Amber Rose & Vince Staples Made Me Re-think My Relationship to Clothes

The subtle flex and remembering when you wanted what you have now

As I transition from one calendar year into another, I found myself being very introspective, as is expected with New Year’s. There are definitely tangible and more straightforward goals I want to tackle this year, but what I wanted to talk about today is more of a shift in mindset.

2018 is going to be the year of the subtle flex for me when it comes to my style. I wouldn’t say I’m hella extra, but I’ve been known to stunt. I don't think I've been egregious with it, especially as I've come into my own style wise in the last year. Knowing your style and feeling comfortable in it just makes it harder to do so, because nothing feels forced or out of place. But I do want to be more conscious and responsible with what, how and where I wear certain things.

I’ve been binge watching Complex’s Sneaker Shopping series on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it, the premise is having some sort of celebrity or public figure on to discuss their relationship with sneakers and sneaker culture. After the interview portion, they shop for sneakers and pay for it with their own money, I believe. Some of the guests are really braggadocious about all the sneakers they can afford, but others are extremely real and humble about it. For example, when asked if he was always laced up in the flyest kicks growing up, Marshawn Lynch said he was mostly wearing Payless ShoeSource because they were poor and he also had brothers and sisters that needed to be taken care of.

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In Amber Rose’s episode, she starts reminiscing about having the Nike Air More Uptempo in school and how they made her feel like such a baller. Then she looks down and realized that the host, Joe La Puma, has those same shoes on: “You have them on right now!” And he goes, “I literally wasn’t even paying attention, I’m like in the zone.” A few moments later when he asks her opinion on sneakerheads taking to Instagram and wanting to be the first to show off their new purchases, she says that it’s corny and that “Swag is very subtle. Like kinda when I noticed your shoes, you didn’t even say it, but I, like, saw it after. . .Subtle flex is hot.”

Subtle flex. This is something I want to work on, for sure. And I’ve definitely gotten better about it in terms of how I put my outfits together. I make sure to keep everything really balanced and effortless, like the high-low dressing I talked about for my outfit in my occasion dressing post. But sometimes I do end up talking about something I’m wearing before someone else does. Most of the time it’s because I’m just really excited about something, but on occasion it’s probably because I’m excited about it for the wrong reasons. More recently I’ve been trying not to draw any attention to my outfit apart from my own subtle swag. If someone notices some element of my outfit they’re into and seem like they’re genuinely interested in talking about it, I’ll discuss it.

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But what really got me thinking about all of this in a big way is the Vince Staples episode. When Joe, the host, asks him about always repping Converse, his response floored me:

“I mean, it’s like this. My thing with Converse is more of a pricepoint thing. . .I remember once this kid, I had some Jordan 4s, like old as hell, they cracking. . .but this kid was like ‘Oh, what kind of shoes are those?’ And I told him, and he’s like ‘Man, I wish I had those shoes.’ And it made me feel like shit, you know? Like a 13, 14-year old kid. I didn’t want to have on nothing that could make somebody who was considered a fan or a kid that looked up to me, anything, anything like that, to feel like they were beneath me.”

Out of all the episodes of Sneaker Shopping I’ve seen, no one has gotten real like this. A lot of people talk about humble beginnings and how cool it is to now be able to afford the things they used to want, but Vince is still extremely conscious about his position as a role model: “I got some shit, but I couldn’t do that to those kids, you feel me? Because I feel like when somebody sees you and they look up to you, and they need to aspire to be something, it should look as reachable and responsible.”

In an article where he lists his favorite things for QG, he talks about Converse in a similar way: “Converse didn't take part in the music program, but they donated some shoes to it and have been very supportive of us trying to help the kids. It's cool to work with people who care about their consumer. Even if you just look at their pricepoint, it's a necessary pricepoint. I like the 1970s versions just because it's a little more comfortable when I have to jump around at work. But you can always find a 30 or 40 dollar pair of Converse that don't look any different than the 1970s.”

I definitely want to be more responsible with this. I never want to make someone feel uncomfortable or less than because of what I’m wearing or how I’m flexing it. Especially with a 13-year-old sister who looks up to me, my lifestyle and my style. There was a weekend this past summer when we had family in town and I saw my sister two days in a row. The first day she gushed over my dress and the second, over the metallic purple backpack I was carrying. She said, “Ugh, where do you get all your stuff? It’s so cool.” A couple weeks later I gave her my backpack because I knew she’d appreciate it a lot more. And now instead of selling or donating my unwanted clothing, I’ll let her go through them first, because I remember what it was like growing up without a lot of money, only wearing hand-me-downs from my mom’s friends’ kids and shopping at Ross.

To be honest, hearing Vince say all of that made me feel like shit. And it reminded me of all the times I felt like shit walking around Seattle or on public transit dressed relatively well and seeing someone who was dressed purely for function and budget. It’s just a huge reminder that having the time to think about, cultivate and execute on your personal style, is a total luxury.

I’m not yet sure how this revelation will physically manifest as a resolution, but it’s something I want to stay really grounded and connected to this year. I guess it’s really all about remembering when you wanted what you have now. Amy from Vagabond Youth made an amazing video about that and in the video she shared a quote that I’ll end this post with:

“The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them.” - G.K. Chesterson

Diana Le

Diana Le

Diana is the co-creator and Editor-in-Chief of Oatmeal Cardigan. She works as a copywriter by day and moonlights as a texting guru by night.