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Davis

Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The new outfit: living quarters as self expression

How where you live can be where you thrive 

On a normal day, I would awaken and immediately begin thinking about what I wanted to wear for the next eight hours or so. Who did I want to be today? It should be nice out; I could finally break out those new loafers I’ve been wanting to try. Maybe I could pair that with my old Mercedes jumpsuit, I would ponder. Although, on the other hand, there is that blazer I’ve been wanting to throw on for a while…

The love I have for clothes is a mixture of self expression and appreciation — the former scratching my creative side, while the latter soothes the obsession I have for good aesthetics. I assume that many others feel the same way. 

 Overall, I absolutely love getting dressed. Which is why, in the time of COVID-19, I have become saddened. Am I really going to look like an absolute snack, just to get a can of Pringles from the Walgreens a block away? (The answer, as most people who follow me on Instagram know, is yes.) I missed the satisfaction of putting something together that brought me joy, through nothing else but its visual construction. 

In the midst of my woes, I stumbled on the latest Instagram story by Bobby McCole, the owner of my favorite establishment for San Francisco crate digging, Pyramid Records. Whenever I’m home, I try to stop by to check on prices of hard-to-find Stereolab first pressings. I quickly realize I am a baby and have absolutely no money for any of these. Inside the shop, records in blondewood boxes are juxtaposed with ferns and other plants. It is a deeply relaxing, meditative space. McCole himself once came up to me in the shop and remarked, “Those are some funny shoes.”

Indeed they were. I bought $20 white canvas sneakers and sharpied Saint Laurent on the side. I thought it was avant-garde, like Marcel Duchamp. I think Bobby thought it was avant-garde too, but more like the sushi-burrito place that opened a couple blocks away.

In the Instagram story, McCole proclaimed, like Moses on Mount Sinai, that “ROOMS ARE THE NEW OUTFITS. DON’T HAVE AN UGLY ROOM PEOPLE!” I stopped in my tracks, which is quite easy to do when you are fully immobile at home, adhering to CDC guidelines and also practicing adequate social distancing. The man was absolutely right! McCole was no influencer, at least not in the traditional, bothersome way, but the interior of his shop was impeccable. He did, in a sense, influence me to begin thinking of my room as an extension of myself, much like an outfit. 

I started to look around my room, which I had been living in since childhood. Oh God. Oh my god. What is going on. Is this really who I am? 

I didn’t need to live in a Pinterest mood board or a Reddit approved man-cave, but there were some changes I could definitely make. I put up some more posters. I got a couple of plants I began to take care of. I organized all my books and displayed all the old cameras I have been collecting over the years. Heck, I even ordered some room spray, which made my place smell more like Douglas Firs and less like Jewish adolescence. Immediately, I felt better.

The act of re-designing a room is much like curating an outfit for the day — endless combinations with the best results coming only after some trial and error. To stare at a room you want to perform aesthetic surgery on may be a little intimidating, but once you get into a groove, it suddenly becomes clear. It is equivalent to when one you cut something, and the scissors steadily begin to glide. A bit of a therapeutic element is at play here, one that forces you to take stock of what’s important in your own space and what is not. 

There is also, of course, a performative aspect to the room becoming the new outfit as well. You could opt-in for some clever virtual background on Zoom, but the true flex is having a space that you are proud of as your background, one that doesn’t just look good, but makes you feel good as well. Investing in a space, one that you’ll be operating out of for the majority of the time, is not only smart — it’s practical. 

The students of UC Davis are a resilient bunch; I’ve seen this firsthand, from the way we have adapted in our situation to the commitment we have to not letting it defeat us. Perhaps the room, in this snapshot in time, is the oasis in the desert, a small lantern in a tunnel we can’t spot the end of (yet). To give it the same function as the outfit — a self expression, a therapeutic space, an investment — we are only adding to that resilience.  

Written by: Ilya Shrayber — arts@theaggie.org

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