Joshua Jenkins (@callmefag) had just eaten lunch at Lula Cafe.
What was the idea behind your outfit?
I love wearing black! It goes well with everything and it’s easier to complement with a bunch of neck, ear and wrist candy.
How has your style changed from last summer?
I’m slowly challenging myself to be comfortable showing more of my skin. Last summer, I basically wore black skinny jeans, button-up shirts with loud prints and blazers. I still appreciate an eye-catching print, but I have a better grasp of how to style it now.
Your website—thesetstandard.com—is about your struggles as an outcast, and your efforts to make current societal standards change. What role does fashion play in that endeavor?
Fashion is a huge component of blurring the lines between “normal” and “abnormal” and eradicating the prejudices and fear society holds toward people who dress to their heart’s content. I’ve never viewed my style as a “statement”—I merely enjoy what I enjoy.
When the CEO of my company interviewed me in San Francisco, I wore long nails dressed in black polish, a pink sweater and wide-leg tweed pants. I was so grateful that my work ethic and personality superseded the fact that I was wearing “women’s” clothes. Denying someone a job, an opportunity, or hell, even a conversation because their clothing is too loud or challenges the “blue is for boys, pink is for girls” ideology perpetuates hatred and ignorance. I’d rather surround myself with fashionable and intelligent “weirdos” than someone who won’t hold their wife’s purse because they don’t want to “look gay.”
You also mentioned you’d like fashion to be gender neutral. Why?
Gendering fashion is a way for companies to market and sell products based on stale sexist ideologies. A man’s briefcase has the same purpose as a women’s purse, but brands would never risk confusing or making their customers feel uncomfortable by interchanging the names. Chinese and Japanese men used to stain their fingernails different colors to signify their high status in society. Egyptian men wore black eyeliner to reduce glare from the sunlight and wore heels for ceremonial purposes. We’re making strides in today’s world, though—did you see Jaden Smith’s feature in Louis Vuitton’s Summer/Spring 2016 womenswear campaign? Stunning. Fashion isn’t who you are as a person or what you can bring to the table—it’s about taste and aesthetic. No one has any right to control that.
Who are some of your style icons?
Prince and David Bowie pushed fashion boundaries until the day they died. A homeless person recently asked me for money while walking down Milwaukee Avenue. I told him I didn’t have any cash, to which he looked me up and down and exclaimed, “There’s only one Prince!” Best compliment ever.
In an ideal world what would you be wearing every day?
A crop-top t-shirt, a fur coat, skinny jeans, black pumps and a pink clutch. Gold jewelry is also a must.
—Interview and photograph by Isa Giallorenzo.
Journalist Isa Giallorenzo was born in São Paulo, Brazil and has elected Chicago as her beloved home since 2009. She runs the street-style blog Chicago Looks and wants to see this town become one of the fashion capitals of the world.