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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

"Hey, nice pants, faggot!"

My heart froze. There were others around, but I knew the ignorant, hateful and untrue words were directed at me.

Turning, I saw four men, each with beer in hand, sitting on the back of a parked truck. After more jabs at my sexuality, I couldn't help but wonder why my skinny jeans had caused the whole ordeal.

The genesis

It was in second grade when I got my first CD, and from that point on, music was my life. Soon I began playing guitar, often standing in front of a mirror to emulate the rock stars I saw on TV and in photographs. Of course, something didn't look quite right.

But in 1999, while wrapped up in heavy metal from the '80s, I decided I wanted to look like the titans of thrash I so admired. I wanted to change my style for music.

It's a social thing

"Since the early 1900s, music has been a driving force in fashion," said Matthew Turner, owner of Wolfgang Clothing Boutique at 1127 W University Ave. "It's been a huge factor, not necessarily in high fashion, but in what's going on on the street."

Wolfgang's not your general clother, but that was part of Turner's intention.

While the store doesn't cater to one specific audience, groups whose styles are steeped in hip-hop and indie rock music will likely enjoy the clothes, he said.

Turner, who graduated from the University of North Florida with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in music history, said many people are affected and changed by music because they want to express themselves as part of a culture.

While fashions and the music associated with them can help people of similar styles and points of view connect, being different and making a statement with clothes can also prove to be alienating.

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Lauren Ciaccia says she dresses like a "weirdo." The UF journalism junior says people often assume that she listens to weird music because of the way she dresses.

But Ciaccia, who has been a fashion intern with the Denise Williams Showroom and Streeters NYC, who supplied clothing for indie music groups like Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley, doesn't feel that music has a lot to do with the way people dress.

"I think it did a lot more in the past," she said. "When I think of different eras, like '90s grunge, '70s glam rock, '70s punk, '60s hippie, etcetera, it was the music of the time that was literally fueling different movements in fashion."

But she said that another movement is also happening now, with "the whole indie, hipster scene."

Turner agrees, but said hip-hop and street wear, with their unlikely color combinations and unusual prints, are probably the largest movements today in music and fashion's symbiotic relationship.

"Hip-hop culture is stronger than ever, because it has become incorporated in our day-to-day lives," he said. "Hip-hop will probably never die."

Turner also said that music of the different eras all had importance at the time they emerged, but like everything else, died only to be revived later, sans-statement.

The first time a style that accompanies music comes along, there is meaning behind it. But usually, when the style is back, the meaning has changed, he said.

"With punk, it meant they were rebelling and not down with the current state of affairs," he said. "But now if someone is 'punk,' it's pretty much someone saying, 'yeah, I know how to rock this look.' There are always exceptions, though."

Turner doesn't like to label people solely on choice of clothes. In fact he hates labels, but accepts that it's what people do.

"Everyone is different, but that's how we get by - stereotyping other people," he said. "If you see someone wearing skinny jeans with a slim build, you're automatically going to think 'oh, he's an indie kid.' If you see a guy with looser jeans and a hat turned to the side, you assume he's into hip-hop and if you see someone wearing khakis and a Lacoste shirt, he has to be a prep."

While Ciaccia concurs, she believes there may be a kernel of truth in jumping to conclusions about someone's personality.

"It's bad to judge people based on how they dress," she said, "but most of the time you're probably going to be right."

Mission accomplished

I'd almost made it out of the parking garage when the scuffling sounded behind me. My fears of harm were relieved when saw only one guy stumbling toward me.

"What, do you think you're schom kind of rock shtar, or sssomesing?" he managed to spew forth.

I just smiled and walked away, thinking to myself, "mission accomplished."

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