar with my team from my old agency job. We were trapped at Newark International after a long meeting day and, after a few glasses of really bad, expensive Malbec paired with really good, expensive nachos, the subject of old hairstyles came up. We swapped tales of adolescent bowl cuts and curls gone wrong, bad teenage dye-jobs and weird center parts that haunt us still. Our creative director piped up to say that he didn’t regret any of his hairstyles or looks in general; instead, he intentionally leaned into whatever the extreme style of the day was so that he could look back in a few years and chuckle at himself. He then proceeded to share a photo of himself in a Color Me Badd-style suit with a knowing grin on his face.
As I get older, that approach makes more sense to me. We use old music to evoke a certain time in our lives, why not clothes? As it gets harder to keep track of where I was in my life when I did that one thing, remembering that I wore too-short bootcut jeans (freshman year of high school) or a spaghetti strap tank top over a regular tank top (freshman year of undergrad) helps me place myself on the timeline of my life.
In the spirit of that perspective, and in honor of Blackout Month, I asked members of the Man Repeller team to share the outfits or looks from their pasts that they’ve intentionally blacked out (get it?) to give them a new chance in the spotlight. What I got was more than just a quick note about fit or colors, but an evocation of a certain time, an outfit that reminded them of how they felt when they wore it. Give it a read and then share your blacked out fashion moment in the comments.
Amelia Diamond, Head of Creative
Starling Irving, Social Media Associate
My parents never once told me what I could or couldn’t wear throughout my life, which was both a blessing and a curse. I spent most of my life dressed like the photo you see here.
My favorite brand was Little Miss Matched, which sold sets of three mismatched socks, and my method of dressing was to cram as many colors into one outfit as possible and then add go-go boots, an extravagant hair bow and a retainer. Earlier, I went through a hat phase where I wore argyle fedoras and knitted golf caps every single day. They were accompanied by knee-length sweat pants.
Haley, Deputy Editor
This was truly a difficult decision, as almost everything I wore from birth through college could qualify as embarrassing, but this photo of me wearing a fedora and a going-out top sticks out. I may be making a jokey pose — but I think that’s only because I’m wearing sunglasses at night and not because of the fedora, which I have to assume I was wearing in earnest, as there are other photos of me smiling with my roommates while wearing it. I believe this photo was taken in 2008, when I was 18, which is not long enough ago at all. I probably bought all of this at Forever 21 with my computer technician paycheck. I can’t for the life of me remember why I thought the hat was a good idea. I’m choosing to be compassionate to my former self though; my myriad fashion faux pas were never for a lack of trying. I really wanted to be cool and fashionable and special!
Imani, Editorial Assistant
Nora (me!), Managing Editor
I spent my freshman year of high school trying on a few “cool” identities. An Abercrombie shirt one day, a Baby Phat one the other. Eventually I landed on what I thought was “thrift store cool.” I knew that shopping at thrift stores was fun and neat and what all the stylish girls in the costume shop did, so I decided it was for me! I somehow missed the memo to look for interesting things or fun dresses and just bought a bunch of old sport t-shirts I thought were ironic because they had names of far off suburbs on them. This Glen Ellyn soccer was one of my favorites, but after a women yelled “I”m from Glen Ellyn too” at me one day, I decided it was time to retire my rec league looks.
Harling Ross, Fashion Editor
This photo was taken with a self-timer in 2013, when I fancied myself a burgeoning fashion blogger. As laughable as I find the outfit now (why the hamburger am I wearing wool evening gloves with low-slung boyfriend jeans?????), I DO feel a fondness for this particular period in my life, when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with myself after graduating but I knew I loved the act of getting dressed and unpacking the words and feelings that floated into my head every time I did. It’s what lead me to where I am now! But rest assured, that fondness is coupled with a healthy dose of cringe at the strange variety of stylized irony that was so popular at the time in fashion — one I fully bought into, clearly. For a real treat, zoom in on my left hand and bear witness to the fact that yes, I did, in fact, stack gold rings over the aforementioned wool evening gloves, which I remember thinking was extremely clever at the time.
Leandra Medine, Founder
Nora, I agree with your former creative director. I haven’t necessarily blocked out any fashion memories (not even the summer I wore padded bras and ribbed tank tops with low slung Abercrombie skirts and my midriff showing) and still stand by them because I have almost always used clothes to define myself through various stages of my identity evolving. Why would I want to intentionally forget the obscenity of those years, I ask you? I wouldn’t be here without them!
Now, I’d have presented a photo of said ribbed tank top but I don’t have access to albums outside of Facebook, so this picture from 2012 will have to do. I am pretty sure it was taken a couple of weeks before my wedding while walking down Broadway in Soho and mostly I have chosen it because it could have technically been taken like, last week, and no one would have questioned that. This infuriates me because I assure you my relationship with metallic wedged footwear is over (for the moment), and I hate a chiffon panel more than most things (excluding a high low dress, which this is, by the way). For now.
I guess the difference between the style and therefore identity of your early and late twenties is as simple as modifications that the unassuming eye can’t see, but as grand as the implication of a nuance. This outfit, by all accounts, is still on trend, but the neckline, the fabric, the colors, the sunglasses with the shoes…it’s all wrong. I am much more exacting in my selections now. If I’m turning this into a metaphor for my personality, what I’m saying is that in your early twenties, you dance around the person you’re going to become, but don’t quite know who she is yet. In your late twenties, it starts to crystallize, still isn’t exactly clear yet, but feels a hell of a lot more in tune with your truth/integrity.