Dear Philly: Why Do You Hate My Clothes?

They’re not that weird. Seriously.

things in my closet philadelphians hate

See? They’re not that weird. | Photo by Alixe Wiley.

It was a Friday after work, and I was meeting an old friend from high school whom I hadn’t seen in years. We were catching up over cocktails at a bar in Center City, deep in the thick of boy drama and family happenings and scandalous things that high school acquaintances have gotten into since we were 17, when I felt someone caressing my back. “Is that fur?” I heard a slurry voice way too close to my ear ask. I turned to see a frat boy past his prime and his crew of drunk dudes snickering. They’d obviously weighed in on how this interaction was about to go down. Drunk Dude #1 was still pawing at my fur vest and slightly perspiring, when I shot back in my most cutting tone, “I’m sorry, are you touching me?” He was the third person within earshot to make some comment about what I was wearing (but the first to cross into personal bubble territory). I’d been there for 20 minutes.

I didn’t always dress like this. I would have dropped dead in high school if you told me I’d one day show up to a bar in any kind of fur, let alone wear said fur to work on a regular Friday. A boring wardrobe will happen to the best of us after 16 years of Catholic school and growing up in the ’burbs. (How to tell if you fall into this category: Mint green skinny jeans are about as daring as you get. I know, because that person was me.)

When I started working in Philly after graduation, everything changed. City-dwellers, it seemed to me, could get away with wearing basically whatever they wanted. Crop top to work? Sure! Crazy platform Doc Martens on a casual Tuesday? Go for it! There are no judgments in the City of Brotherly Love. So I began curating a collection of clothes that actually suited my personality: Choice vintage pieces, plain Jane basics, and cool statement accessories to spice things up. I was in a city where no one really knew me, so I felt finally free to dress how I’d always wanted.

However, it turns out urban anonymity works both ways. Sure, I can wear whatever I want, but passers-by are just as entitled to judge away—and they sure do. I’ve come to find there are three things in particular from my closet that cause a lot of shade to be thrown my way every time I wear them. They’re not even close to the most outlandish things on earth (or in my closet), and no, I’m not one to walk around tee shirts with offensive sayings.

  • Embellished pants: People in this city love to hate on cool pants. I own one pair of black sequin pants that, for being completely covered in sequins, are actually pretty tame, and those vintage white silk pants pictured above. Every time I wear either of these, it’s guaranteed that some stranger sarcastically calls out “Nice pants”—as if I’m walking around in a mummers costume, trying to act normal. Did I mention it’s always a random man who has something to say about what I’m wearing?
  • Fur vests: The people who hate on my furs aren’t even doing so for moral reasons—the least-savvy person could tell from a mile away that they’re faux—yet I still get shade every single time. It’s like there’s a tattoo on my forehead that says ‘Harass Me,’ inviting weirdos like that guy in the bar into my life, or (my very favorite), one guy on the street who referred to me in a passing yell as Urban Goose. URBAN GOOSE.
  • Booties that aren’t your standard black/brown/tan: Philly people don’t discriminate when it comes to quality, I’ll give them that. Whether I’m wearing $22 red crushed velvet Chelsea boots from DSW or Dries Van Noten floral booties with iridescent stitching (definitely more than $22), I get many a side eye. Do I think I’m Lady Gaga or something?? No, but people on the street seem to think I fancy myself something special because I like a cool shoe. Those two pairs always get a furrowed-brow stare at the very least, and a “Well there’s some shoes” at most. Sigh.

The confounding flip side to this Philly clothes-hating phenomenon is that whenever I leave the house looking sloppy (say, on a Sunday-morning-hangover-food run), no one bats an eye. Or when I wear something absolutely kooky, like a stiff-brimmed felt hat that looks like it’s straight out of Amish country, nary a dirty look flies my way. WTF?

Hate it or not, Philly, I’m still going to keep on wearing these three things. Because sparkly pants and fun shoes and furry vests are not meant to live in the deepest, darkest corners of anyone’s closet. Urban Goose, out.