Avant-Garb Magazine interviewed Isaac Greenawalt ‘19 who shared about conformity, gender, and self-expression.
Interview by Miles Brautigam
Photos by Chris Ritter
MB: What’s in your closet?
IG: I am in a style transition right now, and I’m a little late to the game. I have a mix of some old stuff that’s vaguely preppy, ranging from the Bowdoin-flannelly-bean boots style to women’s cardigans. The feminine garb is growing, while the more conventional Bowdoin stuff is getting phased out. I’m trying to figure out what I want and what I like.
MB: What inspires your style?
IG: I’ve been experimenting with a more androgynous look and feminine style. I’ll wear a beard and some makeup for a classically clashing look. Last time I was at Salvation Army, I tried on some skirts. I was like, “Hm! This could be an avenue.”
MB: Is there a particular item that you consistently wear?
IG: Earrings. When I first started wearing earrings, I noticed that I could have some agency regarding my style, how I look, and how I present.
MB: How has your style changed over time?
IG: I didn’t begin thinking about my clothing choices until the end of high school. In my affluent Boston suburb, people either wore sweats and sports gear or preppy clothing. I started leaning into the preppy look, which consisted of collared shirts and khakis. Once I got to Bowdoin, I noticed that it was cool to wear the “salvo flannel look,” so I started moving closer to that style. Dressing in typical Bowdoin men’s clothing, I felt a pressure to perform “Bowdoin dude,” whereas now with my close friends, I can be more flamboyant, weird and feminine. In the past year, I’ve realized that I can decide to do my own thing and I’ve made my style a more accurate reflection of my personality.
MB: What informs your outfit choices?
IG: Weather, a lot. I try to switch it up. If I just wore a certain outfit, I try to wear something different. When I dress for going out, I wear something a little more fun and free. And of course, I gotta be able to dance.
MB: Do you have any fashion faux pas?
IG: Baggy pants are out of the question for me. Not only do I look bad, but they’re not what I’m going for. This semester, I’ve worn barely any flannels, probably because that item of clothing is so charged here at Bowdoin. Flannels are such a trope of white guy style, especially in art circles. Secondhand flannels in particular. While those were present in my post-preppy phase, I’ve moved on now. But wearing them was a necessary step.
MB: You’ve mentioned earrings and makeup. Is there a place for other new items in your wardrobe?
IG: I’m trying to integrate headbands and bandanas, just to spice things up. Dying my hair blonde last semester opened the door to new possibilities, so I’m thinking about dying it again. I also found it fun to re-appropriate athletic clothing, like the baseball tee and the letterman jacket. There’s a cool aesthetic to some of these pieces, since they’re traditionally masculine items that have bright colors. The sports gear can serve as a jokey allusion to the masculine - feminine contrast.
MB: Why is style important to your identity?
IG: Fashion is an expression of personality, and identity informs personality. In those terms, especially at Bowdoin, where it feels safe to be who I want to be, my clothing is a nice way of letting people know about myself, without having to let it out slowly.
MB: How and why should fashion be discussed?
IG: I think there are people more qualified than me to discuss fashion, and it might mean different things to other people. People should be able to express themselves in any way. If that’s art, then that’s art. If that’s fashion, then maybe fashion is an art form. I think that mainstream fashion can pressure diverse personalities to conform to a certain style. If people are able to play around with fashion and find their own style, maybe they will feel more confident, feel like their truest selves, and feel like they’re being read how they want to be read. If fashion allows that, it’s a beautiful thing.