Fashion

Coronavirus And the Irreversible Weirdification of Your Personal Style

How the big lockdown opened our wardrobes and hearts to bizarro clothes.
IMAGE Getty Images/ Instagram
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Adam* was a party friend who left London for Manchester a few years back for a career in property development. Adam dressed accordingly: innocuous, well-fitted navy suits for the week, a white T-shirt and chinos for the weekend. While Adam could stay up till an ungodly hour being a real silly billy, his sense of dress was always more pedestrian. So imagine my surprise, then, when Adam recently appeared on Instagram in a tie-dye hoody, DIY sawn-off sweat shorts and, the pièce de résistance of lockdown madness, bleached locks in the finest shade of bottle blonde.

Tom Selleck is my colleague now. Both of them.

Photo by Donaldson Collection.
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A reaction to cabin fever, perhaps, and the fact that Adam's job suddenly wasn't so client-facing. But then I noticed that this is no isolated case. My wonderful colleague Nick—Esquire's normally decorous deputy digital editor—arrived at the party early with a Seventies mustache that might have been lifted from Tom Selleck's top lip. Another Tom, our digital writer, soon debuted his own facial hair, which he revealed while modeling his new boxy, oh-so-Eighties boiler suit. "I've wanted a jumpsuit for absolutely ages, but always bottled it—what if I got tutted at while waiting for the bus, or a mate laughed?" he says. "But I'm not going to be seeing buses or mates soon, so I went for it. And absolutely no regrets. I feel like I look a bit like Derek Jarman, and sometimes like a gigantic toddler. Both are very nice feelings."

Not that he's keeping this transformation to himself. Like Adam, you can find Tom (the Esquire Tom, not the Magnum PI one) flaunting his new lockdown look on Instagram. Risks that would've once been unthinkable are now being taken with reckless abandon – and we're proud of them, a sea of selfies filling feeds the world over as teeth grin beneath newly-buzzed heads and LSD-tinged T-shirts are pulled from boxes in the loft. They're not just a necessity as barbers and stores stay shuttered: they're a trophy. Though the lockdown barrier to working and social spaces can be isolating, it's also liberating. We're not scared of being judged. Onlookers can blame it on COVID cabin fever getting to you. But, maybe, the odd streak is actually just the real you, unveiled via the medium of at-home tie-dye.

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We've long been told of fashion's growing appetite for the left-field. Trends and collections have incrementally got weirder and more wonderful, and those peculiarities have slowly started to nibble at the edges of mainstream menswear. But coronavirus – a situation that has finally told the world that there really are bigger things to worry about – could well be the moment that 'odd' goes mainstream. Who's going to snipe at your outré style choices when there's a virus winging its way around the world?

One could argue that it's just a simple case of letting oneself go, that each oversized tee or sweat-suit set is just wardrobe entropy, a slide into not-bothering. But that ignores the fact that the effort is still there. Getting all dressed up with nowhere to go was, pre-corona, like being stood up at a bar. Now, it's an opportunity. We try banana bread. We try new films. We try new clothes.

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Just ask Armie Hammer. The kind-eyed, preppy boy next door used to look like he'd take your sister (or, indeed, your little brother) for a romantic weekend in which they'd fall in love, ride bicycles and eat peaches till dawn. Now, after his own lockdown makeover, he looks more likely to sell your sibling to Immortan Joe from Mad Max: Fury Road, thanks to a mohawk and handlebar mustache that give off strong marauder-on bath-salts energy. This from an actor who was basically a living Ralph Lauren ad. God only knows what Justin Bieber looks like right now.

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Of course, nobody wants this lockdown. But a saving grace is the madding-up of our wardrobes, coronavirus perhaps ushering in a new age of experimentalism in which the conservative shackles of menswear are finally broken. We're taking risks. We're having fun. And no, they won't always work so well, but taking a leap of faith shouldn't be an embarrassing affair, nor should you hide it from the world. On the contrary, it seems Adam and his merry men are more than happy to give it a show.

This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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