Loud Clothes and Being Unapologetically You
I’ve been thinking about my friend Stan. Stan was one the most outlandish people I’ve ever known. Fiercely independent, and an artist who worked with chrome. He built sculptures and furniture, his paintbrush was an arc welder. He created the most amazing sculptures from bumpers that have been salvaged. The smallest was a side table and weighed 15 pounds, the largest was 40 feet long and weighed several tons. I met him when I lived in Santa Fe. We worked together at a ski area just after I got out of college.
Stan was an icon. He would say what no one else was brave enough to. He was uninterested in just getting along and didn’t care if he was liked. Most people didn’t know what to make of Stan. I learned many lessons from Stan in his short life. He was unapologetically STAN. Take him or leave him, he was who he was. He was irksome, flamboyant and an amazing human. That’s probably the biggest lesson I took away from my friendship with Stan. His willingness to be unfiltered and live out loud everywhere. If Stan could stick out, he would. He was outlandish, loud and unafraid to make waves. Even in his choice of clothing.
There was a local outdoor store that made custom jackets and ski-wear at incredibly affordable prices. You could choose your colors, and for a few dollars more than buying clothes off the rack, you could have your jacket made to order. Stan would have his gear made here and always ordered his stuff in the brightest colors. A ski jacket so neon has to be unmistakable from a quarter-mile. Fleece pants so blindingly colorful in primary colors that a circus clown would have second thoughts. And he loved it.
The day he came to our house with his new gear, I just laughed. I said, “That has got to be the ugliest outfit I’ve ever seen”. After a pregnant pause Stan said, “Well, I’d rather love my choices and have my clothes be considered ugly than spending my time worrying about fitting with and looking like everyone else.” That was a show-stopper for me.
Stan is no longer with us, but my memories of him are strong. Most of his legacy is because of his beautiful art (which still stands in my yard), and his indomitable spirit.
Some of my favorite experiences of myself are where I’m being uniquely me, somewhat outlandish and not fitting into the expectations of others. This includes to my wife and kids. We all have our unique interests, quirks, and things that make us “us”.
Where does the magic live? In the fringes, outside of what everybody else does and thinks. The magic isn’t fitting in or avoiding making waves. Some of my most memorable times with my kids are when we’ve chased down some whim I have. We are all geeks about our unique things.
You probably have interests, are energized by, or are super-curious about things that nobody else in your family is. When I jump out of the car and scamper off to a State Capitol building because I’m such a public-buildings-geek, I can actually hear the eye roll from my family, but that’s OK.
In that moment I’m like a kid in a candy store, and there’s nothing more fun than climbing up the marble staircases and knocking on Senator’s doors to ask them about the history of the building and state politics. While my kids may not end up loving State Capitols like I do, they won’t forget the times we spent together exploring the history and then taking them to a huge ice cream cone. They’ll remember the laughter and energy, and if I’m lucky, will be reminded that it’s ok to nerd-out on something they love and express it.
What thing is it that you keep hidden because nobody else is interested in it because it’s awkward for others because no one else around you does it? Stan is no longer with us, taken at a very young age. But of all the people who have left us in my life, he’s the one that most frequently comes to mind. His indomitable self-expression, unwavering commitment to authentically be himself and sharing his work with the world will always stay with me.