“Yoooo, look at that, that whatever it is! I need that in my wardrobe!”
“Yeah it looks pretty cool. Let’s check it out.”
It was a hot September day in Osaka. My first time out in super chill Kansai. My friend Jess and I were walking through the busy streets of Nanba, surrounded by tourists and shoppers on a shotengai that seemed to extend to the ends of the Earth.
It was there that I saw it.
Long and flowing, off the most regal of mannequins was a glorious fabric. It commanded so much power. Without thinking I said aloud,
“I need that.”
So we walked into Bershka and tried to find whatever was on the mannequin in the shop’s windows. What was it? A scarf? A poncho? A cloak? Cape? We walked deeper into the store until we finally discovered it. And right above the garment, on the wall in all caps read:
No it can’t be! How could this thing, this piece of fabric, have a gender? That mannequin didn’t have gender. What is this?
Feeling a bit awkward in that moment, my friend still somehow convinced me to try it on. But no no, not in front of all these women, it was too embarrassing for me. So we took it off the rack and headed to the Men’s floor. I found a mirror and threw it on real quick.
Now if you guys don’t know already, I’m not the type of person to spend money on anything. I’m not cheap, I just know exactly what I want when it comes to buying stuff. (Probably why I haven’t bought a new pair of sneaks in years.) I get stuff that I know I’ll still be wearing years from now. So let me tell you: when I tried this scarf/cape thing on, I could already tell that it would be something I’d still be wearing 10 years from now.
Yet I chickened out. Talked myself into thinking it was too expensive. All because of some stupid label.
Fast forward to Fall. I’m out in Shibuya with another friend, Nicole. I get her to come with me to Bershka. I didn’t tell her I felt more comfortable going there with her. If anyone gave me a weird look, I could just say I was shopping with her!
I didn’t know if the cloak would’ve been out of stock by now. We looked and looked. 1st floor, nope. 2nd floor, nope. Finally after making it to the third floor, there it was. Hiding in a tiny rack with a bunch of other things.
But here I was, trying to talk myself out of buying it again! Fortunately my home girl was there to get me to “man-up.” I copped it and bounced through the streets with a smile on my face and a chu-hi in hand.
This whole ordeal had me thinking hard about how clothes came to be engendered. I watch Game of Thrones and see more men wearing skirts and tights than women. (Yes, I know it’s fiction, but it’s roots are in the very real Medieval Times.) Yet a kid like Jaden Smith gets called a weirdo for making risky fashion choices. I don’t see the point of being critical of something that you aren’t even wearing.
I believe that what we wear allows us to express ourselves. Our clothing adds a layer of confidence to our personality, sort of like a new haircut. So although dresses aren’t me, I totally feel what Jaden is saying. When I put my cape on, rocking all black with a purple long-sleeve, I do feel sort of like a regal-superhero-Clint Eastwood character. It’s fun playing dress-up.
Fast forward to Winter, I’m back shopping in Shibuya with my girl, Paula. I hit up Bershka to see if anything new has arrived since X-Mas sales have ended. And guess what was on the Men’s floor?
A cloak, differing only in color to my own.
Maybe the clothes don’t really make the man. Maybe Man takes clothes and does as he pleases.