I recently went through a profound identity crisis for which I blame the rest of the world.
The very essence of my unique style were the Ray-Ban Wayfarer shades. I picked up my first pair in 1980 as a respectful nod to the Blues Brothers. Back then, Wayfarers were already an artifact from the past (they were designed in 1952). A rare commodity and an oddity, they were meant to hint at the band’s retro style. By picking them up for myself, I made a conscious fashion statement which was altogether cultish, bold, nostalgic and, for short and if I may say so myself, downright classy.
For thirty years, I have been true to the Wayfarers in good times and bad times, until some sort of death did us part. I claim no merit for the mid-Eighties, when they were kind of endorsed by even bigger men than I am: Tom Cruise sported them in Risky Business (bad movie), they were on Ferris Bueller’s nose, Mickey Rourke was seen wearing them, Jack Nicholson made them one of his trademark looks… There was really nothing wrong with that.
As they soon faded into oblivion again in the beginning of the Nineties, I chose to remain loyal, growing my collection, hunting down rare models, taking a stand. A few years ago, they were so out of fashion that the specific model I was looking for (tortoise shell frames, tan lenses) was found at only one retailer on the entire East Coast in downtown Miami. For years too, I got my fix at bargain prices. Whenever retailers made the mistake of stocking a couple pairs of them, they would soon realize that they not only protected from UVAs but also from customers. By the end of the season, a quick haggling over the price would get me the shades I desired for a fraction of their value. Relieved clerks would see these pieces of fashion history leave their shops on the proud nose of yours truly, who was beaming with satisfaction. I could hear them giggling and muttering, ”Ha, loser!” behind my back. Good for them.
I really held on to my Wayfarers through thick and thin. I ignored the enduring and ubiquitous Aviators, disregarded the many Terminator/Matrix shades spin-offs and the countless – and vulgar if you ask me - Gucci fads. At some point in the beginning of the previous decade, a hipster nephew of mine asked me with an air of genuine concern, ”Dude, why are you always wearing women‘s shades?”
Those were the good ol’ days. Back then, you could spot me on New Year’s Eve in the Times Square crowd by my Wayfarers.
Then, Ray-Ban came back strong with my sunglasses and the Never Hide campaign. Respectable movie stars and tabloid regulars started wearing them again. In the beginning, I didn’t mind seeing younger, better-looking, more famous people than me adopt my own unique style. It was a form of validation or, to say the least, a hard-earned late recognition, thank you very much. But things soon got out of hand.
One fateful morning, as I was heading downtown early on business, a stomping herd of Blues Brothers surrounded me. As far down the street as the eye could see, a cloud of dark butterflies was coming my way, blowing an air of hostile uniformity that only wafts through movies trying to depict totalitarian society crowds. All of a sudden, I was met by a wall of commuters sporting my Wayfarers. And no one seemed to acknowledge me for who I am: the initiator in all this, the original keeper of the Wayfarer flame, the one and only source of what they seem to consider their fashion statement. I felt like screaming: Fools! Can’t you see I made you who you are?
This was a death sentence for my beloved Wayfarers. All through this traumatic moment, I kept hearing in my head a song by French singer, Avril: Be Yourself, Comme tout le monde (Be Yourself, Like Everybody Else). I knew that I could no longer tolerate the universal disregard for the fact that I WAS THERE FIRST, DAMNIT! If my own unique style is to be out of fashion, then everybody is now cramping my style.
Evidence of the utter decadence of it all kept coming fast after that morning. Wayfarers in all colors and materials are available at Bloomingdale’s, Lord and Taylor, and probably at Target and Babies R Us by now. Stinky, yapping teenagers can be seen wearing lime, pink, bright yellow knock-offs of the originals. The desacration is complete. I solemnly declare that, just like the Fonz once did, Wayfarers have terminally jumped the shark.
So, the death sentence was eventually executed three days ago. As I was waiting for the bus, some impossible granny turned to me and squeaked something about the weather. Of course she was wearing my glasses. I immediately cancelled all my appointments for the day and headed for the nearest eyewear store. In a genius – and desperate - move of self-affirmation, I redefined my own unique style right there, right at that moment.
I won’t make the mistake of revealing what I am wearing now, as I am hoping to preserve my headstart and wish above anything else to safeguard my painfully redefined identity against your mindless appropriations. I can only tell you that my new shades look pretty darn cool.
When I am not busy embodying style, defining fashion and calling trends thirty years ahead of your time, I study underground literature and translate French cult classics. I just published my translation of a hilarious (totally un-PC) French book by Jean-Pierre Ledauphin: Make It Big in the USA Just Because You Are French. You can read free excerpts on this blog and buy it on CreateSpace or Amazon (additional samples there).