In 1796 German writer Jean Paul introduced the idea of the doppelgänger – someone who looks just like you living somewhere on this earth who you’ll probably never meet and if you do, you’ll likely freak out. So if you were to be on a train, say, from London Bridge to Kings Cross, you might for a split second see yourself – which is your doppelgänger – in the next carriage. As Jean Paul put it, they are the “people who see themselves.”
Since learning about this theory in a lecture at uni, I’ve been on the lookout for mine. Starting my job at Refinery29 in October last year, I noticed something in my colleague and friend Zanny Ali – in addition to his wicked name and goddamn L’Oréal mane. With freakish consistency, Zanny and I would arrive at the office wearing almost exactly the same outfit. A loose-fitting baby blue shirt buttoned all the way up with a gold chain tucked under the collar, black trousers and Comme des Garçons converse with our hair in a high ponytail; the only difference being my Commes were low cut and his high-top. Another day adidas tracksuit bottoms, a baggy grey T-shirt and Stan Smiths by Raf Simons, one pair in silver, one pair in bronze. Lucky for us, we work in an office where that’s cool.
I’m not typically feminine, he’s not typically masculine, but we cut the same silhouette. I reckon we meet somewhere in the middle of masculine; we both buy unisex brands, I buy some men’s brands, and he buys Rihanna x Puma. It’s tricky to tell where either of us are from – our heritage spans Bangladesh, Egypt and the Philippines – but we both have relatively tanned skin, long, dark hair and the same deadpan approach. We’re different ages and different genders (which we identify with) but we like the exact same shit. Namely sportswear and cult Japanese designers such as our mutual heroes Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. Incidentally, Yohji and Rei used to be a couple and their relationship was once described as “that of two regal and feline siblings with a priestly aura” by Judith Thurman in The New Yorker.
‘Androgyny’ tends to sound sexless and like you’re trying to be nothing; we prefer the term unisex, defined as “non-gender specific clothes suitable for any gender.” And while unisex dressing is nothing new, it is starting to define the fashion industry and its infrastructure – with innovator brands like Paul Smith, Burberry, Tom Ford and as of next season Gucci, showing menswear and womenswear together.
We usually only wear black, white, grey or navy. Twice a week we throw in a slogan or print to be a bit less boring or a fine line of colour in an orange detail or neon pink hair tie. We like high-tech sports luxe fabrics and go mad for a bright white sole on a patent black trainer. We invest in any high fashion sports collaborations that we can afford like Nike/ Sacai and even our staples are the same: black jeans, baggy T-shirts and All Stars. Zanny calls this “a hangover from my indie days” (he was in an indie band that enjoyed major success in Austria.)
Clothes, constructs and stereotypes that relate either to men or to women are fast becoming irrelevant in the millennial mind. We like to be ourselves first and foremost – and I like seeing myself in Zanny.