Quad Style: May Malone
It's a chilly Friday afternoon in Hyde Park, and second-year sociology major, May Malone, is showing us one of her favorite pieces of art in Chicago - Wyatt's Wall on 57th street. Donning leggings, velcro boots, an orange windbreaker, and a resplendent amethyst pendant, May epitomizes the use of fashion as a political, artistic, and distinctly personal statement. Believing that the fashion industry is in the prime position to radically re-conceptualize conventional notions of gender, May shared her thoughts on the implications of analyzing fashion through a sociological lens, what she wishes she could say to George Simmel about fashion, and why she wants to bring velcro back.
- Closet you would raid: Kanye West's. He helped catapult streetwear into high fashion, mad respect.
- Go-to outfit: Heeled Timbs (sounds weird but is actually classy as hell), a pair of well-tailored faded black mom jeans, this old XL Adidas sweatshirt I found at Goodwill and cropped, and a gold chain
- Favorite trend of all time: pastel pink + chinese-inspired embroidery = fresh to death
1. How would you describe your style?
My sense of style is absolutely eclectic - one day, I'll exclusively be into streetwear-inspired men's sweatpants, pastel pink sneakers, ripped up cropped hoodies, and gold chains; and then the next day I'll be wearing a vintage skirt, knit thigh highs, and an embellished button-up with a Nighthawks print. The fluidity I experience in both my gender and my personality manifests itself in all my favorite looks.
- Favorite store: Etoile Boutique in Orlando, FL. It has a curated vintage collection but also features unique designs created by the owner of the store and a few of her friends. She's the first person who got me to wear clothes my size instead of men's XL's all the time.
- Hashtag that describes your style: #tra$h
- Most important part of any look: confidence
2. Who is your biggest fashion inspiration?
While watching interviews of Grimes, and seeing how effortlessly confident she is in her clashing colors and layers of attention-seeking patterns, I found intentional conformity was overwhelmingly boring. I saw her complete disregard for stylistic conventions and feminine ideals as a guide for self-acceptance and self-love that allowed me to become secure in expressing who I am in my clothing, whether that meant ugly & masculine one day or soft & flowery on another. People thought I was much cooler once I started wearing ultra-vibrant skirts and the wallpaper-like patterns on my dad's oversized button-ups from the 70s. I simply "felt" something when I wore it, and Grimes helped me achieve the confidence I needed to do that. Despite the ever-increasing popularity of individualism, we still follow trends. I think real progress will come when we re-conceptualize "coolness" to be tied up with true individuality, rather than what subcultures one's personality fits best in.
3. How do you view fashion through the lens of sociology, especially with the way that it integrates culture, individual traits, and economic status into how people engage with each other?
Since modern sociological research has been driven by a (rightfully normative) notion of equality in life chances, status has increasingly been laid bare as a construct, with significant findings on enduring systemic oppression. I think Louis Vuitton purses are the best example of how many still feel a materially-manifested need to position themselves in the highest status within society. And the fact that we still believe a bag (with an utterly uninteresting design) can reflect one's status reveals that the social hierarchy still heavily relies upon a material basis of measurement, and therefore a class-based foundation of logic. Society's concerns are revealed by a mere purse, and yet we still haven't reconceptualized personal success to fall in line with healthier values. Shouldn't we be connecting one another's worth and success with the virtues each person possesses, as well as the self-acceptance and self-love and happiness they have attained?
4. The sociologist Georg Simmel wrote that fashion leads to progress in modern societies because it's a way for individuals to either join in or stand apart from the collective. Fashion causes customs to be challenged. As a sociology major, what do you wish you could say to Simmel about fashion?
Although we continue to challenge old customs - however difficult that may be in an age where it seems like nothing is off-limits anymore - we do so as a collective. Despite the ever-increasing popularity of individualism, we still follow trends. I think real progress will come when we re-conceptualize "coolness" to be tied up with true individuality, rather than what subcultures one's personality fits best in, because it would rid us of any idols and, therefore, normative ideals of trendiness and beauty. Reclaiming ideas like self-acceptance and self-love for the forefront of fashion's concerns would be truly revolutionary.
All pictures courtesy of Jaire Byers. View his photography portfolio here.