Fashion Folklore is a series of interviews where real people unpack how Fashion impacts their life. This is Patrick's story.
It was a Thursday when I met Patrick, a little after three pm in a vintage cafe on the outskirts of the city.
He rushed inside wearing his prairie skirt and a smudge of red lipstick, placed his oversized jacket on a wooden chair and talked me through his affair with Fashion.
He had just finished visiting his mum; the brown jacket was a gift from her. Patrick remarked that he was so happy that his mom and he were “OK” now, as that wasn’t always the case. For many years, their relationship had been just another fatality in the war fought to “correct” him.
It all started in Highschool when Patrick befriended the most Fashionable girls around and had his mum wondering how a boy could be just friends with girls or care for Fashion so much.
Of all the things she worried about her son becoming, a Fashionista was not even on the radar...
He wore lipstick outside of his room once and a proverbial volcano erupted in his household. Throughout all the trials and tribulations, his love for the art of style never wavered.
Soon after, he snuck a skirt into his closet.
Nobody was the wiser...
The concept of an overbearing parent overcorrecting what they see as their “different” child and having it backfire on them tremendously is by now a long and a tired cliche, and that’s exactly what happened to Patrick.
His dad was passive and mum was aggressive and eventually, it all became too much.
Leaving home was difficult - no money and almost no contacts made for a sad and confusing time. He coped with the help of his favourite pastime - Fashion, but it was a different kind of Fashion than he was used to; it was thriftier, a look born out of necessity. A kind of style that blossoms out of frugality and financial distress and results in something uniquely beautiful.
Patrick went the way of most coming-of-age humans and explored his options, made mistakes etc.
He dabbled with visual arts, toyed with Theatre and landed on Film, all in hopes that the Arts would help him find a creative way of finding his place in the world, and all the long planning to use Fashion as his secret weapon;
“...Film is where I want to be. This is it, this is me… I’ll be one of those ‘commanding directors’ wearing berets and always in black and all serious…”
It wasn’t all fluffy sweaters and rainbow tights; even though Patrick was becoming confident in who he was, there was a whole world around him that was sporadically accepting of his gender-bending style at best, and hate-crime-worthy at worst. He adapted, creating looks that suited the roles he had to play.
When facing the unelightened world, he left his skirt hidden in his closet and grabbed whatever the most appropriate hetero-normative outfit was, which was usually a polo-shirt and worn thick-cut jeans.
Funny enough, he couldn’t afford to get rid of his old shoes for quite some time, and they were plastered in glitter. He was youthful enough to pass it off as a fanciful piece of artyness, but during that period, his shoes were a reminder of the double-life he led...
The hetero-normative uniform was a crowd pleaser; he was friends with everybody and nobody suspected a thing.
As the thrill of being accepted faded, he concluded that he didn’t like the protagonist in the movie of his own life, so he decided to make some script changes...
He realized that he was not being true to himself, following this reasoning, he emailed the only authority figure he trusted (his Professor at Film School) and admitted that he was living a lie. Honesty was the way to go, he felt, and he needed to make at least some changes that reflect that, for the sake of his mental health.
Soon after, the professor enthusiastically replied and insisted that the correct thing to do was to come out in front of the whole class.
Patrick obeyed and didn’t realize the grave overstepping that occurred until a third party pointed it out much later; his teacher had exploited him emotionally in return for virtue-signalling points.
Standing in front of a group of your college-aged peers and making a spectacle of yourself in regards to things that you aren’t even sure are true is an awkward, nuanced and traumatic experience, and it’s one that Patrick unpacked for years after.
Initially, after the event, Patrick was shocked and confused, but in the agonizing months that followed, those feelings gave way to a deep depression that eventually caused him to have an acute psychotic episode.
Eventually, he woke up in a hospital. Sitting there in a lifeless white gown, Patrick was told that he had gender dysphoria. He told them that he had no desire to be a woman; his gender identity was fine, he just liked wearing… well, whatever he wanted. “No”, the nurse corrected him, “you’re just confused.”
By now, you might be starting to see a pattern…
Although obvious in a retrospective narrative, Patrick had to learn these lessons the hard way; he had to learn, for example, that if you don’t tell people who you are, they’ll tell you, and rarely do they ever tell you the objective truth.
Just as the myriad of inorganic wardrobe changes reflected the tumultuous nature of Patrick’s internal struggles, so did his eventual addition of authentically expressive accessories represent his coming to grips with his place in the world.
As he grew to understand himself, he slowly let the world know too, through his favourite medium - Fashion.
So, after all this, you might ask yourself; what is the correct thing to call Patrick?
Well, if you really need to know; it's Patrick.
Read more Fashion stories here.