I’m not gonna bother with any crazy intro this week. The interview is that compelling, I think.
Tiona. 29. Originally from Greenville, South Carolina, currently living in North Philly.
How long have you been in Philly for?
“2006. This is going on my sixth year.”
Okay. Do you dress the same when you lived in South Carolina?
“I left South Carolina when I was 19, so no. The weather doesn’t even call for it. It’s all different.” (laughs) “A whole different look.”
So is there anything about the way you present yourself stylistically that you could put a name to? Or any particular thing that’s informing it?
“Yeah, I got this thing with army, military… I like steampunk — some of the more accessible aspects of that, like I’m not gonna rock goggles.” (laughs)
Ohh with the gold inlay, err brass inlay and —
“Yeah we’re not doin that. I like the colors. So I like the browns and cremes. But yeah, military really — I have a military family, so that’s what I grew up looking at, from army to air force. So, a kind of mixture of that.”
Is there anything you’re wearing right now that’s a favorite, or something you keep putting on lately?
“This jacket. I brought it back out cause it’s kind of getting pseudo-warm. And I usually have a pea coat, a black pea coat. And this jacket was given by my friend, a friend from Mississippi who lives here now, and he’s just like, I’m not wearin this, it’s too little. Then he gave it to me, so I wear it all the time.”
Do you get comments on it?
“Yeah, people ask about it and I don’t know what to say! First of all, I don’t think they make anything like this anymore. And yeah, it’s… People think it’s something expensive — I’m sure maybe they’ll come out with something like this updated, and it’ll be hella expensive, like 500 dollars, I dunno. But yeah, I put the jacket on, and boots. I’ve been like, combat boots all the way down.”
Oh, so they’re usually hard and they hurt. Do you have any tips for other people?
“Yeah, yeah, definitely! Cause my mom, she — my dad was in the air force, right, and she wore combat boots. But she would wear em, and she was very feminine. So that’s what I grew up seeing. But the way she used to do em, she would double up with the soles and double up with the socks. Cause I guess in the 90s, late 80s/90s, the sock shit was in. So she would tube sock it up. So I’m like, yeah, I have two, three, you know, pairs of socks on. And I don’t feel nothin, I’m on air.” (laughs) “But they also, it depends on what kinda boot you get. These are one of the later versions and they’re light. They’re not heavy like the old school versions. And I have a pair of the old school ones that I have to treat differently — they hurt your back — but they’re good for snow.”
Okay. Do you ever — I gotta ask — get the ‘your mother wears combat boots’ thing? Did you ever get any schoolyard or neighborhood comments like that?
“Nah, my mom was fly as fuck. There was no room for that. And at the time we were in London, so if you weren’t wearing something crazy… And I mean my mom, she was on some Grace Jones, like, high top— there was no room for that. In South Carolina, when we came there, if anything my mom got compliments. Because I think she was informed by, you know, European style. So being a black woman in the south, the poor south, she really could like put some stuff together. She could sew… So you know, I ain’t never get picked at for my mom. Ever.” (laughs)
So what about Philly style? And are there things you notice around here that you’re just like, umph?
“Yeah. I think what’s odd about Philly — and this is also informed because I’m a film maker, so I’ve done shoots in fashion and stuff like that — and I feel Philly sometimes is like, people get really stuck on mimicking each other. Like I see it immediately. And I’ve been here since 2006. And especially when some trend hits, like it’s coming back, it’s not even — I’m looking here in this room [we interviewed at a coffee shop], I see where the flannels and the old sweaters that I used to rock in the late 80s, you know, it hits and then everybody starts doing it.”
“And they don’t change! It’s like, ya’ll are all wanna wear the same thing, and I don’t understand it. And then it’s like, it’ll stay. And I’m like, so when is it gonna change?”
Till some other new trend comes along.
“Yeah, so somebody will do something here, and it’s almost like high school to me. That’s what I compare it to, especially as opposed to New York. As soon as somebody gets hip, somebody’s movin on, right? Here, it’s like… The hoodie with the jean jacket joint hit, and it’s like I can’t even tell who is who.” (laughs) “So Philly to me is kinda like, it forces me to look at the people who dress a little finer. Like I’m always admiring folks who bust out suits and, you know, it’s forced me to dress — you’ll catch me today, like I’m in a vest and a button-up. And that’s not really what I’m reaching for, but it’s just something different. It requires a certain kind of attention, and you can really, you know, especially piecing off stuff in the flea markets, you can put that together. And it’s like something new and fresh.”
Read the rest of the interview (and ohh this one is good!) over at Broad&Market, where Tiona says some deep stuff about thrift stores, scenes, and the catch-22s that seem to keep Philadelphians from being more adventurous in their dress.