Somewhere In the Dirt Beauty Resides — SLUMFLOWER, A Much-Deserved Spotlight

via Street Etiquette.

via Street Etiquette.

Two years ago I found myself clueless. I finally had begun to care about how I presented myself, but I faced the daunting prospect of trying to “upgrade” myself without the slightest idea what I was doing. I was stubborn so the natural help from Mom or sister wasn’t often accepted. Luckily for me, I found the internet, and luckily for me, it led me to the guys at Street Etiquette, a menswear blog that has now evolved into something much, much more special.

Street Etiquette was the perfect marriage for a young man soon-to-be heading off to New York looking for wardrobe direction. They were New Yorkers and extremely conscious of the dynamic and individualized trend that was gradually shedding itself of the label “hipster” and more into the label of “this is how I dress. Now you see me as I do”. But what drew me most to them–remember I had the entire internet to choose from, including mega-giants like GQ or Esquire–was the way in which they presented themselves to the world. They were black. Black in a country that often deems one “uniform” as the way all black people dress.

And that uniform most certainly was not the one that Joshua Kissi and Travis Gumbs at Street Etiquette prescribed to.

They drew influences from everyone and everything around them. And it worked. People much more influential than myself also began to take notice, and suddenly the site was winning accolades from some of the most respected designers and editors in menswear (you can the full list in their “About Us” page).

However, even though what brought me to the site was its menswear content, my wardrobe began to fill up. At a certain point, you can’t buy more stuff. It’s too expensive and it’s also a lot of work. So while I still checked back every once and a while, I was becoming more of a skimmer and much less of an active spectator when it came to their posts.

Thankfully, they started traveling.

I assume that with the success, the guys at Street Etiquette just decided it was time to take a break, time to see the world and experience the different influences in menswear in different cultures. For a pair of guys already looking to bridge the gap between boroughs in New York, this seemed like the next step. They went to Berlin, to Angola, to São Paulo (something which made me really excited), and to Thailand, each time adding a new form of presentation in their pieces.

And you could start to see it in their other, non-travel posts. The posts were becoming more cohesive and were telling a story in a much more refined way than they had ever been before. The transformation has been startling, and, as a fan of their work, so exciting to see.

The guys at the unveiling of their editorial, Slumflower. Image by Bee Walker. Via Street Etiquette.

The guys at the unveiling of their editorial, Slumflower. Image by Bee Walker. Via Street Etiquette.

I remember reading through their early posts (like this one about a new Vans shoe) and thinking that, while the design of the site was great, the writing was a little skimpy and the posts were often quite light; thankfully, the content was there, though. They were fun and easy to read, and were presented well, but now pale in comparison to the massive projects they’re undertaking now. To see a stark contrast, look at the feature done with Kevin Stewart, called Black Ivy. The difference in subtlety is startling. The value of their posts used to be their explicit advice and thoughts, but now it’s become something much harder and less tangible to uncover, yet even more valuable as a reader.

That brings me to Slumflower. When I first heard about the project from Mr. Kissi’s tweets, I wasn’t quite sure exactly the endeavor they were embarking on. Before Slumflower, their latest project had been a new line of flannel caps which did not hint at anything like Slumflower. I heard it was a partnership with the mobile photo editor app, VSCO cam, and was even further confused.

But what they produced in Slumflower is dynamite. They unveiled the project at an art gallery in TriBeCa during Fashion Week, one which I had planned to go to, but unfortunately could not attend. There they showcased the entire piece, putting it in an intimate setting where the story and flow of the project could be discussed by those attending, as well as the very guys of Street Etiquette themselves. There they also sold copies of Slumflower, a sort of coffee table book that still managed to capture the essence of the piece reasonably well. The post on their website, however, is where, I think, the guys at Street Etiquette have far outgrown what their mission was when they began the site.

The slideshow seems normal enough, but like with anything from Street Etiquette, the design and simplicity is paramount and beautiful. But what they did which impressed me the most is their introduction of sounds from the street in the background of the slideshow. The usage of noise to create an ambience in which the viewer can almost feel like they’re there with this 10 year-old African-American boy and his immaculately well-dressed posse of grown men. And it becomes apparent now that there has been a serious progression in the way Street Etiquette is improving, and it’s exciting. They now seem to be pursuing the same thing that I so long have been striving for with many posts on this blog.photo 1

Capturing experience.

I could always tell that they wanted to create a sort of “feel” about their work, as in they wanted the viewer/reader to be able to be less of a spectator and more of a participant. Once they started traveling, the usage of photography became much more controlled, and the pictures were accompanied by more descriptive writing. They also began to use videos as a way to make the reader even more active. And now in Slumflower, it seems to be all starting to come together.

The choice of photographs is extremely well-done in terms of their ability to generate that same “feel” and almost embracing ambience. With Slumflower, the guys at Street Etiquette have put together their best attempt at transporting the reader into another world, another neighborhood, or another borough. Everything seems to have been examined and thought out, even down to the usage of sound, all culminating in a well-put-together physical product. And that’s pretty impressive.

Now I don’t know anything about the “artistic world”. I’m studying finance. Come on. But what I do understand is the value of anything that can transmit meaning subtlely, that is, presenting a powerful message, but making the audience figure out what that is. And Street Etiquette is starting to get really good at that, which only makes me anticipate their next work even more.

Finally, on page 32 of Slumflower lies a quote in bold, black letters:

“STOP! AND SMELL THE ROSES.”

Luckily for all of us, the guys at Street Etiquette are making it easier and easier for us to smell those roses, without ever having to leave our desks.

*          *          *

Update: After I put this out yesterday, it somehow managed to make its way to the computer screen of the very guys at Street Etiquette:

(Gotta pat yourself on the back every once and a while..)

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2 comments

  1. Nice posting. Thank you for sharing with us. Keep it up………
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  2. Wow, this piece of writing is pleasant, my younger sister is analyzing such things,
    so I amm going to inform her.

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