A Bunch of Virgins with Mum’s Credit Card - A Conversation with @ThrowingFits on Internet Fashion Culture
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Our world is in constant progression. Either you stand still and naturally transform into a resentful elderly, complaining about anything transcending your conservative view on reality, or you accept the truism and aspire to adapt to the occurrences of modern times. The latter alternative probably seems preferable in the end. Still, and one has to be fair here, choosing the first option is relatable and even quite understandable. Humans are likely to seek order, the known, things that eventually asserted themselves as good and desirable. In contrast, we fear chaos, the unknown, and things that haven't passed the test of time yet.
It's hard to blame those tending to indulge in the nostalgic beauty of past time memories, especially because it's not easy to keep track of the accelerating shifts of cultural circumstances. Who claimed everything new to be necessarily better than its precursor? Indeed, plenty of the past's commodities remain as valuable and worthwhile as they once used to be. Forgetting about them can even imply a critical loss accompanied by a sense of disgraceful ignorance. Nevertheless, there is arguably nothing more annoying than nihilistic old folks ranting about the tragedy of the present's evolution. Thus, preserving what's worth it and applying it to an ever-changing context should be humankind's norm to look into a promising future.
Rightfully, this introduction sounds very pseudo-philosophical or even swotty, and both of these accusations may be accurate. Still, it surprisingly describes the essence of a conversation on internet fashion culture with two "grown dirtbags" spearheading a community of "fourteen-year-old virgins with mum's credit card," also known as the ThrowGang. If you haven't guessed it yet, we sat down with James Harris and Lawrence Schlossman, the founders of "the only podcast that matters:" Throwing Fits.
Undoubtedly, the internet, specifically the emergence of Social Media, has largely disrupted our everyday manner of interaction and congregation. Regarding Street Culture, today's exchange of shared interests probably doesn't occur in front of stores, clubs, or the streets but rather in Reddit threads, Facebook groups, and the Instagram comment section. Furthermore, the latter has become the industry's leading communication tool, utilized to eagerly market the "next big thing" to an unprecedented number of people. Accordingly, due to exposure to nearly everything "moving our dicks" we're in the constant temptation of mindless consumption.
Furthermore, we tend to like communicating our latest purchases to receive the love we're desperately looking for in real life. Concisely speaking, the famous phrase "we buy shit, we don't need, to impress people we don't like" x 1000. The ongoing insanity is hilariously depicted by the usage of memes, illustrating the stereotypes of the modern-day fashion interested guy, or in the words of James and Lawrence: the "Jawnz Enthusiast."
Here we sit down, discussing the pros and cons of Social Media, the journey to adulthood, and the possible impact of the Metaverse on human culture. (Apparently, all these subjects link to the only things that matter: "Jawnz.")
What initially made you develop an interest in clothing?
Larry: "It was an extension of other subcultures that I was into when I was younger. I was probably more like a tourist, whether that was the post-punk scene in the area that I grew up in or skateboarding.I was never good at playing the bass guitar or good at skateboarding, but I was very much drawn to how the people in these communities dressed, the uniform that they wore, the codes that applied to what you could and couldn't wear, meaning good brands and bad brands.This planted a seed that blossomed into a love of clothing as a hobby in itself where it didn't need another community necessarily attached to it. That was when I was younger, but now there has been established a community around that instead."
James: "For me, it was just growing up in New York: Going to different neighborhoods, seeing people attached to certain subcultures, and watching what they're wearing in the streets, in clubs, in skateparks, etc. You'll recognize like: "Whoah, this is different! These guys are dressing and acting differently."It's an immediate way to associate (with a particular subculture) or express yourself through your external appearance. Now it's hilarious to see OG's that are like: "Ugh, before the internet, you had to really explore (these cultural occurrences)!" I think that's reflected in Sneaker Culture as well, but it is cool to see that Lawrence and I are building this community where kids from all across the country can help each other out via a discord server and educate each other about different brands or stores.For example, OneBlockDown could be mentioned to some guy from Iowa who has never heard of an Italian store.I think it hasn't really changed the medium from like walking around and seeing shit with your eyeballs to now accessing this community online."
But how do you feel about that? Because back then there were physical venues, and now there are Twitter threads, Reddit threads, Facebook groups like The Basement, or Instagram comments. How do you feel that it's now rather a digital experience instead of meeting people in the real world?
Larry: "There's Pro's and Con's to it for sure! It's awesome that it's so much more democratized, and everyone worldwide, regardless of the circumstances, can connect over the shared interest. The Con is that it has degraded some of the heart and soul that comes with that stuff. That comes with touching garments, having a conversation with someone in person, and walking into a store. So, it's a double-edged sword, but I personally wouldn't have it in any other way! I'm not aiming to be some old-head hater that's like: "BACK IN MY DAY!" That's fucking corny, and James and I welcome everyone into the ThrowGang with open arms!
