This is a rather odd novel about a Filipino migrant who moves to Manhattan and meets a Polish model, Olya and partners with an Arab neighbor, Ahmed to build a fashion name while dating some rich college student. The stories seem to be retold from a Guantanamo Bay-esque detention and interrogation center. At first I imagined that the author was making fun of this Filipino migrant, constantly correcting his misattributed, misspoken quotations or thoughts and the funniness in his ways, but then I looked up the author and it appears the author is a Filipino. Funny how that works out. Now it becomes more endearing than insulting. The narrator named Boy also befriend his two prison guards and starts relaying stories to one of them in addition to his FBI interrogator. The novel splits apart the American experience at the height of its greatness with opportunity, romance, and dreams coming true with the now more modern American experience of paranoia, imprisonment, and lack of liberties.
The novel starts out interesting with Boy ascending the fashion world of Manhattan, but it just drags on too long, and I got bored. I started wondering if he would ever get out of the detention center. Nothing is more boring than reading about someone in a prison. This is why people in prison read books about things other than being in prison. Even the story about him building his fashion name becomes boring. I had to skim the second half of the book. Maybe it’s because I’m getting over my sickness, and I’m just restless and want to go out and do something.
To avoid making this a short review, I’ll include my views on men’s fashion. I used to go through all my sisters’ fashion magazine, not because I was interested in fashion, but because I wanted to see photos of half-naked women and nipples. It was like a slot machine. Every time I turned the page, I’d usually get a fully covered woman, but every, say 100 pages, I’d get a half-naked women, or a woman in lingerie or bikini. Jackpot! While I tried as much as I could to keep this habit a secret from my sisters, I am sure they eventually figured out what I was up to. I don’t know why they stored all their fashion magazines like books and would ever go back to reference any. Fortunate for me then. The only one time I slipped up was when I took one magazine to the bath and it got wet and wrinkled. I dried it out as much as I could, but it looked corrupted and I stuck it right back on my sister’s shelf. The fact that the most damaged pages were ones with a model in a lingerie was beyond incriminating, yet the idea of throwing it away was out of the question. I was a perv not a thief. Well, as it turned out, flipping through perhaps tens of thousands of fashion magazine pages had the unconscious effect of actually educating me about fashion.
I’ve occasionally fantasized about being a fashion designer, but unfortunately, it seems that for a guy to enter this profession, everyone would assume that he might be gay. And discrimination goes both ways. I read a book about dancers and the awful way the gay male dancers would harass the straight male dancers and make them quit. Of course, gays have been treated much worse than they treat others, but still, if you’re a straight dude and want to be a fashion designer, well, good luck. The problem I have with today’s male fashion is that it’s too feminine or asexual. The trend is skinny and tight, and it makes guys look like boys with narrow shoulders and tiny legs and limbs. There has to be compromise. While you can arguably take sex out of fashion, much of fashion is sexual. Our appearance is not only functional for motion, fighting, and eating but also for sexual display. In nature, it is mostly the male gender that has the most interesting displays. So why shouldn’t male fashion be more exciting? I’m not talking about sparkling suits and iridescent pants. I’m just talking about interesting stuff that accentuates masculinity. One idea I have is an alternate of the man-purse, the man holster. Something loosely slung over a belt in a triangular shape. Our minds are already prepped to accept gun holsters on the side of belts, so it’s not too much of a stretch to have a wallet that somewhat looks like a gun holster.
Men’s fashion, at least the popular representation by the major labels, is also utterly boring. I’m not saying add leopard print suits, but there is so much that can be done with patterns and textures and fabrics. The rise of H&M and Forever 21 indicates that there is innovative youth fashion that is not being represented by the big fashion houses. I think that corporate popularity is shrinking in every sector and this includes fashion. In the future, if not today, youth will associate Nordstrom and Macys with their parents fashion sense, just as Levi jeans fell out of fashion because kids realized their parents were wearing Levi jeans. Right now, youth can’t even afford the big fashion names, but even if an economic boom occurs, I still don’t think youth will care for Prada, Boss, Fendi, Calvin Klein, YSL, etc. I think they will say that such big brands are dinosaurs, relics of an age when everyone thought and dressed the same and watched the same TV shows on four channels and ate TV dinners. Future fashion will be much more ephemeral, personal, and constantly evolving so that things actually don’t go out of fashion, they just never become popular, people will just always look different to one another. There will come a time when we will have 3D printed garments, shoes, and accessories, and they can all be recycled so people will be constantly changing their appearance, not year to year but hour to hour. Garments will be able to change color and reflective abilities. (Probably an innovation initiated by the military.) I just think that the 20th century was all about everyone trying to look and think the same way, and it was all one big huge mistake and misanthropic spasm, and in the future, we will return to a more natural state, and our fashion will reflect this with extraordinary diversity and creativity.