Off-Trend: Winter | Varyer

Off-Trend: Winter

Dear reader,

Much love to The Cool Kids, they shifted streetwear and hip-hop for me.

I never wanted to be the guy you talked with about fashion. Growing up, being a guy interested in fashion meant you were gay, and I wanted no association with anything that could be mistaken for gay or feminine. So, instead of developing a personal style, I used fashion as a tool to survive unnoticed. I went for the trends. Everything from the colored skinny jeans and the Nike SB Dunk to the Hollister T-shirts and Levi jeans. Fashion became my social currency. In high school, I figured people wouldn’t realize I was homeless if they liked my outfit.

Throughout the years, my fashion has shifted as my environment has—but it became both my armor and my prison. I started to feel a sense of obligation to perform for the world. And six months ago, I had my final curtain call: I woke up one morning and realized I didn’t like my life. Then, I realized that I could change that. And the first step was breaking free from this monochromatic prison I had built for myself. I wanted fashion to liberate me, not hold me back.

Much love to The Cool Kids, they shifted streetwear and hip-hop for me.

The winter of my freshman year, I understood that I had great taste and style because I would manage to get a fit off, even when we didn’t have heat in our house that winter. My grandmother told me once, “Just because you have less, don’t accept being treated less than.” That has been stitched into my subconscious. I owe my sense of style to my grandparents, Stephanie and Edward. My grandmother Stephanie was a creole darling from New Orleans, and grandfather Edward was your typical stubborn-Southern gentleman. And their meeting in Chicago in the 70s makes the most sense, now that I think about it. Chicago has the perfect balance of Southern charm and street: it’s white Nike socks and black loafers; it’s celebrating both Fat Tuesday and Eid; it’s balance.

Style isn’t something you purchase—it’s meant to be felt. Have you ever walked into a room and felt everyone's eyes shift in your direction? Now, have you ever seen someone in your exact outfit? I want to make it clear: you do not need money to have style; fashion is a tool. If you don’t take away anything else, please understand that, and if anyone tells you otherwise, they’re trying to sell you something you can’t afford.

[How do you want to live in the world?] [How do you want to live in the world?]

How do you want to live in the world?


About six months ago, I asked myself this question to arrive at this answer—and started making drastic changes, seemingly overnight. Knowing that I wanted to live free, I applied that same framework to how I approached fashion, still as a tool but as a tool for liberation instead of a device for defense. The first day I felt liberated and truly free in an outfit was during Pitchfork Music Festival. I’m not sure if it was the Sativa I smoked on my walk over from Soho, but I entered Union Park as HIM. It was my second time at Pitchfork, but my first time alone and alcohol-free; I was slightly nervous, but I was finally starting to feel free within myself, and I wanted to show myself off. I wanted everyone's eyes to shift in my direction when I entered people’s peripherals. I wanted to feel desired, strong, and have a sense of purpose. When people looked at me, I wanted them to know that I belonged—and that my presence was intentional. And that was the energy I carried the entire weekend. Not only did I feel desired, strong, and had a sense of purpose, I felt free. And if we saw each other during P4K weekend, you know what I mean.

Take this as an invitation to dress for the life you want.

The Routine: The Uniform

  • Black Comfort Suit

  • Black Loafers

  • White or Gray Nike Socks

  • Blue Beanie

“I love [the] fall, but I hate winter.”

I would say this anytime the weather drops below 50 degrees. Now, I embrace the winter by planning. I dress like it’s a breezy 70 degrees, with added layers or 5-minute Lyft rides, because I don’t want to lug a coat around. Fashion doesn’t have to be [a] pain if you’re a planner. Fashion is my swiss army knife; it’s the one tool people have access to. I start my day around 4:30/5 am and end my day [hopefully] around 10 pm. I find myself all around Chicago’s various neighborhoods in between meetings, studio sessions, coffee service, and general hot-boy antics. I need an outfit that can transform and transition as my environment does. I’ve learned to stop dressing for the world and dressing to live. I need comfort, edge, and structure in my clothing. If I don’t have all three, I won’t buy them. Also, I hate shopping . . . because online shopping is weird to me; I like to feel things before I buy them. After all, I have to wear them for 12+ hours.

About four years ago, I fell in love with the Mr. Porter Post. It was the perfect combination for me as a lover of print and of beauty. Because of them [and my dear friend Liz Monroe, formally Chanel Beauty Manager], I started thinking about my skincare routine, media consumption, and food consumption more intentionally. I started permitting myself to have favorites and go-to's, and it felt good to develop life routines; I began to feel local in the world.

This season, I want to prioritize balance in my life. I want to thrive in business and pleasure. I want to drop some coins on vintage [and] designer while also paying $15 for a merch shirt. Also, I want to root publicly for people. I’ve felt alone this past year, which I don’t experience often. In hopes of building a stronger community, here are some folks and brands that are a part of my lifeverse.

The Build: The Edit

Kizer Edit: Heavy Face Oil, Peppermint Lip Butter, Cedar + Pine Beard Oil, Tea Tree Cleansing Oil, and Jasmin Rose Skin Drink. ✨

Scratch Goods: Dove soap was my skincare routine growing up. As a kid with eczema, getting ready was a hassle; even as an adult, it is still a hassle. However, I understand my triggers; I didn’t even know food was one of them. I stay far away from anything artificially scented. Mo of Scratch Goods; showed me the importance of clean products and quality control. I didn’t even consider what was in the products I consumed. Now, I can’t eat it; I won't use it on any body parts.

Goody Vault: I do not enjoy spending money on clothing, but I don’t blink at the thought of an overpriced Michelin-star restaurant.

However, after following Buchi, Ethan, and Jae, my relationship with clothes shifted. I’ve always loved beautiful and well-made clothing, but I was still stuck in survival mode when it came to purchasing. When Manny of Goody Vault followed me on Instagram, he provided a version of “Ivy” with which I could connect. As a curator, mender, and entrepreneur, he is a big inspiration behind the notion of dressing for the life you want to live. Goody Vault is the perfect balance of workwear and Ivy–it’s Black Ivy.

Kizer Edit: Heavy Face Oil, Peppermint Lip Butter, Cedar + Pine Beard Oil, Tea Tree Cleansing Oil, and Jasmin Rose Skin Drink. ✨

Existing in fashion, photography, and coffee has been such an interesting journey. Honestly, I’m very into it. One day, I hope to open up a gluten-free bakery, but until then, I’ll drink coffee.