11 fashion lessons we learned from the New Radicals’ “You Get What You Give”

April 17, 2014


When did “mall punk” become a pejorative term? Beyond being able to buy a denim vest with MDC patches at, like, Zara or whatever, we’ve always been down as heck with the mall. And that’s because, as suburban and sub-suburban grads, we spent loads of time hanging outside of a Manchu Wok—and loved it. (Listen, if anyone ever tells you they grew up “in Toronto proper,” it’s essentially code for “I’m from Barrie.” Own it, guys.) And no one’s above it: You drank Orange Julius, and still sneak one whenever you visit relatives for Christmas. You owned a velour Exco tracksuit from Stitches. Wal Mart’s terrible, but whenever you need socks in bulk, it becomes your spirit animal. And though outwardly satiric, Travis Bretzer’s ode to retail or Fucked Up’s obsession with Dufferin Mall always felt deceptively genuine: It’s because we’re all overgrown mallrats. Again: Own it.

Our love of the mall, however, was only met by our love of the music video—if anything could rival the hours we spent ogling Converse one stars at Foot Locker, it was the time spent glued to Videoflow. Those two adolescent obsessions rarely converged, but when they did, it was magical—as on the New Radicals’ one-hit wonder, “You Get What You Give.” We watched the video obsessively for four reasons: First, their singer was essentially the Canadian, Winners equivalent of Jamiroquai. Secondly, the kids in the vid looked exactly like us (if you never owned an Op Ivy tee, I’m sorry—you were never a teenager). Third, it executed adolescent metaphor perfectly: In its world, revolution was complete only when the suits were serving the kids ice cream. And fourth?

We were fucking bored. And the New Radicals distilled that boredom—that sense of universal mediocracy—so well, many automatically assumed they were Canadian. (“Is that the O.G. Woodbine Mall in that video?,” asked my co-worker Tyler Munro.) It isn’t—the band, in fact, was based in L.A.

But to the point: We pored over videos like “You Get What You Give” obsessively. And, in our less glamorous moments, we took style cues from it, too. Like what?


Great style isn’t seasonal

Which is precisely why you’d wear a Snug basketball jersey with a low-slung toque. That said, if it gets a little cold, don’t be afraid to toss an XXXL tee underneath the jersey. (’90s hardcore kids, stand up!) And, if we’re on the topic of toques, here’s how to wear ’em: If you can see any eyebrow, you’re doing it wrong.


The perfect form of rebellion is wearable on your face

We know now that piercings are tattoos for those who can’t commit to tattoos. Nonetheless, for a spell, the iconic eyebrow ring, especially paired with with a low-slung backwards cap, was to youth culture as jumping off high shit is to Red Bull. The next time you see a twenty- or thirty-something wearing a drooping, decades-old eyebrow ring, stop to acknowledge their countercultural edginess. They, after all, own garages stuffed full of rusted mountain bikes and dog-eared copies of Naomi Klein’s No Logo.


When it comes to pants, size matters

There were two ways to wear your massively oversized pants: The thrifty could buy 48-waist pants and cinch them with a belt. Or, for the bourgeois among us, there were pants made deliberately plus-sized by labels like Mod Robes, Snug and, of course, JNCO. The lesson we learned from the New Radicals? Wear ’em loud, wear ’em… large.


Break all the rules

Look at dude on the left. He’s breaking all the rules. Who said you can’t wear pajama pants in public? Who made up those rules? Legislators? Lawyers? Your dad? The inventors of the 666 chip? WAKE UP, SHEEPLE.


UV protection is for suckers

Sunglasses don’t need to have a purpose—they’re an accessory. So, wear a pair that betray their original purpose—may we suggest a pair tinted yellow, blue, or pink? They accessorize wonderfully with a dude rocking Kevin-from-Backstreet-Boys eyebrows.


You can have Kangol tastes with a Big It Up budget

The faithful bucket hat has seen a resurgence, no small thanks to Schoolboy Q and the legions of streetwear companies catering to his fans’ tastes. But in the 1990s, the bucket was indisputably owned by Jamiroquai. But it took some serious cojones (and cash) to rock a fuzzy pink number. For everyone else, there’s the New Radicals’ sad, striped olive-green bucket, which, inexplicably, is the star of “You Always Get What You Give.”


Kill the squares, keep the mall weird

These are squares. They wear ill-fitting, nameless Tip Top Tailors suits. And when the revolution happens, these are the people who’ll be serving us Icees.


Statement hair can playfully subvert your wardrobe

Listen, we hate squares as much as anyone. But the harsh reality is, if you ever want to move out of your mom’s basement, you’ll need to get a job. And the capitalist shitfuck world sometimes requires that you conform to their bullshit uniform. But they’ll never kill your spirit, or your right to self-expression. So sure, wear that suit if you must. It’ll fool the squares into thinking you’re one of them, but your centre-parted coiffe is a firm reminder that you’re no working stiff: you are down as fuck.


The ultimate style essential: the ringer tee

Flip through the pages ofGQor Esquire orSharp,and you’ll find plenty of proclamations about style essentials: The fitted white tee, they’d say, is a staple in any man’s wardrobe—if it’s good enough for James Dean, they say, it’s good enough for us. A navy suit, meanwhile, is a must: in full form, it’s fit for the law firm, but lose the blazer, and it’s caj enough for happy-hour merriment. Brown wingtips? Absolutely non-negotiable, and with proper care (think: a cedar shoe tree), they’ll be part footwear, part heirloom.

Those are lies. All lies. The only thing you need is a blue ringer tee, because IF IT’S GOOD ENOUGH FOR HAYDEN DESSER IT IS SURE AS SHIT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU.


WTF is this bunny?

A bunny suit, like a clown wig, will bring levity to the dourest situation. It’s a must for any serious-minded sartorialist’s walk-in closet.

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