Abe was just a kid who loved clothes.
September 27, 2016 3:34 PM   Subscribe

His clothes were not on the outside of his body; they were—for now—the outside of his body. They were the visible form taken by the way he chose to define himself. None of the gawky young models, standing around flat-footed and hunch-shouldered with their assigned coats and jackets and baggy shorts hanging off them like drop cloths thrown over a dining room set, could say that.

My Son, The Prince Of Fashion
posted by Windigo (38 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
#michaelchabon tag? :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read it without realizing Michael Chabon until I got to the bio at the end. Now it all makes sense.
posted by larrybob at 4:02 PM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


Same, larrybob. This is all a defense mechanism constructed by the child after reading his mother's blog posts. No wonder he doesn't want to go home.
posted by janey47 at 4:17 PM on September 27, 2016 [13 favorites]


The past tense made me worry that something had happened to Abe.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:23 PM on September 27, 2016 [8 favorites]


What a great article. Reminds me of EB White and the bathing suit.
posted by Diablevert at 4:24 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm interested in the relationship between liking to dress oneself and wanting to create beautiful clothes- like being an actor vs a playwright, or being passionate about photography vs. wanting to have photos taken of oneself. Do these frequently overlap? Do they necessarily do so?

I mean, I'd imagine that as a designer you have to put in a respectable showing on the personal- fashion front, but there's an element of anxious exhibitionism or approval- seeking in pure dandyism that'd make me a bit more nervous as a parent, vs. just having a smart kid who has normal smart-kid obsession with something outside himself.
posted by Bardolph at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2016


Why presume anxiety? I'd have said assured exhibitionism was the essence of the dandy. Confidence in one's resplendence being the essence of the pleasure. Beau Brummell cut his king, after all.
posted by Diablevert at 4:45 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wish he hadn't started off so early on the cost of Abe's clothes. I almost quit reading then, since I barely spend that kind of money on clothes now, and it would've been wildly out of reach for me as a teenager. I'm glad I didn't -- I liked the later reflections on fashion vs style and using style as a flag to find your people and what it takes to be a visible non-conformist as a younger teenager. And I think it was good to talk about the resources Abe invests in his clothes, so I'm not sorry that Chabon did it, but I did find it a significant barrier at the start of the article.
posted by EvaDestruction at 4:57 PM on September 27, 2016 [6 favorites]


Michael Chabon gives nearly-literal birth to a Michael Chabon character.
posted by GuyZero at 4:57 PM on September 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


I really liked this - but it needed way, way, way more photos.
posted by Mchelly at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2016 [41 favorites]


Awesome. Thank you. Someday Chabon's kids, in particular Abe, will lovingly mock their old man for his ability to see superheroes surrounding him and maybe that will be a little sad, as when we learn about the clay feet of others who work with the rude materials of genre, but it will also be pretty cool, and so is this.
posted by mwhybark at 5:49 PM on September 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


"You were with your people. You found them,” I said.

He nodded.

“That's good,” I said. “You're early.”


I wasn't expecting that to hit me so hard - that's beautiful.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:54 PM on September 27, 2016 [51 favorites]


Very disarming. Well played, Chabe.
posted by grobstein at 6:49 PM on September 27, 2016


Ayelet and Michael Chabon must be very pleased that at least one of their children is throwing them so much interesting material while giving them a chance to look open minded, now that they've exhausted the basic parenthood sacrifice themes. It's a gift that will keep on giving
posted by knoyers at 7:36 PM on September 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


That Chabon sure can write.

No one else could make me finish an article about a kid with so much privilege. The growing class divide is poisoning everything but all things considered, I think he raised that point appropriately in this piece. Also noting her didn't engage in any speculation about his son's sexual orientation here, which I think shows a reassuring relative wokeness.