James: "You can't knock it cause that's just how it is now. Sure, it has democratized it and opened the gates by taking down any entry barriers. Like with anything, once you make something accessible, you're going to get a bunch of cornballs crying about it but also a lot of kids that can get access to the thing that they didn't have before because of geographical locations or socioeconomic status. Now they can realize that this is their thing! And guess what, the cornballs are always going to flip and eventually get the fuck out of the scene, and that's fine!"
Let's talk a little about the whole "Instagram Meme Culture" subject. Obviously, memes are hilarious, but there's always this dark, truthful notion about them, like in every good joke.When you have a look at meme pages like @meme_saint_laurent, @cumdegarcons, or the ones that you guys post frequently, you stumble upon recurring themes like the guy who's wondering why no girl is attracted to him though he spent a fortune on his boots or the one who cannot pay the rent because of his excessive consumption behavior.
They depict men who seem highly self-conscious and desperately try to get any attention by posting fit pics on Instagram. Do you think this is the ugly side of the cultural shift through Social Media?
James: "Yeah, I think there's insecurity in obsessing about or being concerned with your external appearance and trying to communicate to the world primarily in that way instead of just being secure in your internal self. Honesty, I don't think our entire audience or the entire men's fashion community are virgins with their dad's credit card, but definitely some of them. I think it's born from a place of self-deprecation or self-awareness, which can be healthy. But if you truly are a virgin that is spending the rent money on clothes, then you actually need help, and I'm sorry, a meme page isn't going to help you."
Larry: "At the end of the day, the purest way to think about this world is this idea of the pursuit of personal style so you can enhance all these other elements of your personality. So you can live the best life possible! Obviously, this would be the absolute mastery. It most likely won't ever be the case. I want to think that because of Instagram and flexing culture, some of that pureness I mentioned earlier continues to be lost every single day. I believe that James and I, if nothing else, hopefully, do exist to continue to remind people of this pureness and goodness that can come out of: "Yes, caring too much about what you look like and spending too much money on clothes doesn't make you more or less happy!" This pessimistic idea to the meme is mostly true. Still, it doesn't invalidate the good foundational potential about this whole culture."
But what you certainly have to do is to reach for it eagerly. The problem with the internet is that there is a lot of democratization, and hence, plenty of information that can certainly seem overwhelming to young people especially. Thinking of that popular TikTok saying, "you wanna be this, but you also wanna be this, etc." I get the impression that it's even harder to find something like a personal style. On one day, you're into all the gorp-core stuff, and on the other, you decide to go full Rick. It seems even more complicated for kids to find their personal identity as they are exposed to so many compelling options.
What do you think about the apparent complexity of seeking individualism due to overwhelming information?
James: "I think by going through your own wardrobe, you'll realize there's too much fucking shit. Once you've reached a certain age and we're older than the average age of our audience, you will feel like your wardrobe is completed. I'm not even shopping anymore because of that reason. But there was a particular trial-and-error process to it. For example, I may have acquired six mohair cardigans throughout my lifetime but eventually only stuck with two that I still wear. And I can tell that I fucked up with these other four, but that's just what you have to go through. In the end, it's learning what you actually like and care about. It's so fucking corny to say, but it's a journey of fucking up by making lousy buying decisions. If you're looking at old photos of us, you'll see that we were trying things of the moment that were definitely not lasting.
Now, well, I can't speak for Lawrence cause he still tries trends that will be fucking stupid tomorrow, but I settled and built a consistent, personal sense of style. I think that's the ultimate goal as it now allows me not to be too reactive to occurring trends and pay attention to the things that eventually move my dick. So now, I'm getting rid of more stuff than buying new clothes."
At the end of the day, it seems to be just natural. It's growing up and learning who you are, so you probably won't spend your whole life in this vicious cycle of mindless consumption."
Lawrence:"Yeah, definitely, you have to ask yourself who you're doing it for. Why are you buying something? What is the real reason? If that is that you really wanna experiment, that's fucking dope! I love to do that, even if James made fun of me for that a few seconds ago. I love to try new things, and I love trends. I don't see them as a dirty word.
With that said, there is also again this idea of who you're doing it for? Are you doing it for yourself? Are you doing it for other people? Are you doing it for internet validation? Let's also be clear: There's a lot of good stuff out there, but there's also a lot of bad stuff! There is the idea of developing your taste level over time and not just blowing money for the sake of blowing money. It's about thinking critically about how you want to get dressed, why you want to get dressed, and how you put outfits together. It's self-awareness, after all. You should just be honest with yourself."
James:"Also, if you might have a jawn that just sits for a year or two, you will suddenly dust it off one day and realize that it perfectly works with the stuff that you're trying to pull off today. It's like fuckin Tetris! It's like, wow, I have this jacket that I've never come to wear, but now it just goes perfectly with these pants. So your sense of style will most likely fall naturally into a cohesive entity, and the garments you buy are not necessarily a one-off attainment. Things from years ago work with current things and vice versa, and you can go into your pre-existing wardrobe and do new things with stuff that has already been sitting there."
