Clothing connects: fashion and friendship with Noah Morrison ’17

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“Edgy urban,” for Noah Morrison, is comprised of a colorful, patterned mix of parents’ leftovers from the ‘70s and solid standard-issue from Uniqlo. He was laughing as he suggested that term for his aesthetic, but it’s not far off. His wardrobe has a cool, durably fun ease. His desire for sartorial color might come, he suggested, from difficulty with color in his photography. Sartorial choices, as a palate for visual experimentation and self-observation, provide Morrison an arena in which to examine seemingly disparate aspects of his visual life.

Morrison cites beginning photography at 15 as the catalyst for a change in the way he understood the embodiment of relationships. The positions of bodies arranged in a room and the ways they interact with one another and their spatial surroundings became objects of conscious, if visceral, attention. For him, clothing choices are an important part of those interactions and the visuals they generate.y urban,” for Noah Morrison, is compiled of a colorful, patterned mix of parents’ leftovers from the 70s and solid standard-issue from Uniqlo. He was laughing as he suggested that term for his aesthetic, but it’s not far off. His wardrobe has a cool, durably fun ease. His desire for sartorial color might come, he suggested, from difficulty with color in his photography. Sartorial choices, as a palate for visual experimentation and self-observation, provide Morrison an arena in which to examine seemingly disparate aspects of his visual life.

He explained that he has been considering the ways in which we use clothing as a means of manipulating how we are perceived, and our understanding of this perception. “Is how I present myself outwardly determining how I think about myself inwardly? To what level does it determine how other people percieve me, and how I perceive how other people perceive me?” He expressed the benign personal desire of presenting himself as approachable, but his desire belies an understanding of the scarily powerful possibility inherent in understanding how we can manipulate image. The effects of this manipulation are also fascinating to Morrison. “If I wear a certain thing, will a certain person find me more attractive, talk to me even?” There is a melancholic sentiment in this question – perhaps if on a single day something as insignificant as a jacket choice had been different, he would have had a different conversation with a different person and his relationships or ideas would have formed differently.

Seemingly tiny visual choices influence the development of our interpersonal lives. This means that accurately reflecting an internal attitude towards the visual through clothing choices holds an almost mystical importance over our lives. Morrison explained a still-developing freedom in his style that reflects a natural progression away from the parental, high school nest.

As he has grown older, he has directed a slow shift away from courtesy-of-mother clothing choices and into self-governed choices – even if those choices are still picked out of mother’s throwback closet. The freedom to purchase and put together items has led to a shift in Morrison’s aesthetic. But increased freedom is the condition that allows for the shift; other changes in his life are dictating where the shift is taking him. The change in Morrison’s environment on arriving at college represents also, for Morrison, a change in attitude towards his environment – and a corresponding change in the level at which he is interested in and willing to engage with his environment. Making more intentional clothing choices “helps [him] engage with society”. In high school, he explained that he was reluctant to “put himself out there” and socially engage with the larger community he was part of. Accepting an abbreviated manifestation of his actual aesthetic was a means of resisting full engagement.

Freedom and the desire to engage with his environment at Swarthmore have not changed Morrison’s attitude towards throwing items on haphazardly in the morning. The change is in the items he has access to and the respect he accords the final product. He is aware of the power of image, and in that, he must be aware of his own image. But ultimately, Noah chose to get a dramatic haircut a few months ago because he “doesn’t have to spend ten, fifteen minutes picking it every morning”  and he thinks “denim is cool” because it is warm and comfortable and easy to wear.

I asked Morrison if he was satisfied with the way he visually presents himself, if those recent changes in his appearance do, as their sources seem to suggest, represent a version of his aesthetic that holds true to the internal vision it reflects. He said he “yeah, although I wasn’t for a long time”. To achieve that satisfaction is difficult, and it encompasses comfort not just with clothing choices, but also with all the ways in which we engage with other people – particularly for someone like Morrison, who views clothing so much in terms of the roles it plays in interpersonal relationships. He put the means of achieving it succinctly – you just have to “be at peace with yourself.”

Photo by Sadie Rittman for the Phoenix

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