Matters of the Cloth - My Perplexing Passion for Virtual Fashion

Jake Spencer
04 April 2012

Fashion-wise, I'm not much better than your average Saturday morning cartoon character. I don't wear the exact same outfit every day, and I never go bottomless in public, but other than that, I'm pretty hopeless.

I don't wear the exact same clothes daily, but I come incredibly close. As I type this, I'm wearing one of my three Tea Cozies t-shirts. My current shorts are unique amongst my wardrobe, but only because my identical matching pair finally split a few weeks ago.

Shorts and a t-shirt. That's my attire, every single day, no matter what. Is it snowing? I'll put on shorts and a t-shirt. Formal occasions? Shorts and a t-shirt. A day trip to the nudist colony? I wouldn't even be admitted.

Sometimes I put on a pair of tennis shoes, but I'm usually content with sandals or bare feet. My only accessory is a watch, and only because I like being able to check the time. When my hair gets too unruly to ignore, I shear it myself. My nails have never gotten did.

I'm not a slob, and I look presentable, but fashion does not interest me at all.

Unless I'm playing video games.

On the left is my character from Professor Layton's London Life. When I started the game last night, this little guy was schlepping around in shorts and a t-shirt, his hair sticking out in all directions. A pixelated reflection of his creator, essentially.

He's hardly adorned in Little London's finest now, but I assure that won't be the case for long. I have my eyes on a supremely classy jacket and scarf ensemble that will be mine as soon as I gather the funds. I can't wait to see how it will work with my hat, although I can tell you now that those shoes will have to go. I appreciate the green accent, but it's sure to clash with my new cravat. As for the trousers, I still have a few more shops to browse before I make any decisions. A true gentleman is never hasty when it comes to matters of the cloth.

This is what video games do to me. I spent dozens of hours mowing lawns and exterminating scorpions in the No More Heroes games so that I could run to punk clothing store Area 51 and blow all my money on cool belts and sunglasses. I changed clothes between every assassination. I wouldn't go into a fight without first making sure Travis Touchdown was dressed to kill.

I've downloaded hundreds of user-made outfits, hairstyles, and lipsticks for my Sims. When it comes to Animal Crossing, I've designed more shirts, hats, and umbrellas than Mabel and Sable combined. Every snowboarder on my SSX 3 save is wearing a unique outfit, because I took the time to earn enough money with each one of them to buy the backpacks and headbands I thought they deserved.

Meanwhile, real-life me wears whatever's clean and not too wrinkled.

Granted, the "hard work" that goes into attaining my virtual threads is not work at all; it's playing video games that I enjoy. Either way, the promise of new duds does motivate me, and I can't explain it.

Dressing well in Professor Layton's London Life does confer certain bonuses. Some shops and restaurants won't allow you to enter if you aren't attired formally, for example. It forces a degree of fashion awareness, but I'm finding that I want to buy new clothes because I like how they look. The game's official "Formality" rating is practically dismissible to my fashion-forward mind.

Meanwhile, there's far more nuance to your equipment in Dragon Quest IX. It determines your attack and defense and magical prowess, and how you outfit your party can completely alter the way you have to approach combat. It can be the difference between life and death.

It can also make your guys look super cute.

Video game characters aren't real people, and they don't wear real clothes, but matching fake skirts with fake hair accessories on fake people is still real fashion. Clearly, some part of me is genuinely interested in fashion, but not as it applies to the physical world.

While working on this essay, my friend (unaware that I was uncharacteristically writing about belts and boots) sent me a picture of some Kardashian and asked me what I thought of her hair. I said it looked like hair, and hair is boring. She disagreed, and said she was thinking of "getting a fringe," which I assume is either the name of this 'do or a weapon with which to punish my ignorance. I told her I was upset that she would think of emulating a Kardashian, and that it bothered me that we were even talking about this.

I wish I could draw some satisfying conclusion here, but all I've learned is that I like playing with fake dollies, and real-world fashion is so boring to me that I can't even politely feign interest. Eat my shorts.