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I’m not going to lie: A few years ago, I was in a J.Crew or Club Monaco every other day. I was spending all my ends on the latest highly-curated, super-exclusive, brought back to life from the 1950s clothing items. Was I addicted? Maybe. Did I have a maxed-out J.Crew and Club Monaco credit card with 24 percent APR? You damn straight. Did I play Drake’s “Crew Love” and secretly hum, “They lovin' the J.Creewwwww!” Sadly, yes. But I felt so stylish that I didn’t care. I was flying on an all-Americana high and, in my mind, killing it. But everyone came to a screeching halt on one fateful night.
On the night that everything changed, I headed to a networking event, obviously rolling up stylin’ with my vintage one-of-kind canvas Abingdon backpack and my signature brogues from J.Crew. But the moment I entered the building, I came face-to-face with two gentlemen who had the same exact 'fit, comprised of a worn-out canvas backpack and slightly worn brogues. Except they wore it all wrong, the proportions were off, and after a short chat, it was clear they didn’t have nearly as much swag or knowledge on the menswear category as a contextual whole. So how the hell could they assemble such an outfit, if they ain’t been doing the education, as Kanye would say.
At that moment I realized that you didn’t need a great amount of passionate knowledge, or crazy insights into trends, or perspective on the history of menswear and Americana. You just needed to walk into a J.Crew and cop your look straight from the mannequin or ask a store associate to pick out your outfit. Or worse—and I’ve seen it—have your girlfriend pick up some khaki shorts and worn-in T-shirt and you’re good.
That was the red flag that signaled to me that perhaps the larger Americana movement had reached a saturation point in which mass market consumers could cop because they liked the way it looked, not because of a deep love for the form. What made the Americana movement cool in the first place was the fact that it required knowledge and understanding of stitching, of cotton fibers, construction techniques, and a genuine appreciation of quality.
So what’s a man to do when everyone seems to be copying a mode of style he cares about, but feels undercut by the fact that it's incredibly easy to mimic the form?
You rebel. You expand your style. You begin to frequent different boutiques. You explore different forms of expression and study up on what makes each garment and aesthetic unique from everything else. Like everything else in life, your style will evolve toward your particular interests and taste, and there's nothing wrong with that.
It might be hypocritical to abandon something in light of its popularity, but all of Americana was becoming watered down. I lost my genuine interest in something that every dude was accessing so easily and so incorrectly.
People can comment on the way I switched it up. But true style is not defined by anyone except yourself. Sure, there are trends that come and go, and editors and publications will always tout the next best thing, but the most important thing is if your look matches your lifestyle and personal preference.
Because looking uncomfortable, or like everyone else, is in fact, not very stylish at all. Be original, be authentic, dress for comfort and function, and let style be the last determining factor.
Corey Chalueau wears FlyKnits.
He Tweets here.