What's “Everyday Aspirational”—A Rant, a Rave!
We can all get the look if we just live a little.
Today on #NEVERWORNS, I’m talking about the idea of “everyday aspirational”. There will be specific pieces and audio interviews related to this over the next few weeks. As always, subscribe and watch the NEVERWORNS channel. NEW EPISODES SOON BTW!
Lately, I feel like I’m truly in a look. It’s like I’m a suburban 16 again, imagining future me, trotting around in a pair of slingbacks, living a fruitful life in a city that is filled with overheating trash—and I love it. Maybe I am indeed in that era of my life. And it’s not like I’m doing megawatt things, either. I’m picking up laundry in low-slung swishy Nike trackpants. I’m having sushi in a pale blue yoga tank and men’s Wrangler jeans—with a tailored waist!—alone at the bar. I’m CitiBiking in a sleeveless chocolate Michael Kors dress that clings a bit too much and fading Louis Vuitton monogrammed canvas mules. And maybe a mule will fall off as I pedal away and a nice man will offer to pick it up. And hey, maybe I once daydreamed about this sort of moment, in this sort of shoe, while looking at the ceiling on my teenage bed. I feel different these days in my clothes. I’m at the point where I feel like I’m finally living and ultimately, wearing.
But this stage has led me to a few epiphanies, some good, some heinous. I’ve struggled with the idea of overconsumption for quite some time even though I buy mostly secondhand, which is 95 percent of my wardrobe. Secondhand—that’s sustainable, right? Sure, but how I’m buying it—much via a screen—is not emotionally sustainable. These feelings, in a diluted way, culminated in an article I wrote for Vogue last week about the allure of a simple shopping bag and the experiences that come with the act of shopping. I didn’t say it as brashly as this but online shopping reminds me of what pornography is to sex. Easy access, a click away, and devoid of any feeling. It’s instant gratification and low-effort. Much of the time and no matter what storied piece we’re browsing for, there is nothing spiritually fulfilling about this click-and-buy era. Where’s the work of physically seeking out an item anymore? There’s no tenderness or memory associated with a click. And that click makes our clothes ultimately feel disposable because there is no work being put in. Also, how many times are we actually wearing these pieces? This is why a shopping bag will always look so good on someone’s arm: You know that they’ve had an experience and were out in the world in order to find that slick shoe or freaky bag.
This act of experiencing is probably why I keep seeing yesteryear photos pop up on social media. It’s always a late Carolyn Bessette stepping out of a car in her annoyingly perfect jeans. It’s a snippet from a mid-’90s J. Crew ad that shows models cavorting on a beach with their shirts artfully half-tucked. It’s a cusp-of-the-millenium Mariah Carey, beaming, wearing her faded jeans with a sheared-off waist, carrying a boombox and walking her dog on the sidewalk. No one is incredibly primped and in a way, they could be anyone doing whatever they are doing. The thing is…these people appear—or maybe it simply feels—as if they doing something. They aren’t making sure every hair is in place, taking a manicured mirror selfie like the rest of us. And the clothes that they are wearing in action are a bit more elevated than usual or have some sort of twang to them. It’s seemingly self-styled magic that can only come with the act of doing.
I include myself in this obsession with yesteryear, too. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not buried deep in late ‘90s and early ‘00s-era editorials, paparazzi shots, or music videos. I’m a sucker for Craig David’s “7 Days” (2000) that shows a bombshell strutting through an underground tunnel as her colorful blouse slightly flutters up to show a peek of her navel. I die for Glenn Lewis’s music video “Don’t You Forget It” (2002) where I see a beautiful woman wearing a killer pair of skin-tight denim flares, carrying her groceries in a brown paper bag down a New York City street. I think a Dockers campaign that I spotted in a 2000 issue of Vogue is one of the most genius images ever created. It shows a woman in capri chinos and her slice of midriff, gazing out at the cityscape while sitting on a windowsill.
It’s because there’s a captured longing. There’s a dream. There’s the potential of living a life and experiencing something in a great outfit. And in some sense, this imagery is close to our realities in which we have to do everyday things, whether that is to meet someone for a date or hail a cab, but there’s an option to do it all in stellar clothes.
I call this whole concept “everyday aspirational”. I’ve seen variations of the phrase usually applied to marketing but I’ve been using the term typically in conversations with my friends as more of how to explain an essence. It’s like when you meet or spot an incredible girl and you can’t tell if you want to be her or are in love with her because her look has that much gravitational force. We want to know where her next destination is. I once went through the late ‘90s candid photos of shopgirls by Stefan Panhans with Mellany Sanchez and she pointed to one girl in the series with a banana clip in her hair and a glimmering watch on her wrist, packing a shopping bag at check-out desk, and said “I want to know where she’s going!” That’s the girl—and that girl is just out of our reach and yet if we had her thong heels, we think that we could very well be her—or at least embody a part of her.
I hadn’t seen an editorial that made me feel something in such a long time until I spotted one styled by Chelsea Zalopany for an issue of Hommegirls. The whole spread tells a beautiful and believable story. In a way, the editorial works because it’s Chelsea herself, a girl who is really out in the world, running all of her errands while looking freakishly cool in Umbro shorts and a Chanel ballet flat. That stylish but frantic, very much lived life is translated into this editorial, which features a bunch of cool girls walking down a New York Street, carrying their dry cleaning, talking through the speaker of their corded earphones, tying their shoes on a ledge, all while subtly wearing great Armani pieces. They could be anyone because they are doing necessary errands and tasks—but look fab in the process.
(I also talk a bit about this in terms of looking great while doing something as simple as talking into a cellphone because there’s genuine concentration involved. Your body just naturally morphs to the task when you’re engaged. And note: You can be in the moment in any look and any style—hell, do it in a ballgown—but you have to look like you really live in that look.)
I was going to write this whole piece actually about Jane Birkin’s beat-to-shit Birkin, which, duh, is the ultimate Birkin. There’s this TikTok going around that shows the actress emptying out her black Birkin, which is stuffed to the brim with papers and who knows. The contents remind me of, like, the briefcase skeletons of a balding ambulance chaser. It’s an absolute delusional mess, as if Jane Birkin chopped a tree herself and then crammed the shavings into this bottomless pit of Hermès. Later on in her life, she covered her Birkin in random tchotchkes, keychains, and stickers. You know this woman was using that thing everyday. Laissez-faire with a side of chic fuck it. Of course, that free feeling is why we love Jane Birkin and that Birkin specifically. She’s in a moment wearing her item! Living her truth. Try bottling that to sell a product. And keep in mind, I don’t care if it is a Birkin, the bag just happens to be one. After all, we don’t want the Birkin, we want Jane.
And that’s everyday aspirational!
Stay tuned for more! There are really great labels and people who are presently channeling this…so I’ll get into that!
You know what to do…