“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce”

March 28th, 2012 by | Tags: , ,

“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce” is something Young Jeezy said on his hit song “Put On” with Kanye West. It’s probably my favorite color-related punchline. Yes, that is a category in rap, and yeah, dudes like Young Dro have raised color-based wordplay into an art form. (Sidebar: “The platinum is grey like grandpa/ Spray the Chevy all kinda sour apple colors/ Diamonds up in my charm look like pineapple suckers” aYO!) I could explain this line, but it’s easier to show you these images I got from this guy’s site:



“Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce.” I live for that sort of thing. Anyway.

Back when I was young, black, and depressed in the early 2000s (yeah, big deal, ya big dummy), I spent a lot of time wearing two things. Video game t-shirts, because I got them free from both my GameStop job and my “write about video games on the internet” job, and shirts in varying shades of black. I didn’t wear black because I was all wrapped up in the idea of being sad. I wore black because I was basically lazy. (Same reason I wore the game shirts, too.) Black matches everything, it looks nice longer than white does, and… well that’s about it, honestly. It’s a versatile color.

But if your closet is full of black shirts, some with funny jokes set in Helvetica or involving ampersands, guess what: black is awful boring. When you add in the fact that my shoes tended to run toward dark browns and blacks, I figure I was looking double terrible.

So part of my ongoing attempt to become an actual grown-up is expanding my personal palette. Black is probably always going to dominate — black hoodies are the best hoodies, especially when they have little details like blue interior trim and a small white logo, and my black Polo Rugby with the big skull is never not going to be my favorite shirt — but there’s plenty of room for me to add some sauce into the mix. To experiment, to broaden my horizons, to wear actual colors instead of just being as lazy as I can be when it comes to clothes shopping.

I’ve been thinking of my ongoing wardrobe expansion primarily in terms of colors and color combinations. The specifics of the clothes isn’t that big a deal — as I’ll discuss in a later post — but the colors are what’s most crucial in my mind. You can’t tell if a shirt is a polo or a tee at a distance, but you can tell that it’s bright blue or ugly orange.

My first move was to figure out what colors I didn’t want. I’m open to whatever colors happen to be present on a shirt, but the dominant color is what I tried to pay attention to the most. I’ve never particularly liked orange, and yellow tends to be way too bright for how I like to look. And honestly, yellow needs another color for it to work for me. Lakers gear is a good example of that, and so are the Blue Angels. I could probably swing pink, but the problem with that is that I don’t really like pink as a dominant color, either. As a flourish? Sure. Dominant? Nah. I love it when I see somebody rocking a garish pink, though, like they just got beaten up by mob of angry Lisa Frank binders, though. That’s a statement.

I do like reds, though, like you’d see on a Bulls or Hawks jersey. I like basically every shade of blue, too, from so pale it’s basically white to navy to sky blue. Green is pretty okay, but not a favorite of mine when it comes to clothes colors. I love brown, too, usually a deep, fall-y, 1970s detective suit-y brown. My oldest pair of shoes right now are a pair of brown Nike Ace 83s, and they’re my official beaters, something to wear when I’m feeling lazy or making a quick run somewhere.

“Wow, David!” you’re thinking. “You like brown, blue, and red? You’re soooo brave and progressive. Should I give you my phone number and hotel key now or later?” Shut up.

I made a conscious decision to branch out, too. I want to rock some things I’ve never rocked before. I want to blaze some trails I’ve never been down. So I decided to pick a color I don’t usually get down with and figure out how to run it. It took about one second to eliminate orange from the equation (I guess I really hate orange). I flipped through some fashion blogs to look for inspiration. (I reblog the stuff I like sometimes.) I don’t remember what I saw, but I eventually decided on purple.

I’m not really a purple type of dude. It’s one of those colors I decided was for girls when I was a kid, because young boys think stupid things, so I sorta wrote it off. But at the same time…purple is a Lakers color. Purple is my grandmom’s favorite color. It’s a royal color. And if I’m uncomfortable with it for stupid reasons… I might as well get comfortable with it for good reasons. I might as well own it like I invented purple.

It basically took buying one shirt, this lavender polo from Old Navy, to turn me around. I like polos in general, and this one forced me out of my comfort zone shortly before depositing me in another. It looked nice when compared with my skin tone, and oh man. Oh MAN. Why didn’t anybody ever tell me how well purple and black go together? A stiff black and a deep purple is crazy. It looks SO good. On me, of course, but also on other people, I guess.

I’ve expanded a bit since then, mostly buying purple shirts, but my favorite purchase is probably this purple Nike web belt I picked up for twenty bucks. It’s varsity purple, according to Nike, and in the same range of purple as the Lakers logo. I think purple jeans might be a bit much, but shirts, watches, belts, shoes, jackets? Yeah, I’ll do that. My next purple grail is this Jordan Brand Varsity. It’s mulberry, but it looks like the exact purple I need to match this belt and the details on my Chris Pauls.

The other half of this color thing for me is how colors work together. Wearing a new color doesn’t mean anything if it looks stupid. Mixing and matching colors is fine and fun, but I’m really fond of what I’ve been thinking as “spot color.” I’ve got a black suit, and I like to have black suit with a black shirt, and then a white tie with white kicks. Or black jeans, black shoes, red shirt with black detail. All black everything and then a purple belt or white kicks. Building up a shape with items that are the same (or similar) colors and then a splash of something else for some flair. Creating a visual style that has a certain level of flash.

