I've been telling myself that I need to get out more. After all, it’d be impossible to cover Lagos or anything at all for that matter if I didn’t leave the beautiful nest of Mama and Papa Afam. They have a truly spectacular home. I am a happy guest. I imagine that in a month or two we’ll be bickering like a couple of of sister wives, but even that seems attractive from where I’m sitting. You bicker with the people you love. It’s when the bickering stops that you should worry.
I spoke to my friend and colleague of sorts Denola Grey about it and he invited me to a talk he was giving. He didn’t say much about it. I didn’t know what it was about, who it was for, or who he would be talking to. I left all of that up to fate. It seems a little unwise now, but if things weren’t clearer in hindsight, I would be in dire straits indeed.
As luck would have it, it was a workshop about style and confidence called the Woman Within. When I saw the title I cringed a little inside because it seemed like something tailor made for transexuals. It wasn’t. It was a workshop about style and confidence put together by Anka.
It was so good a listen that I decided to write about it.
Style and Confidence: The Afam Perspective
They used to tell me at school, that I dressed well. Back then, how you put a look together was nothing compared to the brands that provided the pieces. Fubu, South Pole and Sean Jean I wore them all. If it fit, I despised it. I do not know if I was a moron, or retarded, to not see what I was: a skinny to the point of illness youth, swimming in fabric so voluminous that anyone would assume I was the owner of a bend down boutique down the way.
I was 14 before the situation improved a little. Fubu gave way to Gap, and South Pole settled for Marks and Spencers. There wasn’t anything to it. I grew tired of the durags and baggy clothes that I thought made me look like an insane vampire with severe skoliosis and understood that there were benefits to be had from looking like a daddy’s boy. I wore the clothes he bought me with fastidiousness, and when I asked him for money he would smile at me with a look that said, “that’s my boy!” At this point in my life, I had all the confidence of a slime. A sharp word from anyone would have me in pieces. Underneath all of that, there was a little boy inside. This guy was hilarious. He loved to read. His choices of books weren’t wise or clever. If there was a book, he’d pick it up and be finished with it within the day. Some like Lolita, made him feel devious, and others like Artemis Fowl, he read because the idea of an scheming Irish genius who had a talent for annoying fairies was very grand indeed. He lived shorts, mismatched socks, and sandals. There were a few odd shirts that he loved too, and he wore those till they crumbled.
Things changed again when I was 17 with a pair of shoes. Papa Afam got me boat shoes from Timberland. I loved them, and the way I wore them showed it. They were surprisingly durable and adaptable. It should come as no great surprise to you that I’ve had at least one pair at any given time since. As I write this I have three, although two are in serious need of replacement or surgery.
Those shoes saw me through my A-Levels and with them came some new additions. A bucket load of shirts, a pair of damn good too expensive jeans, a discovery that shoes without laces were better than shoes with laces, and my first sweatpants. Everyone of them had a story: where I bought it, who gave it to me, or who I stole it from. And that added to my story. My clothes carry with them a bit of my history they show to whoever looks at me. They are friends of sorts. I keep them about me for as long as I can, and mourn them when they have to leave. Some of them only last a season, even fewer of them last a half dozen seasons, and some of them you pick up once a decade and it’ll be like they were always there.
When I dress up, I am a slave to myself. It doesn’t matter that I look like a clown, It only matters that I look like a clown I can live with. Reading this you may think that I don’t obey dress codes but that would be wrong. I observe them as fastidiously as I can, but even then there’s only so much I can do. If the theme is hip-hop from the nineties, I will not wear a durag or a bandanna or Timberland boots. Everyman must have a floor. Those things are beneath mine.
For someone who dresses as simply as I do, a lot of thought goes into what I wear. I do not believe I’ve ever simply worn something because it looked good.
After a quick shower, I pulled on a burgundy t shirt from H and M, tucked them into a blue pair of Topman trouser joggers, and rolled them up. I have never really explained why my trousers are often cuffed just above the ankle. It is a habit that is borne of two things. In the first instance I despise the thought that anything could crawl up my legs and destroy my treasures of manhood. In the second, it’s an affirmation of purpose. If the day feels like one of the ones where I’ll be active, running up and down town as I build a life and a business, my trousers will be rolled up and I’ll be wearing trainers. I stuffed my feet into my black Nikes, grabbed my blue ralph Lauren receding hairline protector and left.
I didn’t care about how I looked. I didn’t stop in the mirror to affirm myself. I didn’t need to. When you dress like yourself there’s a confidence to it. You don’t ask for the opinions of friends, you don’t fret and fidget with your sleeves. You just are. This is the most important thing.
After 26 years on this particular planet, I know more about who I am, than I ever did. There is no way in this life that my clothing choices won’t reflect this. Of course there are situations and moments where even with all your quirks and eccentricities you must conform. However, I don’t mind these, because at the end of the day, I am not the clothes on my back or the brands I can’t afford, I am myself.