If you have learned anything about me by this point, it may be that I am fascinated with my own fascination. That might seem like a fancy-pants way of excusing solipsism or a nice way to make an obsession seem rational, but it’s true. Nowhere – outside a sale rack at a Polo boutique – is this more apparent to me than when I’m peering into the online universe of menswear.
The fascination runs deep. Although I’ve never left a comment in my life, I pour over the chains that cascade down from posts on Ivy Style like, well, ivy. As someone who has never really taken part in any social media, I have a hard time conceiving just what it is that motivates people to engage – and to engage with such verve – in places like this. (Just so I don’t seem totally vapid, this extends beyond sites about clothing to things like comment threads on Youtube uploads of Schubert’s Winterreise.)
So yes, there is an almost anthropological element to it. But there is also something more introspective: why, if I will not engage, am I so fascinated by this? Why do I keep coming back to the same sources and scratching my head?
Take for example Julien Landa’s Instagram:
I first heard of Julien in a post over at Put This On about people who wear only one label. Julien, as you can probably guess from the pictures above, wears you. He seems to be some sort of god in a community of people who buy RRL, take pictures of themselves wearing RRL, and then post those pictures on Instagram with hashtags like #RRL #DoubleRL #RalphLauren. If it seems boring over a sentence, imagine it spread continuously across an Instagram feed. And yet I always go back, always read the comments, always puzzle over the fact people use muscle emojis and praying hands to praise what could hardly be called a personal style. No small part of this is jealousy; it is a good bet that if I had enough dollar sign emojis to splash around on RRL clothing I’d be running a heavily tagged Instagram account too.
But more than that, there is disdain. This all coalesced a couple of months ago when Julien pitched what can only be described as a fit on Instagram. He posted a picture of himself in all RRL and, instead of the usual cavalcade of repetitive hashtags, he wrote: “No more brand naming.” It turns out that he was upset that he hadn’t been sent a copy of the season’s new look book.
It struck me, quite suddenly, that this is behaviour unbecoming for a grown up. A man in his 70s should not be whining on social media because a clothier that he loves basically failed to send him a catalogue. A man in his 70s shouldn’t be getting dressed up in luxury-priced costumes of the American west just to pull down some likes on his smart phone.
And it was one of those moments where the camera pulls back, and pulls back again, and the revelations keep coming. I wasn’t upset with Julien and his very public psychodrama with a boutique brand. I was upset with myself. If a man in his 70s shouldn’t be behaving in this way, certainly a man in his 30s shouldn’t be sitting on the sidelines naval-gazing. Social media had suddenly become a mirror that was reflecting my own banality back to me.
I haven’t unfollowed Julien on Instagram. Julien did receive the look book and has gone back to posting heavily-tagged photos. And I continue to hate myself for not having enough money to invest in an Instagrammable wardrobe – and hating myself for having the desire to do it.
You know how it is,