The Man the Clothes Make
posted: December 30, 2006
I met Whitey, age 36, the other day in downtown Manhattan. He's found his home behind the buttons and hooks of century-old clothing, whose constriction he finds strangely liberating.

"My clothing kind of arose out of an anti-consumerist thing. I was always into buying used things and old things and I started to discover really old clothing from the 19th century. It also probably appealed to some sort of repressive element in me, because it's very constricted, so it all came together in a way that I really enjoyed. It also has a meticulousness to it that appeals to me; I really like the way all the different pieces of clothing come together like a puzzle.

"I've always loved uniforms, and this is like a uniform for me; I wear it every day. I played baseball as a child and I loved my baseball uniform and any excuse I got to wear the uniform, I would, even if there wasn't any baseball that day. I was very young, so, at that stage, people would tell me that you can't wear the baseball uniform today, so I wouldn't do it ... but secretly I wanted to.

"I've been made fun of endlessly, and I'm certainly used to it by now. I think in the beginning it was almost like a badge of honor to me, to be made fun of, because, early on, I was very antisocial; I had a very hateful kind of attitude towards society. I would say I very much wanted to be apart from society.

"Over time, though, it's shown me that people are essentially good-natured, I think. I'm impressed by how many people don't make fun of me and are nice to me. It's funny, people would think that I've been made fun of less in the city and that outside the city I would get a more negative reaction. In some ways, that's true: in the city, people are more oblivious. But also, in the city people are more outspoken, so the harshest comments I've gotten have almost always been here in the city and they're more frequent. People in the city are just willing to say it. Outside the city is when I've gotten quiet people kind of come up to me in a quiet moment and say how much they like the way I dress and they think that it's really nice. People really are just interested in connecting with each other.

"Dressing like this brings me a great deal of joy. It’s not like I go home and change out of it, you know. It’s like it’s ... me. I feel right. I feel at home. How I dress feels proper for me. It feels like the expression of who I am: the interior and exterior don’t seem divided. I don’t even feel like it’s an expression of my heart; it just seems like my home. You know what I mean?"

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