I like clothes that are solid colors, or feature one color above all the others. Not exclusively, of course, but just as a matter of general preference. It lets me get away with the spot color thing pretty well, in a way that a shirt that’s grey on blue wouldn’t. I still own way too many black shirts, too, and I don’t want to ditch them. How do I make them look better? By making whatever colors are on that shirt stand out by being conscious of the rest of my clothes, all the way down to my shoes. I’m all no show socks everything (almost, I keep tripping over ankle socks when I do laundry), so socks don’t really matter any more.

Picking colors was another fashion choice that I made and then decided I felt good about. I’m wearing and contemplating wearing stuff I normally wouldn’t, and my wardrobe is looking nicer accordingly. I’m going to Emerald City Comiccon this weekend, and I briefly entertained the thought of going all purple and black everything. I’ve got the wardrobe to pull it off now, but I feel like it’d be a bit much. I’m probably just going to pack a couple of purple-oriented outfits for Friday and Saturday (I already know exactly which, in fact) and then match the rest of what I have to wear to whichever pair of Air Force 1s I decide to pack and how the weather’s looking (rainy).

It’s a nice feeling to get up in the morning and go “What do I want to look like today?” rather than grabbing jeans and a shirt at random in the dark and trusting that everything’s gonna match. Versatility and diversity is crucial.

(I donated all the video game shirts to charity.)

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6 comments to ““Insides fish sticks, outside tartar sauce””

  1. I went all-various-shades-of-green-mostly-logoless shirts for a while when I was mixing up tees and button downs and whatever. Now I’m a slacks-and-button-downs-at-all-times guy, no color restrictions except what goes with the slacks. Which tend to be black slacks, brown slacks, and a pair of khakis that are worn to PJ-softness for when I’m half-assing putting myself together on the weekends. I was combing my hair pretty slick for a while too, while keeping a beard (still have the beard, can’t be buggered to comb the hair).

    At the ideal, I look like I escaped an unfufilling teaching position in the 50s and picked up Communist leanings on the way.

    For me, the origin was two-fold:

    A. a kind of “like trousers, like mind” thing: I’d just gotten my first big boy job, and needed to de-slack (as in slacker; so I de-slacked by wearing slacks, I guess). Commmiting to a look is like a warm-up for making effort, first thing in the morning, if you’re the right kind of vain. I am, mostly.

    B. a kind of Paul Pope thing. Pope dresses like a character design, but makes it look effortless. I like when people are…I don’t wanna say “unreal”, but slightly fictional seeming? Like they stepped out of something not-boring? Without it being a too-desperate pose? Like, wearing cat ears in everyday life is a pose, and I consider it a weak one. Dressing like you stepped out of a (hip?) comic is cool. It’s very arbitrary, but whatever.

  2. as a punk kid, the majority of my wardrobe was also black shirts, of the band variety.

    after getting bored with the same baggy skulls n bands-with-Death-in-their-name shirts i now find my favorite shit to rock is neon yellow or forest green. this article sorta parallels my own journey out of the All Black Shirt Hole haha

  3. I can’t figure out brown. As a very young kid in the late seventies, my first flash of good taste was to hate everything hippy-esque. Earth tones, bell bottoms, all of it. Which required serious effort to avoid at that age where mom takes you shopping and pretty much picks out, and pays for, what you’re gonna wear. Hated brown clothing (on me) with a serious passion. (Beige/khaki ain’t so bad; I mean brown.) In recent years, I’ve had to admit that it does look good on me, better than a lot of colors. I still think brown is too laid-back for me. No one ever got ahead in the world wearin’ brown. So now I own some brown stuff.

    But I can’t wear it. I mean, I am utterly unable to determine what shades/colors go with anything brown. Messes me up every time. There’s simply a hole in my otherwise solid ability to assemble an outfit. I’m just gonna stop buying brown stuff because it’s too much hassle and frustration, and at best I’m still worried I look dull.

    Separately, I really like Josh’s comment about “slightly fictional-seeming,” and “like you stepped out of something not-boring.” THAT could be an interesting wardrobe challenge for me to take on …

  4. If you like purple and you’re for the cause, Service Employees International Union has some pretty with it gear, union-made in the U.S.A., of course.

  5. I wear mostly black shirts but I like to mix it up with different color cargo pants and white or blue Nikes. Then I have other outfits that I’m sure don’t match at all because I’m color blind…and because I give exactly 0 shits about how the colors I wear look generally.:smug:

  6. @Don Delgado: Thanks man, I’ll keep an eye out.

    @joe.distort: Green is awesome. I don’t quite have it figured out like I want to yet, but I own a few green shirts. Ha, actually, the one shirt I own with a splash of orange is a green shirt with the grenade from the Invisibles in bright, garish orange on the front.

    @Josh: Yeah, the line between coolguy and tryhard is so tough. I feel like Lady Gaga and Lebron James are tryhards, but Dwyane Wade and Kristen Bell always show up looking like coolguys. Very not-boring and distinctive. Maybe less so in Bell’s case, but I remember really liking how she was showing up to premiers a while back. I worry that I might one day tip over the edge and suddenly have to hate myself!

    And yeah, you’re totally right on how it’s related to effort. Clothing is language, too, and learning that language has other effects, not the least of which is changing how people react to you and creating new opportunities.