The great Yves Saint-Laurent was quoted saying, "Fashion fades, style is eternal." I believe that expression through the cultivation of personal style is a beautiful, enriching thing. So I want to start telling the stories of some of my individual personal favorites. And no one better to start with than my very good friend, Marcus Payne.
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Marcus Payne on dance style, societal laziness and black culture.
Nick Buenavictoria Goodwin: What influences your style? What makes you decide what to put on every day?
Marcus Payne: I think a lot of it has to do with how I feel that day. I’ve always thought to myself that I don’t really have a specific style. I’m always jumping back and forth between stuff. So some days I feel more like “urban” and I might wear a snap back and some Timberland boots. And another day I might go more dapper with a button up, loafers, fitted jeans and collared tip. In the dance world, people wear the most ridiculous things. I’ve seen people wear like onesies to class or like the biggest t-shirts ever. And it just works. No one questions it. I think it’s cool. It definitely shows that fashion is whatever you want it to be. I feel like that’s a big part of what allows me to explore different options.
NG: There’s some versatility. It allows you to kind of […}
MP: Just do what you feel. Yeah. I see something and I can make it work with something totally different.
NG: It’s definitely like that across the board in creative industries. I think there’s sort of a freedom because I’m a photographer so I can wear whatever I want, too.
MP: Absolutely. And sometimes I just don’t feel like looking nice. I feel like looking kind of rugged and rough.
NG: [laughs] If I want to look like a hoodrat, I’m gonna […]
MP: [laughs] Absolutely, man. Absolutely. The tone of the day. What’s speaking to me.
NG: What do you see happening in the dance world, trends wise, that you see a lot of?
MP: Tightest pants possible. [Laughs] It’s super weird, it just used to be really baggy clothes. What it’s changed to is bottoms — women will have leggings on, dudes do tight sweats or leggings and shorts — really anything you feel comfortable, but athletic like a runner kind of. And same with what you’d wear up top. People still kind of go with really baggy stuff up top, which I’m definitely into. I really like baggy, big ass shirts. I used to hate them ‘cause I’m skinny and I look like I’m swimming in them. I’ve come comfortable and accustomed to the fact that I’m skinny. The more I start to experiment, the more I’m like, I don’t really care. The dance world though, it’s weird. Lots of hats, too.
NG: I feel like hats are a big part of your look.
MP: I feel weird if I don’t have a hat. Between snapbacks or fedoras or like a newsie hat. I feel like it adds something to the outfit every time. I feel naked without one. Or little accents of jewelry. And even that I only wear like black.
NG: Yeah, you seem to be really drawn to black. And like harsh solid contrasts in general.
MP: I love black.
MP: It goes with anything. It’s a solid color. You can look nice and official in black. Or you can look just mean and ghetto [laughs]. Black portrays so many different attitudes. Jeans-wise, I can’t even tell you the last time I wore a regular color of jeans. It’s all black for me.
NG: I feel like in men’s pants right now, you see a lot of interesting different fits. Every different length of pant is in. Shorter shorts, cuffed shorts, 3/4 style pant, cuffed jeans is cool all the way down to joggers. So many different lengths and fits.
MP: When it comes to jeans and fits, I’m super specific. If they’re not tight enough I can’t stand it. When it comes to shorts, I like the cuffed look. I don’t like loose and flowy. I can’t deal with it looking anything like a cargo short. The furthest away from that possible is good. But, yeah, I can’t do any sort of loose jeans. I think that goes with the kind of shoes I wear with them. If I wear a loafer or a low cut shoe, I don’t want it bunched up around my ankle. That’s why I like the jogger look, too. Such a clean look.
NG: It’s interesting to see the oversized shirts coming back in with the tighter, shorter pant. It seems to be operating at extremes.
MP: Sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a dress with women’s leggings. I can’t lie. [laughs] But even with the bigger shirts, it has to fit right. It’s about length. I can’t stand when people buy clothes that don’t fit them. And generic t-shirts go wider when the sizes go up, not longer. That’s not how shirts should be, it’s got to be longer.
NG: It seems like to get that longer fit, you’ve got to spend more on better brands that understand it.
MP: Oh yeah. Absolutely. There’s nothing more infuriating when you have a large shirt that’s huge on the sides and all bunched up.
NG: Do you ever feel like you second guess your fashion choices because of geography? Is it hard to worry about what people in this area might perceive about certain styles?
