Growing up, Brandon Ferderer wore a lot of shirts with his own picture on them.
The 36-year-old Arizona State University Hugh Downs School of Human Communication instructor would get someone to take a photograph of him, and then he'd put it on a T-shirt. "I did that into my late 20s," he says. "If one T-shirt got too small, I would cut out my picture and put it on top of another T-shirt. I loved the way people both hated it and loved it."
Ferderer, who is also a solo narrative performer with past performances at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and other venues across the Valley and country, has experimented with a lot of different looks. They're all part of his day-to-day performance.
"Every time we step out of the house, we're performing our identities to others, and style is part of that performance." Ferderer knows that if he looks totally ridiculous one day, it is only a question of Who am I performing today, and how will people react?
Originally from the small town of Elko, Nevada, he's come a long way from the homogenous fashion sense of the birthplace of cowboy poetry. Living in New York, San Francisco, and traveling to the UK have all been part of his experimentation, and each of these places has served as a place to grab inspiration from.
Ferderer, however, says he still isn't completely confident when he gets dressed in the morning. As a kid, Ferderer wore plenty of sports jackets and hats, and used that as a way to perform in a way that he thought was an "appropriate" masculine style. "When I finally came to the terms that I might not be representative of masculinity, I realized that part of that was a performance of the closeted self."
After he came out, Ferderer found himself struggling and adopting style that was a reflection of what he thought gay culture to be. It wasn't until the last decade that he began to figure out what his look really is.
"I would love to say that I don't pull my style from pop culture, but that would be a blatant lie," he says. "I pull from what's happening culturally, but I have to make it my own. The reason being, here's what's happening in fashion right now, and here's my body type. I have to try things out to see how they fit on my body." Ferderer is a firm believer that anyone can look amazing in anything as long as the clothing actually fits their body the way it's supposed to.
The learning that comes with the constant experimentation in everyday performances is what Ferderer likes most about style. "When we perform our identities through style, and if we're confident, that becomes part of how we engage in the world. You don't quite know how people are going to react, but that helps you better understand what your own individual style is."
What are you wearing right now? I call this look "hipster." I have a love for the hipster, actually. Most people from my generation or older think that hipsters are inappropriately borrowing from previous decades, that their style is not original, and if we want to get academic, a lot like Jean Baudrillard's Simulacrum - a copy of a copy of a copy. I look at it very differently: Instead of borrowing from culture at large, I think they're pulling from multiple generations, so I see them more as historians and collage artists. I think it is an ironic interrogation of the past in a very interesting way. Today, I am "Hipster" because I'm feeling very ironic.
What's the last item of clothing you bought? This Obey hat that I'm wearing today. I feel like hats always look ridiculous on me, but I guess that's part of the reason I buy them.
Where do you usually shop? Clothes are really difficult for me to find, because I'm such a little guy. When I look for professional clothes, I shop at G-Star almost exclusively because their size small actually fits me. I generally buy jeans at HUB, which just moved to Phoenix. I think a good pair of jeans is worth spending hundreds of dollars on. Otherwise, I pull items from places like Buffalo Exchange, Urban Outfitters, or J.Crew.
Name five items every man should have in his closet. 1) A suit that has been custom or tailor-made for you 2) A good hat 3) Lots of underwear and lots of socks for different occasions 4) A good pair of jeans 5) Nice leather boots
What's one fashion trend you can't stand? I just can't stand when people wear clothing that doesn't fit their body. I also don't like Ugg boots, and I have an aversion to flip-flops. Flip-flops are part of the casualization of American culture. In Arizona, they just won't go away. As you're walking to the trash--which is the only time you should be wearing them--take them off, and throw them away.
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Give us a childhood memory of you and clothes. My favorite pair of pants in the first grade were parachute pants. They had lots of zippers and were super fun. I always felt like I was going to get made fun of for wearing them, so instead I bought the ones with different sports teams on them. I could simultaneously wear these feminine pants and kind of be masculine with my sports teams. I wore them once, got made fun of, and never wore them again. I wish they would come back in style because I would rock them.
What is your one piece of fashion advice for Phoenix? Wear clothes that fit you. It is so hard for me to find clothes that fit, so it agitates me when people don't. Pay attention to the proportions of your body.