So I went to the Jason Isbell concert a few nights ago which was awesome! Seriously, if you’re not familiar with his work, I’d begin to question your life choices. A band called The Mountain Goats opened for Isbell and they were… interesting? I mean it’s not every day you hear lyrics like
“Our love is like the border between Greece and Albania”, so there’s that.
Turns out The Mountain Goats have a cool story and have been at the music business long enough to qualify for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but they’re not really my cup of tea, musically speaking. I can’t really describe their genre, though “progressive-indie-nerd-folk” kinda comes to mind-ish.
That all said, The Mountain Goats were all wearing suits and my first thought was that that was really pretentious. There’s really only a few bands that can all wear suits without being pretentious, I think: Lyle Lovett and his large band… most of the E Street Band… maaaaaybe the remaining members of the Beatles in concert together doing Beatles songs? Totes obvs I know other bands do this, but it’s all bullshit, unless there’s a special occasion like being on late night television or something. Further exacerbating my original pretentious thoughts, the main dude didn’t even have his dress shirt tucked and he was barefoot. Alright, dude, you’re just trying too hard now. You’ve already got this odd (and sometimes funny and good) lyrics and you already try to cram too many words into a line in a song; do you really need to rock the “suit-but-can’t-fully-tuck-or-wear-shoes” look also?
So that was a week ago, but as I tend to do, I continued to ponder The Mountain Goats and their suit wearing aesthetic. Ultimately, they’re just trying to pander to their audience that wants them to wear this informally formal attire. The suits are the costumes they choose to put on. Thinking to Isbell’s band (The 400 Unit if you’re scoring at home), the drummer and a guitarist both wore “clever” hipster fedoras. Hipsters I think take a lot of shit for their costumes, maybe more than others. Yes, I said it, it’s a costume you tatted up, bearded hipsters. And it’s totally ok that that is your costume. Fear not, my hipster friends, you are not alone. I think we can all recognize these people:
- Guy who’s a walking Banana Republic billboard
- Guy who still wears sports jerseys in public (read: not to the game or at home)
- Lady that never wears anything but yoga pants, like ever, because they’re just so damn comfortable
- Bro who wears pastel shorts, a polo and a backwards hat
Really, we all are wearing costumes all day, everyday. We’re all trying to blend in to be a part of a group or be identified as one thing or another. Personally, most days I’m in the “nice jeans and a shirt with a collar and buttons” category of costumes.
It gets interesting though when you start to peel back why we wear these costumes. I wrote about this years ago, but ultimately we’re all trying to be uniquely the same. We want to be our own person, but not so much our own person that we aren’t recognizable, because once someone can’t recognize us, we’re outcast and become easily ostracized. There is still too much hate in this world to go too many things alone, even if it’s something as trivial as the clothes we put on.
The vast majority of us are visual creatures, so for better or worse our first impressions of others are what we first see. At the same time, what we clothe ourselves in is oftentimes the first impression we want to give off; it’s what we want others to see. In essence, we want others to know what group we belong to by what we wear. Potentially I’m way off base, but when was the last time you saw someone decked out in all Harley gear that didn’t want you to think they were associated with motorcycles in some fashion?
So while my initial thought of The Mountain Goats wearing suits for their show was overly pretentious, I’ve changed my mind. Wearing a suit with an untucked shirt and no shoes is who is this singer is, or who he wants to be for this moment and I’ll for the most part support him or you and whomever you all want to be (so long as you aren’t a dick about it).
I’ve also posted this excerpt before, but I think it’s appropriate given the topic. It’s from a novel called Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno:
“It would always be a put-on, high school or not, for the whole rest of the world, for the rest of our lives. You couldn’t ever guess who someone was by the way they looked because, good or bad, the way they looked was always just a costume or an act. It was Halloween everyday, for most people anyway, just to feel like they weren’t alone, to belong, just to keep being happy maybe… maybe all you could do was try your best, try not to judge people from the way they appeared to be, I guess. I decided I might try to do that, try not to make decisions about everyone by what I saw because of how small and wrong that was, but it seemed that was just the way my brain worked, that all I could do was keep trying, keep trying, keep trying.”
Keep trying, everyone, and don’t forget we’re all just looking for our own little place in this world to belong, even if that place is like the border between Greece and Albania.