MP: Good story here. I have a bandana shirt, which is basically a regular shirt with an extension of a bandana on the bottom with zippers on the side. At first glance it looks like a dress almost. I remember I wore it somewhere and my mom was like, “why the hell did you buy a dress and why are you wearing it?” She was so appalled [laughs]. There are some things that are pretty bold that I’m like, man, this is gonna get me some weird looks. No one has ever flat out said anything to me even though most people here wear things that are more standard.
NG: One thing that I love about fashion is being able to pick and choose from different areas and create something original. I know a ton of people who maybe appreciate style, but they’re really just emulating a look book that a brand made. Do you think that’s something that you do, as far as creating something original?
MP: Oh yeah. Absolutely. And honestly the thing that bothers me is when people I know will be like “well I can’t wear the stuff you wear, man.” As long as you’re comfortable and confident in what you have on, it doesn’t matter. They wouldn’t sell it if someone wasn’t wearing it. Just own it, man. Wear what you want to wear, don’t wear what you think fits “your look.” Then you’re failing. Izod shirts that don’t fit right. [laughs]
NG: [Laughs] Can I get an Izod shoutout?
MP: Shirts that choke you to death and sleeves up to your elbows.
NG: Sorry Izod.
MP: Sorry Izod.
NG: Where’s it going? Where does fashion evolve for Marcus Payne?
MP: I always think about what I’ll dress like when I’m older. I always look at people and see what they’re wearing. Sometimes older guys pull it off. Some older guys just fall into that “typical dad.” I feel like as I get older, my more “urban” years are starting to lessen. I think it’s more about growing as you grow as a man, your style becomes more mature. But that doesn’t mean you have to fit into a box.
NG: I think you can always challenge the status quo.
MP: I just don’t understand why you’d ever want to look like everyone else. That’s not how you are. That’s what’s comfortable.
NG: That’s easy.
MP: I want to continue to push the envelope as I get older.
NG: Why is that perception important? Why is it important for people to think you’re a little bit different? Something from your childhood?
MP: Growing up I always had access to nicer things as far as clothing. My dad was a nice dresser. He wore things like Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole shoes. I remember he bought me my first pair of Kenneth Cole shoes and I was just like, man, these are baller. He wouldn’t let me go anywhere busted. And even when I was wearing the Jordan jersey or the Nike shirts. There were times my mom would try to give me something and he’d be like, “no, it just isn’t fly enough.” Growing up, seeing my grandfather and my dad - I remember one story super specifically they told me about how they don’t get why people dress the way they do today. You look at photos from the Great Depression and they’re standing in lines trying to get food. They have on tailored suits and pea coats. It was unheard of to be walking around looking like a bum wearing sweatpants on a day to day basis.
NG: It’s kind of a sign of the times. People seem to gravitate really heavily to pure comfortability. I don’t get it. It’s just sloppy and lazy. People just don’t care.
MP: Yeah, absolutely. I always used to have this stupid “dress well, test well” thing. If you just put on sweats and try to get something done…if I put on something that I feel confident in you can go get shit done. I feel like that’s part of why society is lazy.
NG: Completely agree.
NG: What about how style is valued specifically in black culture? Talk about that.
MP: I feel like here, for whatever reason, it’s a lot more urban. People are kind of stuck on early-2000s kind like…big, baggy.
NG: How come?
MP: I struggle with that. I don’t know why it is. In black culture, people tend to associate how you present yourself as your status and how you are specifically as a man. But I’ve definitely had black people around here look at my tighter clothes like, what the fuck is this dude wearing?
NG: The extremes, style wise, of black culture seem to be really wide. There are a ton of really forward thinking dudes such as yourself and there are a ton of dudes still wearing cargo shorts and no shows with their J’s. And to each their own, it’s just interesting to see.
MP: The culture that they’re into, that is what you wear.
NG: It seems almost to be going back to being somewhat regional. You see what A$AP Rocky is doing on the East Coast. And you look at the LA scene and see how much Kendrick Lamar - he wears a looser fitting pant, he wears a Nike Cortez, he wears a white tee and a Dodgers hat. He pretty much looks like Ice Cube. Is the midwest kind of lost?
MP: Oh yeah. I’m generalizing, but if someone from Omaha were to go to a bigger city he might realize, well, I’m a little behind with my old J’s. I don’t get it. Maybe they’re just more into the shoes and matching something off the shoes. I used to be into that. I grew out of that. Maybe it’s just people’s unwillingness to grow and explore. That’s my final answer. The reason black culture is stuck in early 2000s fashion is an unwillingness to change. And I hope that doesn’t get some bloggers who write something about me being racist. You can wear it, it’s just not in style.