Here’s another article I wrote for Louis Vuitton Night discussing the outlaw as fashion role model…
When it is late afternoon and the sun has finally begun to set and the birds have begun to wind down, sitting in their nests, and reflecting on the day’s activities, often the boulevardier will take a cue from his feathered friends and sit, in his customary lounging attire, and perhaps with a glass of wine, and consider radical mansy fashion, and all the implications of being a well-dressed anarchist in today’s society. While often breathtakingly glamorous, the well-dressed anarchist is an anomaly these days, something that might fill the gentle gentleman with ennui. However, being the sophisticated and considerate fellow he is, the boulevardier will never entertain feelings of malaise for more than a picturesque moment and drawing on his knowledge of the history of radical men’s fashion will quickly return to his witty and good-humored self, leaving his self-consciousness to the birds.
But for all the lovely amateurs, let’s consider a few historical points in the history of radical mansy fashion, and why these mansies might fill the boulevardier with bountiful hope and optimism. Radical mansies have a rich history of dressing well, but it is in the interest of the unfashionable to make it seem otherwise. As mentioned before in this column, it is crucial to the construction of a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy to promote the image of man as the viewer and never the viewed, and promote clothes that fulfill this role, whether through military garments masquerading as casual wear, suits that intend on making all men look alike or slovenly ill-fitting outfits that have no place in public and should be used for nothing less than what one might wear to romp in a tar pit. It is for this reason, that the prevalent history of men’s fashion is both written about the rich and boring, and by the rich and boring, and amounts to little more than a discussion of the cut in suit, silhouette of pant and the length or material of the jacket.
It is therefore, with great honor that the boulevardier now introduces the Outlaw, into the history of radical mansy fashion. Outlaw is a very broad topic and often the construction of heroic outlaws serves the same conventional fashion we radicals reject, yet most often outlaws operate outside of the status quo, either in direct confrontation or more subtly. Outlaws can vary from the explicit to the implicit. One of my fashion favorites is bank robbing anarchist Jules Bonnot, whose partiality for fine garments is well known. But another more contemporary favorite is the stylist Dapper Dan in Harlem who became famous for dressing local drug dealers in things like jump suits made from the LV logo and later designed clothes for rappers and celebrities such as Salt ‘N Peppa, Run DMC, and Mike Tyson.
When we begin to consider the outlaw from a fashion perspective, the list goes on and on: from the Native American Resistance of the 1800’s, to the Italian Mafia of the 50’s, to hobos, pirates, punks, etc, etc almost every male look of note comes from outlaws. Which makes perfect sense, from the position of outlaw, clothes offer a very different role than from within the status quo, they act as signifiers of resistance, challenging and direct. This is why so many historical outlaws are s.a.f. (snappy as fuck) and use clothes as a means to assert both their rejection of their role in society and how much they revel in their position as outlaw.
Outlaws in one way or another have rejected the social roles in the status quo and from this position are able to use garments to undermine their place in a nationalist masculinity. Take the dandy for example. Beginning in the 17th century, dandies (or Macaroni’s as they were known) organized themselves in clubs, later in “Molly houses” that were anarchic spaces of sexual and gender freedom. These spaces are in a way grandmother to today’s anarchist collectives, squats and diy venues, offering a space of resistance to the status quo and to create an alternative reality. Most vividly, the New Romantic squats of the late 70’s seemed to capture the spirit. Joey Gloria, transgender prostitute extraordinaire describes how it was considered vulgar for men in that scene to spend less than 2 hours putting on make-up and powdering their enormous wigs before going out on the street. For the Macaronis, the freedom to dress flamboyantly and in women’s clothes and wigs was also the highest goal, and offered a legitimate concern for the authorities, who saw the ubiquity of Macaroni fashion as a sign of the deteriorating morals of the day. Because the Macaronis were most concerned with fashion, it was their garments and style that represented the moral uncertainty that made trying to govern them as slippery as trying to squeeze ky jelly from an eel in that, aforementioned, tar pit.
In a recent article, Elizabeth Wilson argues that the reason we see so many outlaws and criminals impeccably dressed in films is because there is the popular assumption that people that spend too much time on the superficial must be hiding some dark secret, that they are dangerous and unhinged, and therefore a threat. This is a fantastic way to look at radical men’s fashion and how it has the power to convey that sense of lurking danger. We anarchists are demonized enough in mainstream society, why not start taking matters into our own hands and begin manipulating that image for the best effects. Ideally, instead of the insurrectionist that wears skinny blue jeans and some text heavy t-shirt, black hoodie optional, we would see a well considered and well tailored outfit that says:
adult. contemporary. anarchist.
Every boulevardier needs a vibrant history to inform his fashion decisions and to offer suggestions when faced with the many arduous task of dressing 5 times a day, and beginning with the outlaw is an important step. Obviously, no one is advocating dressing in historical costume, that trend was disproved in the seminal film Wild Hogs where yuppies don the historical costume of bikers and leather daddies and far from being material for a Tom of Finland drawing, simply reaffirm their status as chod-masters and roll the credits. The true outlaw’s fashion is a reference to the times, and in doing so presents the greatest threat. No, we cannot go about raising any fashion corpses here, we must trod on, mansies riding into the unknown, like our outlaw drag-mothers, dangerous and sexy.
Mansy is a term coined for this column to signify an alternative notion of someone who wears masculine attire that is not linked to the male sex, ie: a style of clothing that is masculine yet undermines the white supremist capitalist patriarchy of masculinity and isn’t exclusively worn by people with penises. The alternative to mansy fashion is penis fashion, a most deplorable fashion worn by people just because they have a penis and resulting in a propagation of static gender roles, patriarchy, capitalism and white supremacy.