I am the parent of a fourteen year old and I fancy I share many parenting values with the Waldman-Chabons. This piece made me cry right on cue.
posted by latkes at 7:59 PM on September 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


I love a kooky detail or proportion on otherwise muted tailored clothes, and I try to get away with the weirdest interpretation of "business casual" I can, but it's hard to find any cool, just slightly transgressive way to dress for every day, as a petite straight 30-something woman, that doesn't read sexual ("where can we add a random cutout or sheer panel on this shirt/dress that hasn't been done yet?") or Tavi-going-on-Iris Apfel. Yet here is this kid navigating middle school dressing like he does, which makes me feel old and safe and boring, and like I know nothing about clothes even though I've been reading fashion blogs long enough to remember Tavi from when she was his age, but with way less mature taste. I just want to take lessons from him.
posted by slow graffiti at 8:22 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chabon *shakes fist* you get me every goddamn time! No matter how irritating I think I'm going to find his writing...I love it despite myself.

Abe sounds like a great (and super talented) kid.
posted by sallybrown at 8:39 PM on September 27, 2016 [7 favorites]


Yet here is this kid navigating middle school dressing like he does

Middle school … in Berkeley. This does actually make a difference.
posted by kenko at 10:03 PM on September 27, 2016 [10 favorites]


Dear friends of mine have a son about the same age (possibly a year or two younger) with the same sort of relationship to style, clothes, and fashion. I've told them that if he's ever looking for an after-school job I'd hire him as a stylist/personal shopper.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:25 PM on September 27, 2016


Sounds like the outline of a John Irving novel to me. (I have never read any of Michael Chabon's stuff.)
posted by not_on_display at 11:36 PM on September 27, 2016


I loved this, thank you.
posted by billiebee at 12:44 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


This piece made me cry right on cue.

Same. I recall it taking me a little longer to find my people and have a truly transcendent experience like this, and I envy him for figuring it out so early and having the means to take action. At his age, I shopped at thrift stores out of necessity, not by choice, and I wish I could've acted on more of the fashion information I obsessively read. I also envy him for being small and able to fit into just about anything he wants to at this point in his life—strange, perhaps, to envy a middle-schooler, but there it is.

I'm in slow graffiti's age bracket, and tonight I just finished unpacking boxes into my closet and dressers, which now have a clear progression from things I could wear circa 2009 to the small selection I can wear now. (My vintage disco-shirt and rock-shirt collection goes back way earlier, but I can't wear most of it anymore.) I was overcome by a wave of sadness while hanging up my clothing, as pulling the pieces out of boxes made it all quite palpable. Here's the point at which I believed men's medium T-shirts were a Platonic ideal and something in which to invest, and here's the point at which shirts from the '70s stopped fitting me, and here's the point at which men's large T-shirts became hit or miss, and here's the epoch during which I bought drawer after drawer of jeans that ceased to fit almost before I got them home... Even now, I have fashion knowledge but not the means (in this case, the body) to put it to much use.

This is also a great companion piece to the movie Sneakerheadz (Netflix link), which I just watched earlier. The movie is all about exactly what it says on the tin, and it's thankfully short enough that I didn't buy too many pairs of Adidas while watching it.

Anyway, cheers to this kid. I hope it all works out for him!
posted by limeonaire at 1:19 AM on September 28, 2016


Chabon buried the lede - he's a Rush fan! My man crush knows no bounds.
posted by Ber at 6:59 AM on September 28, 2016


I was reminded of my initial feelings on Tavi Gevinson when reading this, thinking "This kid is way cooler than me, and maturity/adulthood is being incredibly okay with celebrating that."
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:15 AM on September 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


okay, now i'm ready for the new Chabon novel this fall.
posted by palomar at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


ugh, this first-world excess just put me off.
posted by reiichiroh at 12:03 PM on September 28, 2016


Also noting he didn't engage in any speculation about his son's sexual orientation here, which I think shows a reassuring relative wokeness.

His wife already wrote about how she hopes her older son is gay:
I explain that I hope Zeke is gay. Think about it, I say. How many straight men maintain inappropriately intimate relationships with their mothers? How many shop with them? I want a gay son. People laugh, but they assume I’m kidding. I’m not.
I have often wondered how the Waldman-Chabon children negotiate their personal boundaries with two writer parents. And when I read this piece, I wondered what, if any, say Abe had over the story his father tells about him here.
posted by sobell at 12:59 PM on September 28, 2016


I thoroughly enjoyed this but was utterly blindsided and profoundly moved by the end.

