Growing up, one is always dressing to impress. Only when we graduate from high school, from the need of envy, do we take pleasure in the idea of dressing truly for ourselves – as a form of self-expression.
The absolute form of rebellion is isolation. No amount of obsession with beauty or fashion can resist our nihilist feelings, which grow unannounced. We want to bury ourselves in books in public libraries all day. We want to hide away in cinemas, watching movie marathons. We want to indulge in our me time like there’s no tomorrow.
In one of the most enchanting scenes in cinematic history – in The 400 Blows (Les quatre cents coups), an adolescent, lost, runs towards the sea. The frame freezes, his gaze reciprocating my own solitude. In the film, he is always wearing a black turtleneck sweater; that’s when I realise how the greyscale encompasses an entire world in black and white cinema. Only, white is too bright, and grey is too arbitrary. I came to the conclusion to only wear black: muted, silent.
Black is the human form – in theatre where actors dressed in all black tell stories through lines and gestures. Black is the shadow in the dark – the cultural dress code of young people attending independent gigs nestled away in industrial estates. Black is the weight of silence – for those in grief.
那年頭只求穿一件黑色T恤並不是難事，但要買一件合身且有質量的，不見得有任何選擇，大部分T恤穿一季都會縮水走樣。至2006年買了第一件American Apparel T恤，十幾年來每星期我都是無間斷重複穿著它們，期間American Apparel在2013年正式登陸香港，我才再補購兩件，除此之外幾乎不需再買其他T恤。
Back then, it wasn’t difficult to get by with black t-shirts as one’s wardrobe staple, but finding one that’s fitting and high-quality could prove a challenge when shrinking was almost inevitable. In 2006, I got my first American Apparel t-shirts. I had since remained loyal to my collection, until 2013 when American Apparel launched in Hong Kong and I resupplied. Other than that, I don’t need any t-shirts.
American Apparel後來因創辦人Dov Charney接連爆出性醜聞而被公司驅逐，加上持續多年虧蝕的業績，最終在2015年宣布破產，一面惋惜又一面讓人不感意外。那種故作率性去賣弄色情的宣傳作風總有一天令曾經買賬的消費者厭倦。
Then American Apparel went bankrupt in 2015 after founder Dov Charney’s sexual harassment scandals and after losing money for six consecutive years. It was sad, but equally it was expected: there’s only so much sexual appeal one could squander before consumers got bored.
To consumers spoilt for choice by fast-fashion chains, American Apparel and its iconic t-shirts seem increasingly unimaginative. Despite the company’s commitment to using American cotton or organic cotton only, to manufacturing in-house in LA, and to paying its garment staff thrice the market price, not many people understand the value of a premium t-shirt in a culture that champions quantity over quality.
我所穿著的American Apparel 在經歷無數次洗滌之後，質地依然紮實，一件沒有偷工減料的T恤應有的品質被徹底地呈現出來了，也在衣服的觀念上給我上了重要的一課——衣服作為人的第二層皮膚，還是基本的好，以及只有耐穿的衣服能在時間裡盛載人的想法。
As for my American Apparel, they’re good as new after all these years – and washes; their quality keeps shining through with age. They’ve also taught me something: when it comes to clothing as a second skin, the simpler the better. Those tried and tested by time, ultimately, inspire our meditation.