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DID YOU READ

IT’S LIKE THAT: Losing My Fashion Sense

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If someone heard my name and the phrase “trend setter” in the same sentence, they’d probably laugh–especially my close friends. They’d tell you that I’ve been wearing the same cut-off Dickies shorts, Converse one-stars, and thrift store T-shirts for the last fifteen years. They’d also tell you that if I was indeed a “trend setter,” it has been a long, long time since I started one.

Just because I haven’t changed my wardrobe in over a decade does not necessarily mean that I am not fashion conscious. Oh believe you me, I am definitely conscious of fashion, but I’m just too comfortable in my own clothes to radically change anything. Coming of age in the 90’s–when thrift store shopping was actually considered cool–makes it very difficult for me to pay more than $10 for a pair of pants. Even if my friends might not admit it, I’m sure there’s a certain comfort in seeing me in the same duds, year in and year out. It’s the same comfort I got seeing Run DMC in leather jackets and fedoras, The Ramones in blue jeans and sneakers, and Metallica headbanging with long, unkempt hair.

Did these musicians consistently have impeccable style? No.

In the late 80’s/early 90’s, hip-hop fashion was all about bright colors, poofy hats (ask Heavy D to show you a couple of his), and baggy clothes. In Run DMC’s “The Avenue” video, Darryl McDaniels trades his fedora for a puffy hat, Run forgoes black jeans for a pair of overalls, and Jam Master Jay (gulp) breaks the monochromatic color code of the group, and wears a hideous striped hooded jacket–the kind that were only in style in the early 90’s for about a second.

At that point in time (1990) Run DMC might have looked cool, but they didn’t look like Run DMC. The same can be said when Metallica cut their curls in 1996 for the release of their album Load.

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(right: Run DMC looking like Run DMC.)

When one of your friends, a band, or a television personality (Larry David anyone?) finds a wardrobe that suits them well, and sticks with it, certain people will complain. But you’ll find more people upset when a change has actually been made.

What about artists like Madonna–performers who reinvent themselves for every new album release? To me, Madonna’s “reinvention” is the equivalent of finding comfort in Run DMC’s black hats and adidas shoes. People would be pissed off if Madonna didn’t change her style from album to album. And because she has constantly transformed throughout her 20-plus year career, Madonna can indulge in bad fashion trends, knowing by the time they go out of style, she’ll be on to her next wardrobe choice.

When I was a VJ for MTV, I was assigned a fashion stylist. You can imagine the wars that raged in the fitting rooms. Alison, whose job it was to dress on-air talent in the latest, hip threads, had to battle daily with me, a person who figured if Mr. Rogers could wear the same thing for years and years, it’d be okay for me to do the same.

More times than not, Alison and I found common ground, but there were times when we had fierce standoffs. For example, a few years ago it was quite fashionable to wear jeans with bleached fade-marks in the thigh region. I refused to wear ’em. To me it looked like someone took a paintbrush and put two streaks down each leg. I didn’t want something to go on my reel (or the internet) that would look so out-of-style in two year’s time.

I also refused to wear shirts that had screen-printing above the collar. I like my logos in the middle of the shirt, three inches below the collar–right where they belong. Sneakers? Had to be classics: Nike Cortez, Converse One-Star, Chuck Taylors, or original Puma suedes. Shoe’s with ribbed soles, Velcro straps, and rounded leather toes were never welcomed on my feet. Jewelry? Don’t even go there.

Growing older–and according to my wife, “getting more and more out-of-style each day”–I recently thought to myself, “Am I really out of touch? Have I lost ‘it’?”

How could I let this happen to me–a person who once prided himself in uncovering fashion trends long before they were deemed “cool” by the mainstream? Here are a few examples:

The Ringer T Revival
When I was in high school (early 90’s), you couldn’t buy a ringer T-shirt anywhere. Occasionally, you could find one at a thrift store, but those were few and far between. I quickly came up with a solution–to take a fabric marker and color the collars of my T-shirts. A couple years later, retro fashion was in full swing, and you could buy a 70’s-inspired ringer at any retail store in the mall.

Visor
In the mid-90’s I had an old golf visor lying around the house. I decided to wear it to a concert. I kind of liked it, so I started wearing it everywhere I went. Two years later, visors became the head-wear of choice for ravers across the country. I retired mine shortly thereafter.

¾-Sleeve Shirt Combo
Trying to mash-up some styles I liked from the previous decade, in the early 2000’s I began wearing ¾-sleeve shirts (aka softball shirts) under my short-sleeve tops. I wore this combo for many of my early MTV/2 shoots. A year or so later, when we began shooting in the same studio as MTV, I saw the ¾-sleeve shirt combo laid out in the dressing room for some of MTV’s on-air talent. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery!

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White-Rimmed Sunglasses
Four years ago I decided to switch up my style of sunglasses. Wanting something different from everyone else, I searched far and wide for a pair of shades with white-rims–sort of an ode to a pair Kurt Cobain wore years earlier. After getting the glasses, my friends (especially my brother Danny) began referring to them as my “old lady” sunglasses. There was also a certain producer at MTV who wouldn’t let me wear them on-air. Later in the year, Kanye West began wearing a similar pair of white-rimmed sunglasses, and my “old lady” glasses weren’t so “old lady” anymore.

(left: Are you going to tell Kanye he looks like an “old lady”?)

So what’s the point of this whole rant? Well, as I sit here today in my cut-off Dickies, whose once coarse material is now as soft as a rabbit’s ear, certain friends and loved ones would have you believe that I’ve lost my Midas touch as far as fashion is concerned. But if they weren’t so busy laughing, they would be ashamed to know that they prevented me from striking fashion gold once again.

Three years ago, at the suggestion of my wife, I was told to update my wardrobe. I went back to the “well” so to speak–the thrift store. In the mid-90’s, thrift stores were gold mines for retro shirts and trousers. In the 2000’s all of the sweet, old-man threads donated decades earlier were bought up, giving way to a mountain of clothes donated in the 90’s–Looney Toons t-shirts, Starter Jackets, and stone-washed jeans.

With such a horrible selection to choose from, how was I ever going to find a fashion gem? Just as I was about to give up, I noticed a rack of long-sleeve plaid shirts. After thinking about it for a couple seconds, I thought, “Yes! This is it! This will be my new fashion signature!” I proceeded to buy six of them for $8.

As soon as I started wearing the shirts out in public, I heard complaints. My wife thought the shirts were grotesque, complaining that I looked even more 90’s than I had before, and some of my friends likened my new fashion sense to that of a burnout in the 1980’s. Being a little reluctant to change my wardrobe in the first place, I decided to go back to the comforts of wearing t-shirts and cut-offs, and threw away my thrift store finds. That was three years ago.

More recently, whether I’m riding the subway, watching TV, or thumbing through a magazine, I’m seeing more and more fashionable young men wearing (guess what?) long-sleeve paid shirts. Yes, LONG-SLEEVE PLAID SHIRTS!! The same damn shirts I was criticized for wearing. And you can bet the farm that you can’t buy ONE of these for $8.

In closing, I’d like to dedicate this piece of prose to all of my loved ones who thought I lost my place on the other end of the tipping point. Damn it, even though it may not look like it, I still have the ability to spot (and occasionally start) a fashion trend! You just remember that, every time you see somebody in one of those long-sleeve plaid shirts.

Start passing the jar around, you all owe me $8 and one great, big apology.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…