I immediately sent the link to my sister -- we had a very long conversation a few months ago about her older son, who is quite like me in many respects, but not quite as adept at navigating this stuff (I fit in piecemeal with sufficient comfort while yearning for a tribe that I didn't find until my middle-twenties). My parents had no clue -- they didn't pay attention to the interests I did have, much less did it occur to them that there were worlds of possibilities they could have helped me discover that I couldn't conceive of beyond our small farming town.

I encouraged my sister to just help my nephew even see the world beyond his fourth grade class and those kids. I don't begrudge the affluence and privilege implicit in Chabon taking Abe to the Paris Men's Fashion show as his bar mitzvah gift. It doesn't need to be that or anything so extravagant; it just needs to be something, sometime, saying you are you, you're different from some of the kids around you, but the world is a big place and let's explore it and, yes, you will discover your tribe.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:40 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have often wondered how the Waldman-Chabon children negotiate their personal boundaries with two writer parents. And when I read this piece, I wondered what, if any, say Abe had over the story his father tells about him here.

I have to say, I think Chabon is generally much more careful and respectful about this than Waldman.
posted by grobstein at 3:08 PM on September 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Sounds like the outline of a John Irving novel to me. (I have never read any of Michael Chabon's stuff.)

You could do worse than checking out The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay. It is both decently representative of his work and probably his best.
posted by grobstein at 3:10 PM on September 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


What if one of their kids become obsessed with the esoteric world of puns?
posted by grobstein at 3:11 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


my birth-family cousin, twenty years or more younger than I but of the nerdren, and I had an interesting interchange on FB about Chabon, Kavalier & Clay, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union after I shared this link there. He read K&C on release, as did I, but hasn't ever reread it. I live in Seattle and the conceit of YPU made me uneasy. The suffering and racism that Native people undergo here in the left corner is apparent and, it must be admitted, reasonable metaphoric substance for what Chabon wanted to explore. The book is set in Alaska, to be sure; but Seattle and Alaska are connected in ways that are both transparently commercial and after more than a century also familial and cultural.

Around the time I think the book was released a Seattle cop shot and killed a deaf PNW Native American carver. I was not anxious to imagine Seattle, or Anchorage, as Jerusalem in this sense. Chabon's reimagining of Israel as Alaksa remains a legit response and YPU is a great book. I still prefer K&C, but my cousin's preference has been thought-provoking.

He was not adopted, but grew up in my birth mother's culture - which incorporates a much more pronounced heritage of antisemitism than the cultures I grew up with and in - and his mother is ethnically and culturally Jewish, and his father experienced both social and economic consequences as a result of his choice of spouse.

I'm delighted to be getting to know him. I mean, all of them. But he and I have some chewy nerdtalk in common.
posted by mwhybark at 4:49 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh god, years ago Ayelet and Michael put up a craigslist ad in the East Bay looking for hired help, and it was the most cringe-inducing thing. They basically wanted a combination nanny/research assistant/slave to both watch their children and be their *both of their* personal assistant.

Wasn't a massive fan of Chabon anyway, but I've not been able to read anything of either of his since, and I never even gave Waldman a chance.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:19 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I just realized the deepest dives I've ever done into high fashion are Michael Chabon's angelic son and Buzz Bissinger's leather addiction.
posted by mattholomew at 1:37 PM on September 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


Buzz Bissinger's leather addiction.

That is messed up.
posted by GuyZero at 1:57 PM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Surprising, rather. Has Buzz met Gay Talese? That might be a fun weekend.
posted by mwhybark at 1:02 AM on September 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


Man, I would read Michael Chabon's grocery lists.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:03 AM on September 30, 2016


I know it's not healthy to be jealous of children, but it's hard not to envy someone who knows their passion that early in life, and has parents who encourage and support it. It's sad to think of the talent and potential that routinely goes to waste because people are born into the wrong circumstances to fully develop it.

*Cue "Debbie Downer" theme*
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:59 AM on September 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


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