Notes on Fringe

Hippie fashion is back for men. Is that a good thing?

Ponchos will return.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images.

My name is Simon Doonan, and I am a … fringe-aholic.

My “disease” first manifested itself last spring. I was walking down Second Avenue and, suddenly, there it was, shimmering in the late afternoon sun, in the window of Urban Outfitters. A suede vest trimmed with delectable, ever-so-dangly fringe, a-blowin’ in the wind.

I found myself walking into the store, as if propelled by some invisible force. (Aren’t you getting a bit sick of these invisible forces, propelling us hither and thither without so much as an excuse me or a may I please? If one more invisible force comes rushing in my direction I am simply going to stamp my feet and refuse to be propelled.) I grabbed a ladies’ size large and inspected it for bust darts. There were none. Et voilà! Unisex! As I sleepwalked my way to the cash register, I saw myself, in my mind’s eye, attending a be-in with Timothy Leary in Golden Gate Park, or thrashing about like Roger Daltrey at the legendary Isle of Wight Festival.

Cut to:

“Roger Daltrey? You look more like Beverley Leslie from Will and Grace. Or wait, more like a butch suburban housewife who has elected to go out on Halloween dressed as ‘a hippie,’ circa 1980,” declared my always bracingly candid husband.

The less than fizzy reviews had no impact on my fringe-aholism. I had embarked on a neo-hippie magical mystery tour, and nothing was going to stop me. More items followed: an insanely expensive Saint Laurent jacket—Easy Rider meets Midnight Cowboy—and a pair of Minnetonka fringed moccasins which evoke Sonny and Cher in their “I Got You Babe” era. Almost overnight I began to dress like Hansel, Owen Wilson’s character from Zoolander.

Clearly the time had come for a little introspection.

Was I having a (late) midlife crisis? Was I about to pack a fringed manbag, chomp on a lump of peyote and embark upon some freaky visionquest, never to be seen again? The original hippie movement had coincided with my teenager-hood—and it’s not like I missed out on all the peace and love. I had attended that aforementioned Isle of Wight Festival and rocked out to The Who. I’d seen Jimi Hendrix, too. Was I simply À La Recherche Du Patchouli Perdue?

All was revealed when, at the beginning of July, Men’s Fashion Week rolled around.

The 2015 menswear shows were awash in dreamcatcher necklaces, embroidered caftans, trapunto dashikis and hand-tooled leather doodads. Well, not exactly awash, but at least aslosh. Saint Laurent and Haider Ackermann both used the counter culture as inspiration. So that’s two. You want more? James Long and Katie Eary. Satisfied? (Just so you know, in the journalist community, three examples of something justify a trend piece. Four is considered irrefutable. So we’re good.)

When I clocked those hippie-inspired collections I understood immediately what was going on. I was not losing my mind. I had simply been doing what I always do: predicting the future. In other words: I am not a fringe-addicted, psychedelic, Beverley Leslie or a be-costumed midwestern housewife. I am a global, all-powerful, all-seeing trend avatar. Take that Jonathan Adler!

As an intergalactic style visionary and early adopter of the upcoming hippie-dippie dude style revival, I feel a crushing responsibility to offer some helpful tips to the men of America, who, in the coming months, will be trading in their flashy Wall Street suits or their Normcore anorak anonymity for a freaky, funky, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young-ish kind of a look.

First, fellas, for God’s sake, go easy on the Western wear. A little goes a long way—just a soupçon, I beg you. A cowboy shirt OR a hat OR boots—never all three. And please mix it up. You can cut some of that yee-haw with a pair of Ray-Bans or some groovy Adidas sneaks. If you go cowboy head-to-foot you will end up looking more Don Imus than Dennis Hopper.

While we’re on the subject of cowboys, let’s talk ponchos, because, like it or not, you ARE going to be wearing one this coming winter. Yes, you will be wearing headbands and caftans and beads, and yes, you will be growing your hair to nipple length as fast as possible, but the key components of your look will be inspired by some seriously butch frontier drag. There’s only one reference point you need here. You know who I’m referring to. The former mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea: Mr. Clint Eastwood. Has any bloke ever rocked a poncho more magnificently than Clint? For a mere fistful of dollars (geddit?) you can buy a nifty authentic poncho from eBay, or, for a few dollars more (geddit?) you can go the Spring 2015 Saint Laurent route. Washing instructions? There are none. According to spaghetti western folklore, Clint wore the same poncho in all three Sergio Leone blockbusters (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; A Fistful of Dollars; and For a Few Dollars More) without so much as a Woolite rinse or a squirt of Febreze. One more poncho tip: If, like me, you are more Beverley Leslie than Clint in the height department, then do as I have done: Go for children’s sizes. They won’t swamp you, and will thus prevent you from resembling a walking oven mitt. Plus they are a fraction of the price of big-boy ponchos.

If you have plenty of bread (hippie-speak for money, you ignorant millennial), you can also go right to the source and contact The Old Hippie. I am referring to the mysterious dude, the enigmatic legend of leathercraft, who has been making gorgeously fringed bags and clothing since the ’60s. He claims to have co-designed—drumroll!—Jimi Hendrix’s iconic Woodstock jacket. Eschewing all publicity and refusing to divulge his identity, The Old Hippie is the Martin Margiela of authentic hippie drag. He makes every bag and garment by hand and lives totally off the grid. The only way to contact him is through his son Noe. Call Old Hippie UNLTD at 917-868-0501. The Old Hippie does not even own a toaster-oven, never mind a computer. Fortunately he has Noe, who has created an Instagram feed, oldhippieleather, so that you can enjoy the true majesty of The Old Hippie’s offerings.   

Before closing I feel we should put the issue of style to one side and address the idealistic elephant in the room. Let’s talk philosophy. Let’s get heavy, man. This is more than just some fleeting, superficial designer trend. There are profound cultural forces at work here. I think Hansel best expressed it when he said the following: “I was always more interested in what bark was made out of on a tree. Richard Gere’s a real hero of mine. Sting. Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it—I respect that. I care desperately about what I do. Do I know what product I’m selling? No. Do I know what I’m doing today? No. But I’m here, and I’m gonna give it my best shot.”

When you go hippie, you go deep. Turn on, tune in, drop out. You must dial back your craven materialism—don’t forget to dial it up again when you comb the web for hippie bargains—and adopt the ideals and beliefs of the original counterculture. Start by grabbing your tambourine. Chling! Chling! Chling! Now cast a few runes. Now jiggle those chakras. And now jangle your wampum beads. Louder. I can’t hear them yet …