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Everyone does it. That embarrassingly narcissistic mental self-check on your outfit. It's what 2 Chainz is talking about when he says, "Add up my outfit, fashion statement" on the "Bugatti" remix. It's pathetic how much better you feel if every garment touching your body is relevant, but it’s real. Like, if I run out of Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren boxers and have to wear Hanes for a day, even if the rest of look is solid, I'm not my complete self. Getting dressed is not for other people, fuck what you heard. I always have the strongest look in the room because I think it's the strongest look, even if I’m at the bodega wearing basketball shorts and a hoodie from seven years ago. It's important to be on point if not for anybody other than yourself.
Dressing for other people reminds me of when everyone was fake and competitive and generally retarded in, like, 7th grade. All of us middle school losers would constantly try to convince each other of who was richer even though none of us really were. I remember some kid’s dad was a manager at Sam’s Club and he was like, "My dad owns Sam’s Club," gassing himself up like an idiot on the bus home. And it was hilarious back then because I always knew that type of shit was corny—almost as corny as the clothes which were often the point of contention in these verbal wars in the back of the bus and at the cool kid's table in the lunchroom.
Worrying about other men is lame. I knew that fact the moment some fuck boys tried to get at me in the lunch line because I wore the same Rocawear jeans two days in a row. I practically wear the same jeans every day now and my life is great. Not necessarily because of my jeans, but not, like, in spite of them, ya know?
That’s why I love when Soulja Boy says, "Look at them niggas faces, them niggas they hate it. I look a nigga in the face and say, 'Nigga we made it.'" That’s why I don’t dress for other people. The entire point of getting dressed is the inner monologue and the personal satisfaction that comes with knowing everything you're rocking is luxe as fuck. That's why I have an Alexander Wang sweater that's probably kind of ugly if we’re being honest. And that's why, despite the fact that Burberry is the patron saint of "sophisticated" bros who shop at Nordstrom, I still bought a trench because I always wanted one and it made me feel like a king for about four days.
It's not uncommon that I'll look fly as fuck and still be pissed off about something, so I know that clothes aren't everything, but I'll take that confidence boost when I can get it. I remember some dude in high school said that jeans didn’t matter because nobody could see what brand they are. That always bothered me because, one, I could see that his bootcut carpenter joints were Mecca, and, two, like I've been saying, what you’re wearing is never really about impressing anyone else. Like, of course, stunting for others is inherently part of the process, but it should never be the crux of any sartorial decision.
If you aren’t rapping along with 'Trophies' blasting, swagging the fuck out while you’re getting dressed, why are you even getting dressed in the first place?
I typically try to avoid talking about fashion in such an obnoxious manner unless I'm verbally abusing and shitting on my little sister’s stupid boyfriend. A large part of it's because I truly don’t give a fuck and you can really catch me out here in Sperry's and sweatpants at Duane Reade looking a damn mess, but when I do care it's not about appeasing you. You have to do this shit for yourself. When I'm looking in the mirror and I’m like, "Wow, even my belt is sick" it feels like I snorted a mountain of cocaine during an orgy. Okay, it doesn't feel that good, but it's pretty damn gratifying.
Listen, I'm not oblivious to the fact that I'm a new slave wrapped up in vapid consumerism and attributing self-worth to a ridiculous concept of capitalistic ideals. But sometimes that's all we have. Life is inherently sad and the world is objectively fucked. Kendrick told us "a Louis belt will never ease that pain" and he's right, but it's helpful to at least look good while you’re suffering (from success or otherwise). And what "looks good" is whatever the fuck you think looks good. That's why Brandon Sales is an icon even if he's the physical manifestation of a hypebeast convention. He does him and he's proud of it, and that's better than being an insecure cornball.
If you're still with me, you'll agree that music is a pretty essential part of this entire process. It justifies the entire experience. Wayne rapping, "Skinny ass pants, fresh pair of Vans. If them niggas keep trippin' they can share an ambulance" resonates as I put on a pair of skinny ass pants and a fresh pair of Vans and head out into the world to metaphorically murder anyone who I have a problem with. It's important to get lost in your own fantasy. If you aren't rapping along with "Trophies" blasting, swagging the fuck out while you’re getting dressed, why are you even getting dressed in the first place? It's not about being a dork (even though a lot of this is certifiable dork-like behavior), but just, like, basking in the glory that's clothing and loud, ignorant music.
Focus on what you love and be enthusiastic. It’s not nearly as wack as being mad about shit all the time. If that means looking in the mirror and being like, "Wow, everything I’m wearing right now is really cool and worth a cumulative sum of X" and hearing Jeezy say, "I’m a sucker for clothes, that paper stack up if you let it" while you do that is comforting and supportive, then so be it. Basically, stop being a self-serious prick and relax your smug limbs. Nobody is impressed by your modesty and cynicism. You have a few weak ass decades on Earth, if you’re lucky, to give so many fucks about everything, so embrace these little, triumphant moments like leaving the crib looking clean as fuck. You can be enlightened and care about real world issues and still love the feeling of being like, "Yeah, this Raf shirt is rare as fuck" while Hov spits, "I spent all my Euros on tuxes and weird clothes" in the background. Cherish these glorious, albeit fleeting, moments of self-admiration because one day you’re going to die.
Clothing and fashion get a bad rap for being superficial, and they are, but that doesn’t invalidate them. Wanting to wear some fresh shit is no different than wanting a comfortable bed instead of an air mattress. The quality of material items in one's possession and an increase in esteem are directly correlated. We know that inner peace isn't something you can go out and buy, but tangible goods do provide a very authentic, if temporary, satisfaction. That’s the entire point of consumerism. That’s why anyone buys anything. We’re all just trying to be happy before the universe inevitably comes and shuts down our dreams. I know that conspicuous consumption is an impossibly black hole, but I still rock with it. And they don't have no awards for that. So present yourself with trophies when you can.
Ernest Baker is back in New York and listening to a lot of Young Thug. You can follow him on Twitter here.