12/04/2011
Checkered

"Gusto mo bang ibili na kita ng polo?" my mom asked me a couple of days ago.

"Hindi, ako na," I replied.

She and my dad were headed to Greenhills to do some more Christmas shopping. I was supposed to go with them, planning to buy a laptop, but schedules moved around. Now, I could go with them just to experience Greenhills again - the only time I was there was when I was... I don't remember. But I was so young. And I felt so hot and bored.

I could've taken up on her offer, for her to pick a new top for me, but lately I wanted to be the one doing my own purchases. I want to be able to see things for myself before I commit my own money to it. That's why I didn't have my dad buy me a laptop in Singapore. That's why I took a while to buy myself a laptop in the first place. For a year, maybe two, I went around doing ocular inspections (heh, thesis) in many computer stores looking at the same things over and over.

Somehow the conversation shifted towards my personal style. My mom said she knows how I dress - not that it's a bad thing; she's just convincing me to trust her about the while I'll-buy-your-outfit thing. And then she'd define my style in a couple bullet points: my preference for earth tones, and my conservative perspective when it comes to today's trends. "Kung pumili ka sa uso eh 'yung pinaka-conservative," she said. I forgot what she said exactly, but her point was, I don't tend to choose stuff that screams cool, thus my outfits tend to look more in vogue longer.

Or, as I'd define it, I don't really follow trends.

Mostly because I think I'll never look good wearing whatever's in at the moment. Partly because I'm not really good with knowing what's in - this is going to ruin my chances of working in a magazine, but I'll admit to being, as Dee described once, "not street enough". Partly because I don't get the point of following trends. That's a sure way of making me spend more. Statement shirts become popular (like they did when I was in college), so I'd plunk all my money on buying ten such shirts. Soon enough, they're so five minutes ago.

It goes for everything, really. I'd like to think that I don't decide to try certain things out because everybody is latching on to it. Sure, I tried frozen yogurt, but I wasn't crazy for it like the back row did. ("Red Mango tayo, tara!" ad infinitum.) Suddenly that's gone out of fashion, and milk tea has. People go crazy over milk tea. People form long lines just to get milk tea. And here I am, going, "it's essentially Chowking's nai cha, so why buy elsewhere? And why are there no lines in Chowking, but there are lines in Gong Cha?"

"Kasi... Chowking," Eena answered.

"Stupid marketing people," I said. "I get what they do, but people are acting stupid over the same thing. I sound old."

"You sound... hmm. Jaded. Try it first?"

Today, I went top-hunting. The plan was to get something at the Gap, since I've always wanted to have one of their tops. I know, my dad told me that it's not the fancy brand people think it is - it's the American Bench, in his words - but I really just wanted to try it out. Also, I went window-shopping there once and I liked what I saw. And, at least, there's a chance I can wear those items, unlike when I went window-shopping at Topman.

Of course, the catch is, it's expensive. It's imported. And it's not made in China. (Funny seeing two mostly identical shirts made in two different countries.) I went as far as fitting myself - I'm a large, and their large isn't ridiculously small like Topman's - only to think twice, because I am close to spending two thousand bucks on a polo shirt. Just a polo shirt.

"Punta ka sa Bench o Penshoppe," my mom suggested.

Well duh, Niko. So I went to Penshoppe and found my way to the men's section, not-so-clearly marked by the photos of Ed Westwick decorating the racks. Most of the items were checkered.

Well, more of plaid, really. Ahh, this is going to confuse me again like it did the first time. You know, when I wrote a whole blog entry about Krizzie wearing a checkered shirt. Plaid? What exactly do you call it? See what I mean?

I've long decided that checkered shirts - plaid shirts, whatever - will never work on me. It's too busy. Too many things going on. Also, it screams "cool". Well, it screams "laid back" more, and I'm definitely not laid back. But it definitely screams "trend". You see young kids in malls wearing checkered shirts. You know, those young kids that watch movies with their circle of friends, before heading to the arcade to play the same old games. I saw a guy fitting one such checkered polo in front of a mirror, while a girl - I assume his girlfriend - dusted off his shoulders. I knew I had to go to Bench.

More of the same. And a long line to boot.

