by P. Kristen Enos

(Originally posted Jan 3, ’10. All rights reserved. Do not post or excerpt without permission.)

If someone were to actually ask, I would explain that I’m not as butch as I dress. I consider my preferred style of t-shirt, jeans and sneakers as being ‘practical’. I usually have short hair and I don’t wear make-up because I want to spend that primping time doing other, more important things, like sleeping or eating.

To me, the way I dress would be determined by effort and reward. I have no problems putting on heels and pantyhose (pictures do exist) – but not to sit at my computer terminal all day. I am one of those people that if I showed up at work in a skirt, everyone would assume that I have a job interview. And it would be true.

That’s not to say that I can’t appreciate someone else’s fashion efforts. However, my level of interest is usually a quick note of “That looks good (or maybe not)” and then my mind moves on to more important thoughts. In fact, it’s the same level of interest that I have in sports (which is almost nil).

The irony of my being a groupie of the band Hangry & Angry has not been lost on me. If you did not know: H&A is a Japanese (now) digital grunge band that is the “human” incarnation of the mascot characters by the artist GASHICON for the popular Japanese designer h.NAOTO. So they’re a musical act that’s really about selling goth/pink clothes.

My personal level of interest started with the involvement of Rika Ishikawa and Hitomi Yoshizawa, the idols hired to be these characters for records and concerts. And it helps that the music being produced and their concerts are really, really good. And I am also aware of the fact that these two young women are usual fashion icons on their own, changing their hair and clothing styles like chameleons.

Since I saw H&A’s international debut in Seattle, Washington in April ’09, I was definitely willing to go to their European debut in Paris in October. Yes, Paris, the fashion capital of the world.

Well, I had to admit I was kind of excited at the idea of doing some special clothes shopping for the trip, especially since I was going with a press team and wanted to make a better than average fan impression. Plus, it’d been a long time since I had a reason to go real clothes shopping so I wanted to take advantage of the impulse while I had it.

During one my preparatory shopping trips, I actually went to an outlet in L.A. with my gay male best friend, which turned out to be a first for us to shop for clothes together. Which we will never do again. (Our usual method of shopping is to separate at the entrance and when someone is ready to check out, hunt the other one down so we can coordinate leaving together.)

We had gone into a leather store and I found a hat that I wanted to buy as something to keep my slightly growing bangs out of my face and to be an option against potential rain. (I told you that my fashion sense was practical.) When I had put the hat on and asked the infamous question “How do I look?”, he paused and responded that he couldn’t help but think the hat would look so much better if my hair was much longer.

So I decided to get the hat anyway because I liked it and then moved over to the leather jackets.

I saw a red one in a style that was once again met my practical standards. However, the sleeves seemed to be a bit big. When I called him over to double-check how it looked, he had another strange look on his face but then agreed the sleeves were too long. But I really, really wanted it and thought about going to another store to see if they would have one that fit better.

Oh, and my friend explained that his response was due to him thinking that the jacket looked really good on me but he just wasn’t used to be me being that fashionable.

Well, that night I happened to see a recent television appearance for Yossy and saw that she wore a red leather jacket that was very, very similar to the one I wanted. That made me decide to give up on it because THAT much of a fan, I am not.

So yes, my attempt to bring my fashion level up for a Paris resulted in buying a leather hat. That was good enough for me. Well, I also resolved to at least wear leather shoes instead of sneakers.

Now fast forward a couple of weeks later to when I’m standing on the sidewalk outside of the Press and VIP entrance of the Expo while waiting for my press partner Kim to show up before the doors officially opened. And yes, I had my leather hat on, both for the original fashion sense and the fact that the sky was not looking too pleasant. Due to jetlag and boredom, I was half mentally zoned-out when I suddenly noticed an unusual amount of activity with a shuttle van that had pulled up nearby.

Sure enough, it was Rika and Yossy with their entourage. I only had a couple of seconds to focus on the fact that they passed by within two feet of me before being quickly escorted into the VIP entrance.

When Rika walked by in her simple casual wear and sunglasses, I couldn’t help but be reminded of recent fan message board rantings where people were in dismay over her cutting her hair short again. Most of the negative remarks focused on the lamenting over how her hair looked so much better long.

Frankly speaking, when she walked by, I just thought “Wow, she’s hot!” No fancy clothes. No fancy make-up. No fancy hairstyle.

And to me, that’s the true standard of whether someone looks good or not. ANYONE can get dolled up and be impressive. I’m more impressed when someone doesn’t really try and they’re still eye-catching. And I’m glad I’m not the type of person to be obsessed with fashion hang-ups that I can’t appreciate the forest for the trees.

(Oh, and by the way, Yossy was slightly crouched with a hooded parka over her head so I didn’t get a good view of anything but her face peering curiously.)

About an hour later, I had come up to the pretty empty VIP area and found myself a table with a seat that faced the entire room since I like having a general view of things. Due to chatting with staff members, I knew that Rika and Yossy were busy with sound check in the concert hall. I was glad to have a moment of peace and quiet without carrying video equipment, and appreciating my new hat, which I continue to wear throughout the Expo.

A few minutes later, Kim showed up and sat down at the chair across from me. And a few minutes after that, Rika and Yossy came up and walked by us. Though I made a point of not staring, I could see them clearly, and Kim could not because her back was towards them — which she promptly muttered how much she hated me at that moment for it. And I wasn’t about to change seats with her.

Since there were now several press and staff members in the VIP room, I was barely paying attention to the fact that Kim was madly making notes of some kind. She finally looked up at me and hissed, “What kind of shirt is Rika wearing?!”

I stared at Kim.

“… It’s gray,” I answered without looking to double-check.

Her responding glare then made me aware of the point that while I certainly didn’t care, there were at least tens of thousands of fans who would give their (insert name of prized anatomy part) to be in my position.

So in my best stealth-mode, I looked again and gave further details of the style of the shirt, length of sleeves, the designs on the back, etc. To which Kim made detailed notes.

I felt like I had totally betrayed my standards. But at least not as much as than the time when I sat down with my feminist jaw clamped shut at a Vegas blackjack table and gambled for an hour next to a guy who wore a t-shirt that said “Boobies make me smile.” Though it felt pretty close.

And a postscript: When I had returned to the States and saw some publicity pics of Yossy from a Japanese event that had happened a couple weeks prior to the expo, I saw that she wore a leather hat that looked very much like mine. The fact that I was irritated by that unfortunately proved to me that I probably care more about fashion that I wanted to admit.