I was going through some stuff from around 4th-6th grade. In grade school, I loved experimenting with the way I wore my clothes. I wanted to take away from the fact that my family couldn’t afford what other kids at my school were wearing. Constantly picked on because I didn’t have the Jordans, the LUGZ the K-Swiss, the DADA Sprees, just Payless’ finest. Yet I loved watching CNN’s fashion coverage before they went to a trash 24 hour doom cycle. Looking at Naomi, Linda and Yasmeen being gorgeous. I adored feminine dress, I was growing in the era of Tom Ford for Gucci, the Golden Years of Versace and Azzedine Alaia. I tried my hand in embellishing (read: stapling or tying) various things inspired by what I saw McQueen and Gaultier doing on the runway. I shredded a pair of jeans trying to turn them into Old Navy Flares before realizing I couldn’t sew.
(CHEAT CODE IRL: If you’re team thicc thighs like yours truly, Old Navy’s Mens Khakis sorta…kinda…sometimes fit like flared pants. Snug in the butt and thigh, loose in the lower leg.)
I flipped through my childhood sketch pad from my “I wanna be a designer when I grow up” period. It was cute…and badly drawn, but from some of these sketches? I was ahead of the game. I had a line of throwback ball gowns, I mean pages of Michael Costello/Instagram type silouhettes with NBA/MLB colors on the bodice (this was shortly after Mariah’s iconic knicks gown, I wanted throwback gowns to be a thing so badly). After that my main focus was jewel tones. I had a pan-african flag gown with a Queen Anne neckline. I remember the name I had for my line too, a portmanteau of the two nicknames my mama called me as a child. I loved sketching things with ruffles, flounces and gored skirts. Things that people would love to spin around like a Disney princess in much like they do in Posen, Herrera, and ODLR today. All my “models” were brown with an Aaliyah swoop cut.
My clothing and designs became a spectacle to the outside world, things that I liked to do with my clothes were taken away and hidden if they were discovered. Folks gawked at my attention to the fashion world. They saw it at first as novelty, then as peculiar. “Boy, why you drawing dresses all the time,” an uncle would demand. Another uncle would reply, “Well, he sho got that shape right though. M-m-m, body like a COKE bottle, WOO *insert some slick shit about how he likes his nonexistent JET beauty of the week here* ‘das what I’m talmbout.”
“It’s lovely, Jojo, but what about a men’s line, sweetie,” the aunties would say.
School became the god damned Ninth Circle. “You wanna wear dresses,” they taunted and laughed and told the teacher. I went to a conservative Christian school and he couldn’t be like other boys; drawing dresses when other boys drew their wackass DragonBall Z/Inuyasha ripoffs.
“…and Joseph, at the end of the day boys dress like boys and girls dress like girls for the bible tells us so,” Mrs. Who-the-fuck-ever would say thinking she was being compassionate. Angry tears streamed down my face because I was too afraid and obedient to ask why or say and “what if I don’t want to?”
I hid. Covered up what they considered ugly as much as I possibly could. Standard and baggy boy clothes, no more interesting combinations and accessories. No more adventure, nothing that gave the slightest hint of feminine. Just wore whatever plain things mama bought from wal-mart and target. Anything that would make them leave me alone.
Blessed are those who take the chopper to the dream of a soft black boy, for his is the kingdom of Heaven when he ain’t on that punk shit.
PS: Still keeping the name in the back pocket just in case I get a line with HSN or a capsule collection with a dept. store *hits send to the universe*