Twenty-five-year-old Maurice DJ Ayodam is wearing a white tank top, a midnight-blue velour Adidas track suit, and a custom Breitling watch — custom because he took it to a jeweler and had the face ringed with diamonds. “Jewelry always catches everybody’s eye first,” he says. “Shoes are just a complement. It’s like having a sandwich. You’re going to see that it’s a sandwich: if you have a lot of ice on [people will say], ‘My God — that’s a sandwich. But okay, he has some meat, he has bacon on it.’ That’s the shoes, that’s all the other stuff.”
If you have a lot of ice on, a lot of diamonds, “they say, ‘Man, those are like water.’ It’s wet.” And the rest of your look can be wet as well — by extension or by association. People might say of Maurice’s sparkling silver Gucci sneakers, “Those are wet.”
“Some people in the Midwest say, ‘Those are fishy’ — even more wet.” He refers to Mike WiLL Made-It’s song “Gucci On My”: “Gucci on my shirt, Gucci on my hoes, nigga/ Rollie bust down, drippin’ on my clothes, nigga” — the Rolex so wet that it drips on his Gucci.
“The best spot to shop is Gucci,” claims Maurice. “They switch their designs up. People want to see something different. Fashion is like art right now. It changes almost every day. People wear something that’s, like, ‘Whoa!’ on Instagram, and it’s poppin’, and it just keeps going and keeps going. Right now, all the girls are going crazy on Fashion Nova; they’re doing a great job with promoting, having all the celebrities wear their stuff.” (Viz. Kylie Jenner, Amber Rose, etc.)
Today, he says, “I wanted to wear something real casual but really loud on the feet because I feel like most people are going to look at the feet first, anyway. When they look at you come casual, it looks like you do it with ease. You make it look like it’s normal, comfortable, like you could eat Top Ramen and walk around the house like that. But the shoes are really meant for going to a big ball or dance, you know what I mean?”
His friend in the Patagonia long-sleeve T is wearing bootlike solid black Yeezys set off with a broad black velcro strap. “It’s a space theme,” explains Maurice. “They look very basic, but they’re not. It’s Kanye West’s brand, really expensive and hard to get to. They’re a little different: people who know about the culture will be, like, ‘I love those Yeezys!’ But with these [Guccis], anybody will look and be, like, ‘What’s going on there?’”
Usually, says Maurice, “It all starts with a celebrity” wearing a particular piece. But with these particular shoes, “I picked something that I could see somebody wearing; I could imagine a star wearing them. So I got them, and later on, I watched some music videos and saw some artists with the shoe. So it was a good pick to get to it first.”
That’s brave. That’s fashion.
“I like to put together things I haven’t seen yet,” says Maurice, “things you probably usually wouldn’t wear. It’s really good to start trends. If you wear something that’s a little odd” — he notes a nearby pair of suede boots, their ankle-length rise decorated with a sizable flying saucer — “people will look at it, like, ‘Oh man, that’s brave, that’s fashion.’”
Not everyone can play the fashion game as Maurice plays it — a sales associate told me that the men’s shoes in the Gucci store ranged between $600 and $700 a pair — but as Trenell demonstrates, everyone can still play.
I spot the lanky 18-year-old from half a block away; he is standing and swaying on the sidewalk outside his butter-yellow apartment building, talking to a friend. Both are dressed in T-shirts and shorts, but Trenell has added an intensely blue three-quarter-length robe that both sways with him and holds its shape. It turns out to be a silk haori, trimmed with black and decorated with white peacocks and dogwood blossoms.
Where did you get that?
“I got it from my dad’s cleanup. He works for a property management company and he goes to cleanups and stuff and he brings stuff home.” Dad also brought him his chunky gold watch.
What did you like about it?
“I like silk. It was more the fabric than the color.”
When do you wear it?
“Random times, mostly inside. When I sleep, when I get out of the shower.”
Anywhere you wear it, you’re going to be seen.
“I don’t really wear it like that. This is my first time wearing it out and about.” And on that first time, it got noticed. That’s brave, that’s fashion.
Maurice’s brothers taught him how to dress; he describes the style as “designer. That’s what I wear. True Religion, Polo, Hollister…”
How does a brand get to be cool?
“By being foreign” — though not in the sense of being from another country, haori or no haori. Trenell can’t quite put it into words, but it seems to mean “from elsewhere” — exotic or outside in some way. It’s maybe why he will sometimes pilgrim to L.A. to shop. “They have hella malls up there, clothing stores. People wearing foreign stuff all the time.” It doesn’t have to be name-dropped in a song, or modeled by a celebrity. “Just foreign, period.”
Today’s T-shirt sports the Hilfiger H, and while he’s wearing Nike slides, his standard out-and-about footwear is Jordans. “I wear all Jordans” — different colors for different outfits. “Or sometimes Nike Air Force Ones. Shoes are very, very important.”
The shoes, like the brands, let people know something about him, though he notes that when he meets someone, a peer, the first thing he notices is “their personality.” Still, “sometimes if I look at somebody and they’re not wearing up-to-date clothes…people start laughing, sometimes.”
How often do you have to be changing out your stuff?
“I’d say every year.”