Three nights ago, I attended my very first New York Fashion Week party. If you have been to a fashion party in any capacity before, just skip the next paragraph because this is just the set-up for the actual thing I’m talking about. If you haven’t, feel free to read on because I am about to tell you what they are like. (Or don't, I guess. Life is precious and short and who am I to tell you to use your finite time on this earth reading what a 25-year-old transplant who barely knows his ass from his elbow has to say about clothing? I am no one. I am a sub-articulate slug.)
Fashion parties work like this: You show up to the front, someone with an iPad checks your name off of a list and then you go inside. If you are famous, photographers will take pictures of you in front of a fake wall containing the logo of whatever brand happens to be ponying up the money for said fashion party. If you are not famous, you get to skip this step. After that, you enter the party proper, where a galaxy's worth of very well-dressed people are drinking and carousing and carrying on while a celebrity DJ anonymously spins inoffensive deep house. (The party I went to was sponsored by Dom Perignon, which meant that the bar only served Dom Perignon. This is objectively amazing.) You will look around and realize Carmelo Anthony is here, as well as a dude who played one of Eminem's friends not named Cheddar Bob in 8 Mile. The photogs will not be taking pictures of them, but they will be taking pictures of everyone else because everyone else is dressed like a character from Zoolander, but real. This is totally normal and you are the weird one for not being 100 percent on board with everyone else.
Is everyone caught up now? Okay. Good. Awesome. Let's proceed, marching bravely onwards and upwards to this piece's thrilling denouement.
It was around the time that I made eye contact with the dude from 8 Mile who wasn't Cheddar Bob that a very specific sinking feeling of insecurity and worthlessness washed over me: I was without a doubt the worst dressed guy at the party.
Now, I would not consider myself a horrible dresser. I am exceptionally competent at putting clothes on myself. On some days, I am even almost good. But being the worst dressed person in a room is not about personal style. No, it's about the context that you have placed yourself in. Nobody would wear Brooks Brothers to the Gathering of the Juggalos and nobody is about to wear Hood by Air to a golf course. Yet, both Brooks Brothers and HBA are brands that cost lots of money and tend to, in the right circumstances, impress people. Being the worst dressed person in a room isn't always about actually being dressed poorly. It's more about sticking out like a sore thumb.
This party was full of people trying to stretch the convention of what clothing could be and I looked like an extra in a French Montana video.
Which is to say, at this party, well, it me. I rolled up to a realm in which anything was possible—where designer fabrics flowed, crotches were dropped and bespoke suits bespoken for—in a pair of Timberlands, black jeans and an ill-fitting denim button up that prominently features a garish bird of prey graphic on the back. This party was full of people trying to stretch the convention of what clothing could be and I looked like an extra in a French Montana video.
The thing about being the worst dressed person at a party is it's a state of mind. No one actually says anything to you or goes out of their way to remind you that you look like shit. In all likelihood, they're not even noticing you. But that doesn't matter because you are judging yourself.
At its core, fashion comes down to wearing what feels natural to you. When you throw on an outfit, you're making a statement about your preferences (Colors? Formal? Casual? Flashy? Conservative?), your socioeconomic circumstances (Can you afford things that are overtly nice?) and your priorities as a human being (Do you care about how you look? Do you care about people knowing whether or not you have enough money to buy a fancy jacket?). So, when you step in the room dressed as an extension of your personality and your clothes don't measure up, it's easy to feel incongruous, like you've self-selected as the outcast. And that feels like shit. The world is a cold, unloving place and having a visual representation of your alone-ness covering your body only serves as a reminder of that.
The worst (or, I suppose, best) thing about all of this is that no one actually cares if you're the worst dressed guy at the party. You simply continue on your path towards a free champagne drunk, free ogles at mildly famous people and free background DJ sets until the night is over. As people file out, you circle the bar, trying to squeeze an extra glass or two of champagne in like a vulture. Then, you leave, go home and understand that you are finally back on your home turf—back with people who love you, who you feel normal around. No one can judge you for looking swagless in the dark.