Up-Clothes and Personal: Matthew Brown

Matthew Brown displays his antique Virgin Mary statue.
Photo by Billy Liu.

I have wildly cared about clothing my whole life. From spending hours of my childhood afternoons putting together outfits, to ceaselessly chopping up skirts and dresses to make my own creations, I spent a lot of my childhood thinking about clothing. My identity has largely, and unknowingly, been represented through clothes. Through this column, I hope to showcase my fellow Lawrentians’ understands of clothing, dissecting the nuts and bolts of what personal style is, and seeking out stories about how identity informs style and how the reverse also functions. Style is about so much more than just clothes. It is one of the most visual ways we pronounce our own identities.

 

“I wonder if this is going to be confusing for people,” freshman Matthew Brown stated while posing for this photo holding the closest thing he had at hand, his antique statue of the Virgin Mary. “I have a bad resting bitch face. This might surprise people.”

While Brown might make his way around campus looking composed and put together, he prides himself on making the unexpected appear subtle through his clothing. Brown aims to take the bizarre and to make it commonplace.

“I am into antiquity,” Brown stated while talking about what inspires his style. “I like the look of an antique shop. There are so many different elements of the past at an antique shop. You’ll see one thing from one time period next to another from a different period. There’s a disparity that’s present in this one place and when you put it together it works. And even if it doesn’t, it might be weird or ugly. But I think that’s fun too.”

One of these vintage pieces that Brown loves to play with is his rich, buttery, chestnut brown leather jacket. A little oversized and with overstated lapels, it is very 70s and very dramatic all on its own.

Brown stated, “This is one of the oldest pieces I have. I think I got it before I was 16. I think when I bought it I knew I wanted to find a way to pull it off. I’ve been aiming to live up to the jacket. I wear it if I’m going to a party. It’s something I pull out when I’m wanting to feel special.”

Brown is all about the motives that drive him to wear a specific piece, like his brown leather jacket. His decision to wear certain color schemes, cuts or novelty pieces is rooted in a combination of how he’s feeling and where he’s going.

Brown stated, “I do a lot of periodization with what I wear. So I definitely like to dress for a season. I have a specific look for a season or even a color scheme. But this means that my style can be totally random and based on what I’m feeling. I love big 70s shirts and floral print, but it all changes depending on my mood.”

Not only does Brown’s color palette change in accordance to mood, but he also likes to play with how his clothes look against his hair color. Brown has been red, pink, blue and is currently bleached.

Brown stated, “In January I had my hair bright red. I was trying, trying is the operative word, to do just black and red for a while, which kind of worked. Last summer, my hair was pastel blue so I was doing all pastels. So I really like playing off what my hair is doing. And what my hair does is really representative of what my feelings are. It’s really not very refined, but I think it’s fun, which is what matters.”

Brown’s interest in curating his appearance has been rooted in his long-standing love for how things look. He stated, “I’ve always liked style and fashion and I think it’s interesting how we sometimes take visual things and their beauty for granted. We prefer to look at other medians for stories. But visual things are a form of text that you can read into and there is so much there that you can play with.”

While Brown has been aware of his interest in aesthetic for a long time, it wasn’t until just a few years ago when he realized he could reflect that interest in his clothing.

Brown stated, “I had a uniform in middle school. It was khaki pants and a red polo. It was literally the target uniform. I could walk into a target and people would ask, ‘Are you an employee?’ Maybe that’s why I got interested in style. Just a strong reaction of hating khakis has lasted [with] me all these years.”

From “The Great Gatsby”, to Art Nouveau, to even art museums, Brown draws inspiration from all medians that are rich in the over-dramatics and storytelling. While holding a unique rose-printed linen-y button-up shirt, Brown stated, “That line in ‘The Great Gatsby’ where Daisy is talking about all of Jay’s beautiful shirts really touched me because that’s what I love! I love beautiful shirts.”

In the vein of art museums, Brown has found a specific muse. Brown stated, “This is going to sound weird, but I’ve always idolized the dress aesthetic of older women who frequent art museums. I feel like going there on field trips in elementary school, I was drawn to that look. It was colorful and weird.”

That idea of kitsch is important to Brown’s wardrobe. Whether it be a bass fishing baseball cap or a long button-up shirt clad in ducks and turkeys, which he affectionately calls his “turducken shirt,” Brown stated, “For one there’s this question of what ugly actually is, but also I think it’s fun just to wear something for its shock value. Sometimes it’s as simple as that.”

One of Brown’s other inspirations is his home. Brown currently lives in St. Paul and is inspired by its residential architecture. Brown stated, “St. Paul is definitely an aesthetic influence for me. It has an older charm to it and it has these big 1900s colorful houses. The houses have a lot of colors and intricate details. They have cupolas and spires. They’re weird and I like it. There’s a lot going on. It almost reminds me of an antique store.”

Through it all, Brown’s eclectic, thrifty style is seen in all aspects of his personal style. He is a lover of the luxurious mixed with the laughable, and he finds a way to streamline that mix based all on how he feels.

Brown stated, “What I wear really depends on the mood of how I wake up or last night or what I’m going to do. It’s very consciously about feelings, which I guess makes it not too deep. I guess you could say I might be a very unsophisticated dresser in that way.”

 

If you’re interested in being a part of this project, please feel more than free to contact me at katherine.a.mueller@lawrence.edu to set up a time for an interview.

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