That would have to be the knitted sweater.
I have a large number of knitted sweaters, but because I wear them so frequently, they soon get worn out and I throw them away. None of my sweaters are spectacular or outrageous, they’re all kind of moody and muddy coloured. I think I have about twenty that I wear regularly. Some of the ones that have holes are among my favourites.
The colour scheme of my sweaters is more or less dominated by navy blues, browns and dark greens. There’s a certain kind of nerdiness to the wearing and owning lots of knitted sweaters. Like a son who has lived with his parents for too long. It has something to do with the need to have a uniform but one that can vary. The idea of the update is vital. A lot depends on what I wear underneath one of these dull sweaters. My collection is easily made more interesting when combined with T-shirts and buttoned-up shirts. Then there’s the whole idea of tucking in sweaters. I kind of like that too. Tucking in a sweater fits the nerdy stereotype but there’s also something hooligan-like about it. I like my sweaters kind of short, right up to the waist, showing a belt buckle or my wrists.
When I was an art student I picked up a book from the library called ‘Jong!’ (Young!) which gave an overview of youth culture in the Netherlands starting in the early ’60s. JOHAN VAN DER KEUKEN’s pictures from ‘Wij Zijn 17’ (We Are 17) were featured heavily in the book. One picture showed a young black guy holding a trumpet and wearing an old greyish purple polo-collar sweater. He also wore skinny jeans, showing a glimpse of his socks. His shoes were plain brown. I often use the memory of that image when shopping, or when getting dressed. I have a few of these pictures that I keep in mind for the same purpose. And in a way they are all kind of similar. They represent a very particular kind of plainly dressed guy. Always good looking though.
A good sweater, often an old worn one, can look really quite sexy. Wearing sweaters doesn’t make me stand out. I don’t expect them to make me do so.
Although I think I am quite sensitive to fashion and trends, my wardrobe or personal way of dressing has not changed drastically over the last, let’s say, ten years. I would not consider it a uniform, nor would I say that I dress according to some kind of dress code. The idea of not having to think about what to wear in the morning seems attractive but wouldn’t suit me. I like to think of dressing up as a way of styling myself. So, all other details — rolling up, tucking in, the socks, wearing layers — are part of the fun of it and are changing constantly. There was a strict dress code at my high school and I was often amazed by the things kids did to their clothes in order to bend the rules and to not get in trouble. That idea of dressing with certain restrictions fascinates me.
In 2011 I spent some months in Cairo for an artist residency and the men there often wore oversized buttoned-up shirts, making the short sleeves reach the elbows. I think that’s a great look, with big wide slacks buckled up to quite high. Again, it’s a certain clumsiness that I appreciate. I also like how the Turkish kids in my neighbourhood wear slim-fitting ADIDAS track pants, although I wouldn’t wear that myself. What I wear has not always so much to do with what I look at for inspiration. Maybe that relates to why I like to see what fashion designers wear when making a sneak appearance at the end of a runway show. They wear things entirely different from what they design for their clientele. I loved when PROENZA SCHOULER’s JACK McCULLOUGH appeared on the runway in bright purple shorts with a plastered leg (Spring and Summer 2007, if I am correct). I still think that’s a great look.
I recently started watching a show called ‘London Spy’ where one of the main characters is a manically neat categoriser. There’s no chance that could ever be me. I am really into precisely folding laundry though. I used to live with flatmates for years and they would let me fold their laundry, which I didn’t mind doing while watching television.
I like the idea of myself as the stylish nerd and my outfit looking a bit hard, as if it was outlined like in a cartoon. I roll up my trousers like any old hipster does and I casually roll up the sleeves of a sweater, just a little. I tighten my belt so that my pants are quite high up; good for the crotch and ass area. I also wear white low CONVERSE or REEBOK sneakers to look a bit boyish or clumsy.