A few days ago Claud tweeted about building blocks she found at Muji, that upscale store along High Street. I replied my usual "oooh" reply, partly because I was trying to make conversation, but mostly because I just came from Muji a few weeks ago - did some Christmas shopping there - and was amazed by the whole thing. It's an upscale store. The newspapers blabbed on about it. It's Japanese, it's supposed to be posh, and it's supposed to be expensive - but I went there and I saw some polo shirts and they're quite affordable. I mean almost half as cheaper as the polo shirt I was thinking of buying at the Gap.

"They're also selling Matryoshka dolls and a bunch of bowling pin-like sumo wrestlers. All cute. All expensive."

"And all destined to be desk displays. Now I've thought of it, Muji is so for the Monocle crowd."

Claud and I haven't talked that much when we were both still in La Salle, but we've talked a bit (online) after graduation. I know she's the designer type. We had conversations about fonts. I'm not uncomfortable because I'm a (bit of a) (really) frustrated graphic designer. We talked about how a local magazine's trying so badly to be a Monocle rip-off - you know Monocle, that magazine from Tyler BrulĂ© with five different paper stocks and all these stories about interesting people and interesting things... if it fits their vision of a wonderful world.

I bought it twice (it's ridiculously expensive) hoping to read interesting stuff, but half the magazine feels snobbish. Or maybe that's not the better word. There's definitely an air of "oh, if only we went back to the basics" in everything they write. All this talk about handmade furniture and artisan markets and drama on the radio. A sneering attitude of sorts over worldwide chains. Definitely a sneering attitude towards countries that aren't in Europe, or isn't Japan, or isn't vaguely rich. I don't know. "All dishes prepared by the club use fruit and vegetables from the gardens dotted around the property," says one feature about the perfect "urban club". You go, "that sounds good," and then you go, "I don't think anybody can do that at the moment."

Anyway, my point is, the "Monocle crowd" - the people who are surrounded by luxury, the people who have the money to get what they want, or the "hipster crowd", as Jeany and I were forced to call them - they tend to want things simpler. Bikes. Art galleries. Coffees. The magazine is a strong believer in print, and recently, radio. (Yes, I've been listening. I need good stories. And then I make those faces again.) But to propagate that message, they have to charge more. Same for the Gap and its lack of screaming checkered tops. Same for Muji. Well, they're not that expensive, but it's posh because it's Japanese and it's got only one branch in Manila and it prides itself in being more about function than form.

"Which is mostly a good thing, I guess," Claud said. Back to the conversation, yes. "Unless you're not a fan of the elite?"

"I bought a Christmas gift there, so I'm not complaining," I answered. "The Monocle types can get it right, but they can be so decadent, though."

"Very much. Also a part of the charm, I guess. Not being that, they wouldn't seem so appealing, methinks." And then she shows me this die that decides for you - this won't be a good explanation - what good little gesture you'll do today. A wooden die that costs a lot.

"But Muji has the balance," I said. "I even thought of buying something there myself - no mean feat for a place I randomly entered."

"Yep, the balance: high cost for all that simplicity."

Which brings me back to the Gap. I was eyeing this striped collared shirt. It doesn't scream striped; more of small lines, really. Would've gone for white and black, but it hurt my eyes when I stared at it. (I stared at it so I know if it looks good on me.) After going through all the checkered outfits at Penshoppe and Bench, and later, Esprit, I went back to the Gap to buy my second option: a similar shirt, only in green and something that looks like green, but not green, and not blue. Two thousand bucks down.

When I wore it an hour ago, I felt good about it. It does look good on me. It doesn't scream. And on top of that, my mom thinks I made a good pick. Earth tones, just as she outlined.

And your responses...

I'm no expert when it comes to style or anything but one thing I know for sure is that people with good style wear clothes that look good on them, 'yung bagay, and not what's new or trending. Ako, I feel like my eyes (or brain) have already been wired to see only the clothes that I know would look good on me. When I go window-shopping, my brain automatically overlooks the other clothes. HAHAHAHAHA

Even people I know who are now older and used to follow trends when they were younger vow to the same practice, just go with what's "bagay."

So, kudos, good choice. Heh.

Blogger Fiona12/04/2011     

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