What advice would you give to today's young people who encounter the fashion community and consequently struggle with the pressures and temptations that almost naturally come with it? Like obsessively trying to keep pace with the zeitgeist by buying into specific groups, for instance.
Lawrence: "It's about balance, man! I think that Social Media is a huge part, maybe too big of a part, of the modern existence we all find ourselves in. You gotta learn. It's nothing that you will figure out necessarily overnight. But you hopefully will someday. I feel like many people struggle with Social Media and the pressures that come with it because it is a process, and maybe some people even need to get off, but in the end, it's just about finding the right balance.
James: "I cannot imagine being 20 years old and just starting adulthood with Instagram and Twitter and everything. I guess if you're exposed to something, and it condenses, you have to fail and fuck up as you find out what works for you and who you are. Hopefully, through that failing, you will recognize the difference between what has been told you is cool and what it actually is that you personally think is cool. So you're not blindly accepting what is given to you. At least, that's the hope! I don't know! The thing has become so ubiquitous; I'm sure some people do just get overwhelmed."
Lawrence: "What a young person needs to understand is that Instagram or specifically Fashion Instagram, the Jawnz Enthusiasts, that is a vacuum! That is not real life! That is an augmented reality that is not where you truly exist. So if you can acknowledge that fact and step away, you might learn a lot about yourself, about your taste level, your personal style, etc. But you gotta acknowledge that fact. That is the main lesson young people need to remember."
James: "And going back to the original point of this conversation which is the fashion meme. I think a lot of memes come out of our frustration with the way that the fucking Instagram world works. Like: Instagram shut up, brand shut the fuck up! Everyone just relax! Take a pause for a second and realize it ain't that serious and also a pretty absurd world that we all exist in. Ironically, these dumb memes are almost a reality check on virtual reality."
We have already mentioned, that the negative side effect occurring because of Social Media is that cultures and brands can suddenly lose their heart and soul due to overexposure to the masses. Like what arguably happened to Sneaker Culture, for example. It makes it hard for subcultures to naturally emerge without brands stepping in the conversation, seeing the creatives as a mere commodity. What could be the next subcultural disruption that changes the narrative in pop culture without it being a mere commodity marketed by big companies?
James: "If you get the answer to this question, you can sell it to some brand for a million dollars. I think there's, due to Covid, a great return to the physical, the tactile. I mean, the retail experience in New York right now is fucking garbage! Not only because a lot of places have been shut down lately, but also because a lot of department stores focused too much on trying to serve everyone. There are still some retail spaces offering an experience, a hub, an activity, or even a community. It should be more about something that you can actually do, instead of just sitting in front of the computer and simply hitting "buy." You know, when I travel, I go to a cool store and ask the people working there about what's going on in the city and where you should go. Cause those are the guys that are tapped into what's happening there currently. So it should be beyond clothing on the racks and more interactions. We (as ThrowingFits) would like to do more in the physical realm, but it's tough as we're a fucking podcast."
Still, I think you as opinion leaders already make a valuable contribution to that by explaining to people that this is the ultimate beauty of this culture. Yesterday, I listened to your podcast with Nigel Cabourn. It was utterly inspirational as this wise old man passionately talked about his travels where he was trying to track down particular pieces. So, in the end, there's more to the conversation than just buying something online, receiving it eventually, and being happy for a week or buying digitalized art in the form of NFTs like a digital Hermés bag for 5000$.
Lawrence: "Regarding that, there’s this idea of just not participating in that. Being like: "That shit's dumb, so we're not even thinking about that!" Even though the NFT discussion has come up a lot in the podcast as it represents the zeitgeist, specifically in the fashion world, where brands figure out a way into the Metaverse, make even more money, and milk the future fucking dry. Lastly, it's dumb as fuck, and I gotta say I rather have an actual 5000$ Hermés bag!"
James: "I think with this Metaverse shit, it distills it down to the purest capitalist aspect of clothing, which is just the transaction and ownership. But then, the optimistic extension of that could be the attachment of experience to ownership. So, for example: If you were able to collect all these tokens, NFTs, etc., you'd get the opportunity to go to Milan and tour the Massimo Osti Archive with Lorenzo Osti himself. That would be awesome! When we talk about this with our artist friends, their main critique is they don't like it because everything looks bad. And the reason why it looks bad is that the reason behind buying a fucking ape is making it to a silly social avatar. You want to make it as bright and eye-catching as possible cause that's where you're exhibiting your identity and your signal to the world. So that's the reason why it seems so garish and bright right now because it's tied to Social Media. I don't know what the future of it is! It is obviously a blank space. As we're talking about not shitting on what's current and what's future, while we're getting older and more settled in our ways, I don't want to have a solid take already. But the way it looks and acts right now is just a perverse capitalistic transaction, and that shit's fucking doodoo!”
Thank you very much guys, it was a pleasure having you!
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