celebrating the worst, weirdest and funniest of our fashion mistakes
Tom Coleman’s new book, I Actually Wore This, is a collection of stories that embraces and commemorates the cringiest things we’ve ever bought.
There are plenty of different kinds of fashion books out there; from the grandest designer monograms and the most exclusively limited editions of photographer zines, right down to the most quotidian of how to dress guides and entry level overviews.
Then there's something like Bret Easton Ellis' misunderstand masterpiece, Glamorama; a novel that featured models-as-terrorists in a world of random violence and murder and exploitation.
I Actually Wore This, by writer Tom Coleman and photographer Jerome Jakubiec, is an altogether different fashion book -- a fashion book that does not fit so neatly into any of the above categories.
It's not, as they say in their introduction, a book that will teach you what to wear to lunch, or on holiday, or which sweater you just have to have this season. It is much universal than that. I Actually Wore This is a celebration of something we've all done, at least once, if not more.
And that is gone down the shops or to the sample sales and bought something so ridiculous, or stupid, or ugly, or so just not us, that it has stayed in the closet and barely been worn.
And yet I Actually Wore This is not a book full of mockery of bad style, but a book that revels in the universal hubris of the fashionista who, like Icarus, flies to close to the sun and buys a very expensive crocodile skin biker jacket. Or gets a djellaba created bespoke in Milan out of merino wool. But it's also more subtle than too, a fashion book that finds a little enjoyment in the shirt that's not quite right, the trousers just the wrong colour, and the designer bargain we really should've passed up on.
Tom and Jerome found a whole catwalk of willing fools, from art dealers to models to artists to PRs, dressed them up in their fashion regrets, made them pose for pictures, and got them to share the story about those red leather cowboy boots.
And here's six of our favourites.
Adam Green, Musician/artist/filmmaker, Brooklyn, NY
"American farmers like to wear overalls and John Deere caps. Swiss farmers, on the other hand, like to wear charming red embroidered shirts and peaked, brimmed wool hats. I learned this when my band was on tour in Switzerland.
Also, while in Switzerland, I discovered a liqueur called Appenzeller. If you ever see it at a bar, order it. Actually, order a lot of it. It's the Swiss version of Jägermeister and pretty amazing. One afternoon, after a fair amount of Appenzeller, my friend Oskar decided that what I needed to go with my buzz was a true Alpine outfit. Cut to us zigzagging, reversing, backtracking, and spinning out through the back roads of Zurich in search of a clothing store open on the weekend.
We found an open shop that was exactly what we were looking for. It was absurdly quaint. If somebody told us that all the people in the store went back to living in a cuckoo clock at night, we would have totally believed them. I bought my "edelweiss shirt" and wore it at my concert that night, much to the delight of the local crowd.
I swore I would wear the shirt when I got back home. That didn't happen. It went straight into my closet, where it sat for a long time. One day when my wife was doing some spring-cleaning, she decided it was time for the shirt to go. I begged her to let me keep it. She agreed on the condition that I wear the shirt at least once a year. So now every year I have a weird day where I dress like a Swiss farmer. Maybe this year I'll even try to rent a cow."
Elizabeth Cutler, Co-founder of SoulCycle, New York City
"When you're a mom, you're a little more careful about what you wear than before you had kids. You want to set a good example, and you don't want to humiliate your kids by wearing something they'll be talking about in therapy twenty years from now. If I put something on that I'm not sure about, I ask myself if my own mother would wear it. The answer is inevitably "no," so then I ask my daughter. If I get an extended eye roll from her, it goes back in the closet.
The shirt in question was bought more as a joke. It features the many 420-loving faces of Seth Rogen. I wasn't sure if Seth signed off on this number or if it was more of a bootleg item, a fact that made it seem a little dangerous to wear. I thought I could pull off wearing the shirt to a work function. You know, I'd seem like one of the cool kids. However, once I stepped out of the house, I was self-conscious as hell and kept pulling the blazer I was wearing closed. Truly a rebel I am.
