Until this point, I have spent an entire unbroken summer in the city, and like any good twenty-something who claims they love New York, I had to leave before I started hating it. I headed down to my hometown of Bethesda, Maryland for a few days away from my oh-so busy schedule of basically hanging out with my friends every single day. If you’re not aware, Bethesda’s a suburb of D.C. with 55,377 people, most of which either work for the government (liars), the National Institutes of Health (self-righteous), or as lawyers (also liars), doctors (rich and self-righteous), and other related careers (boring). While that isn’t the whole story, it’s a pretty good picture of what life in Bethesda is like. My parents, a museum designer and an art history major, weren’t the norm and for that I’m thankful. I left Bethesda for Penn State University (don’t even) at seventeen, a bro that could tell you his SAT score (above average, below genius) just as fast as I could the number of beers I can take down in a night (a very officially 6 or 7). Since then I’ve transferred to a New York school (bohemian), discovered menswear (nerdy), taken up writing (somehow less nerdy in comparison), and learned that who you are isn’t dictated by where you’re from (nugget of truth).
While I’ve grown increasingly distant from Bethesda over the years, it doesn’t mean I don’t love it all the same, which is exactly how I feel about my high school friends, who I never speak to during the year, until, suddenly, I’m headed home and we’re all talking again. About half my friends have put Maryland behind them, moving on and falling off the face of the earth as people tend to do, but those that returned this summer to be interns on the Hill, or at some corporation with an off-shore slush fund, all tell me how boring their summer has been. On my first night in town I made an attempt to actually bring people together being the extremely thoughtful guy that I am. I mean, I was only in town for a couple days and working on borrowed time to foolishly try and capture past times that, really, can never be recreated again no matter how many joints you smoke or how hard you try.
And, truthfully, it’s been like that my whole life, but now that I’m Mr. Fancy Pants III Esq. it was all coming up like a high schooler attempting his first beer bong.
I invited all my peoples over and, as I should have expected, two showed up. I answered the door, said what’s up, and then caught myself doing something that I suppose has become second nature since getting swallowed alive by the monster that is my current life and pursuits. I almost instantly realized that here I am, standing in the doorway of my parent’s house, looking up and down at my two friends, analyzing what they’re wearing as if I’m Judge Dredd, holding a comically large gun fully-loaded with a clip of pretentious opinions. We’ve got off brand boat shoes, gym shorts and a faded, oversized shirt to one side of me and salt-stained slippers, lax shorts and a beer t-shirt flanking me on the other. My mind had a veritable bank vault worth of alarms going off—everything I’ve read over the years of what not to wear is suddenly right in front of me. And, truthfully, it’s been like that my whole life, but now that I’m Mr. Fancy Pants III Esq. it was all coming up like a high schooler attempting his first beer bong.
One spoke up, “Sorry we’re so underdressed.” And then it dawned on me, I am an asshole. Here I am in my best, most calculated, casual look of raw denim and a popover looking at these two, my lifelong friends, like an investment banker side-eyes a hobo. Without a second thought I hopped down off my throne of ego and we began the classic bro pastime of trying to constantly one-up each other with our stories of the past year’s conquests.
They recalled tales of life at New England Liberal Arts College and the struggle to find a decent girl after you’ve already hooked up with just about everyone. I tried to get through some stories of life in the city, but they were mainly just baffled as to why I pay so much for beer. About halfway through the night, they both asked me what it is I do exactly, and why I, a once totally normal dude, cared so much about menswear. I scraped together my best explanation about clothes and attitude and all that shit, but by the end of it they were just as confused as I was when they first walked through the door. And it finally hit me. Trying to explain my love of clothes is like trying to explain football to your mother—if the interest isn’t there, she's never going to understand, or care to understand, what a first down, let alone the wildcat offense, is. Quite frankly, this more or less applies to anyone’s interests ever.
If you start talking to others like nerds talk to fellow nerds, you’ve made your own bed.
Listen, I enjoy men’s clothing and I’m never going to apologize for that fact. It was something I sought out on my own because I cared about how I looked. Coming to New York, and being surrounded by everything that comes along with it, only amplified my curiosity like a Marshall stack to a kid learning guitar. But those that don’t have the drive, because they simply don’t care, DON’T CARE. So what if they don’t see the pick-stitching on your blazer, or your impeccably folded pocket square, or your thousand dollar John Lobb’s? If you start talking to others like nerds talk to fellow nerds, you’ve made your own bed. When I tried to explain the benefits of a 3/2 roll to one of my friends, they literally looked at me the same way I would look at someone trying to tell me why Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is better than Star Trek: Voyager.
There may come a day when my friends from Bethesda and I discuss menswear, but I’m not waiting with bated breath. From now on, I’ll let them wear ill-fitting clothes and square-toed shoes. I’ll let them buy those awful ten dollar ties from Nordstrom Rack. But most of all, I’ll never show off how much I know again because like your buddy who goes home from the bar with a three because in the moment she’s “super hot right now,” he’s blissful, and you shouldn't be the one to ruin that. Only an asshole would.