The top 9 (top 10s are so Buzzfeed) things I wish I knew before I made my first suit.
Patriotism demands questioning, challenging, and rising up for what’s right in the face of fear and hate mongering. It demands that we all look out for each other and stand together even when it’s hard — because the consequences should be unimaginable.
A few months ago my friend Jeanelle said the most moving thing to me. We were wrapping up a mentoring program at IHG and she fully changed the conversation to share her story with the circle. You see, she had just started wearing her hair natural. She took a good 10 minutes to explain the baggage she carries as a black woman when it comes to hair. Previous companies at which she worked had specific rules: no braids, no dreds, no afros in their fullest glories. I couldn’t believe it!
Jeanelle went on to say how freeing it was to wear her hair natural but how hard it was to feel like she wouldn’t be judged. “Did you ask your manager?” a colleague asked when she paused for a moment. “I didn’t. I just decided to do it one day. Mindy gave me the confidence to know that I could bring my most authentic self to work just by being Mindy.” In my mind’s eye my jaw dropped to the floor as speechlessness overcame me. That connection that Jeanelle seamlessly made that enabled her to take the risk of coming out of the ‘natural hair’ closet — that is best compliment for which a visual activist could ask.
Typically when Megan and I walk together we hold hands. We were both so disturbed by the events on the way to the coffee shop. So, on our walk home she put her arm around my shoulder and I placed mine around her waist (I’m little). Both Megan and I live by the credo that “Love Wins!” It’s not a short-term solution. It might sometimes feel like spitting into the wind. Make no mistake about it — there is nothing more powerful than love.
My mind wandered in a Fantasia-like fantasy sequence. The patterns and fabrics danced in symphonic harmony. I lucidly dreamt of the custom contrasts in my pockets and vest-backing. Thúy guided the possibilities of my imagination, even building toward our next collaboration. I watched as she jotted down my specifications commingled with her insights from second generation industry experience. I felt like I could already almost touch the fruits of our labor.
About a month ago I visited a Brooks Brothers in Perimeter mall where I was approached by a sales associate whilst browsing tuxedo blazers. He walked over to me and said, “You know, Reese Witherspoon wears our boys’ blazers.” My immediate thought was, ‘Hey, buddy. I’m no rookie here. I got this.’ And then I realized that he was trying to make me feel comfortable shopping outside the boundaries of the women’s section. I immediately self-corrected and thanked him for his help.
For me the mindfulness and artistry involved in the morning routine of putting on my selected bow tie provokes inspiration that a cup of coffee cannot bring.
I’ve found my vessel in Frankie — Master Barber at The Shave Barbershop. Every 3-weeks I stop in for my wearable artistic masterpiece and a healthy dose of inspiration.
As soon as we got in the door, my eyes widened with just the slightest hint of a tear. This was precisely what I wanted to see. We were greeted by two handsome gentlemen who offered their services. Not wanting to be a bother to someone who was unlikely to make a commission from me, I offered the cursory, “Just looking.” So, when Brandon asked if he could get us some water, I was pleasantly surprised. He came back with two fresh bottles of Fiji water and two glasses — pouring us Fiji’s finest.
I recall an evening that began as a dinner somewhere in LA and progressed to a Narnia-like Cuban Speakeasy. That same evening transitioned to an SUV filled with enough passengers for bad car karaoke…
There she stands. Fearless. Defiant. Chest puffed forward with a look on her face that is much more defiant than McKayla’s and much less impressed. Inches in front of her is a plaque that reads: “Know the power of women in leadership – SHE makes a difference.” About a score of feet in front of the girl is the…
Before I leave home each morning — after I’ve garnished my outfit with the right pocket square, lapel pin, pocket watch, etc. — I take a few steps back and face the mirror. I gaze similar to how I used to stare at those Magic Eye posters back in the 90’s. I think, ‘what is the most ridiculous thing that someone can say about me in this outfit?’ “I see a schooner!” It prepares me with a softness and sense of humor to what could have otherwise been a hard and vulnerable shell.
“No, no, no. That’s not it! You have to cross and squat like this, and spread your knees a bit more.” As hard as I tried, I couldn’t do it quite right. My legs simply wouldn’t spread far enough. Megan suspects it is because I am a ‘proper lady.’ I more realistically suspicion my bad knees. We took a few more pictures.
To me, visual activism has been more about feeling and outward expression.
As a kid, I remember a formative incident. I was an awkward tomboy with long hair who frequently carried a purse whilst wearing a cowboy hat — always one to walk my own way. Around this time in my life, I recall sneaking into my parents bedroom. I decided to lay on their bed, take…