One of my colleagues noticed the shirt and told me that she had recently seen someone wearing leggings featuring the face of James Franco, leading me to believe I may somehow have been duped into being part of a clever Pineapple Express viral marketing scheme."
Gary Shteyngart, Writer of Absurdistan and Super Sad
"What else do you wear when you host a caviar party in a roach-infested apartment in Brooklyn in the 90s?"
Joey Jalleo, Vice President of Culture and Communications at Standard Hotels/Lord of The Boom Boom Room, Long Island City, New York
"When you visit Santa Fe, I believe you are legally obligated to buy one of three things: cowboy boots, a turquoise belt buckle, or a painting featuring a howling coyote that will one day be sold at a garage sale. I went with number one.
The cowboy boots were custom made, but not for me. I bought them at a resale shop. I knew nothing else about the boots, except that whomever owned them originally had different-sized feet. One boot was a size nine, the other a nine and a half.
This led me to believe that perhaps that's why they had the boots commissioned. The owner's life was likely plagued by bunions and blisters and ill-
fitting flip-flops, and the boots were a way of finally celebrating their hideous deformity. While I salute embracing two different-sized feet, it forced me to find ways to try and make the larger boot fit. At various times, and with varying degrees of success, newspaper, tinfoil, and a wrapper from a Reese's PeanutButter Cup were shoved into the toe of the larger boot. I finally went with wearing one very thick wool sock. It was hot but effective.
I decided to retire the boots, but not because of the size issue. I wore them out one night, and a hilarious friend asked me if I stole them off JonBenet Ramsey. I never looked at the boots the same way again. I should have gone with the belt buckle."
Annabella Hochschild, Writer, New York City
"There is a definite distinction between a crayon costume and a crayon dress. The costume generally comes in a bag, is made of gossamer-thin acetate, and has a hat that looks like a small traffic cone. The dress, on the other hand, is sold on a hanger, is made of formfitting carcinogenic foam, and can cost as much as $10. I own the latter.
I bought the dress at one of the last remaining stores in New York City that feels a little dangerous. Maybe they have dogfights in the basement on weekends ordeal homemade LSD called Mind Detergent. You just know something else is going on there. Before I actually bought the dress, I visited it a couple of times. I was a little apprehensive about buying it because of them. The group of scary but cool punk kids who hang out at the corner of my street in the East Village and silently judge everyone. These aren't poseurs from the suburbs who cut the sleeves off their Hollister shirts and ride Angry Birds skateboards. These dudes are the real deal.
The first time I wore the dress, I had a rather late night/morning, and the birds were chirping and the garbage trucks groaning as I neared my apartment. As I reached my corner, I saw them. I tried being as nonchalant as possible as I walked by, but I linked eyes with one of the group's leaders. He wore a Meat Puppets T-shirt and an air of superiority. I gave him a little head nod that said, "I respect who you are, and please don't hurt me." He then looked me up and down, raised his Dunkin Donuts Styrofoam cup, smiled, and said, "Sick."
At that moment, I knew—they liked me, they really liked me."
Lee Potter, Art dealer, New York City
"Orange works great for Cheetos, traffic cones, and Mario Batali's Crocs. But I've learned that it's not the easiest colour to pull off on a dress unless you're Sofia Vergara or a Real Housewife of Cartagena.
I bought the dress to wear to a black-tie party. Normally I would wear black,but for some reason, I decided I wanted to set myself apart from the pack. No polite little black dress for me—I was going to wear a colour. I know, I'm such a rebel. Nobody made any direct comments about the dress, but people did keep asking me if I had been somewhere before the party or if I was going some where after. I took that to mean they were looking for an explanation: Had I been at Carrot Top's birthday party, or was I headed to a Halloween-themed wedding?
Van Gogh supposedly said that orange is the colour of madness. In the case of this dress, I'll just plead a little temporary insanity."
I Actually Wore this is published by Rizzoli and you can buy the book by clicking on this link.
Text Felix Petty