I feel conflicted about how much I like fashion and make up, but I no longer force myself to feel bad about it and reject it. As a young, strange little nerd, I felt like if I allowed myself to feel beautiful and act feminine, I would be immediately rejected by people with similar interests as me—something that has been corroborated in my adult life, though not as harshly as I had imagined. There are a lot of strange girls (and boys) who like fashion and games, and those strange kids becomes strange adults who meet each other, share interests, form communities. From Fashion Tips From Comic Strips to Black Milk’s Mass Effect Leggings to my absurd closet, the particular desire to absorb the aesthetics of the things we like, to project ourselves as we truly are, is strong. As John Berger says in Ways of Seeing, a book that changed my life, “We never look at just one thing; we are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves. Our vision is continually active, continually moving, continually holding things in a circle around itself, constituting what is present to us as we are.”
Media can make it seem easy, because the women in media are explicitly designed to send a message about the narrative that they will inhabit. In particular, protagonists in videogames are designed, not just literally, built up from the ground with code, but meticulously created to communicate the thesis of the game. When Aiden Pearce is wearing a black trenchcoat and a hat pulled over his face, we know the story will be noir tinged and morally ambiguous. When Solid Snake wears a catsuit that defines each buttock, we understand both the serious stealth action and the not always congruent sense of humor of those games.
Often when you look at the female protagonists of games, all you see communicated is sexiness. Not always, though. And sometimes, buried in signifiers meant to titillate are other lessons that we can glean for ourselves. Best case scenario, however, is that characters aren’t meant purely as sex objects—they’re full people with pasts and faults and feelings. One such character has an aesthetic that fascinates me: Faith Connors from Mirror’s Edge.
Her clothing is like a piece of Bauhaus architecture that’s been allowed to look lived in—long, clean lines interrupted by her tattoos, the asymmetry of her bag, band around her elbow, her simultaneously hardcore and extremely feminine facial tattoo. It’s in the way her pants are bound tightly to her ankles that takes them from fashionable to functional. It’s like when you climb on top of a building and you see all the metal guts you weren’t meant to see. If you want to look like that, I have a few tips.
First of all, while I’m not telling you what to do with your life, I’m not going to recommend getting a face tattoo. If you want to have intense under eye marking without having them permanently, I’d suggest Stila’s Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner. It does in fact Stay All Day, and it’s got a felt, penlike tip that makes it really easy to draw all over yourself, which is the first thing I did when I got it. It retails for $20 at Sephora, which seems like a lot of money, but I’ve had mine for a year and it’s still going strong.
My first thought was designer Rad Hourani, whose dark, minimalist, unisex clothing fits Faith perfectly. But hey, maybe you’re not one to spend $220 on a tank top. If you’re not Kanye West, I’d recommend Noctex, an independent brand form Vancouver, B.C. In particular, the Squared Hem Tank is industrial in a way that evokes a used, dystopian future, and is a much more reasonable $60. I totally understand if that’s still out of anyone’s price range, and truly the key is just paying attention to lines and colors—Faith evokes the disruption of a controlled system, so taking anything preppy and clean and neutral, like an A-Line dress, and adding an incongruous accessory, like an armband, a chunky necklace or a Doc Marten boot, would do the trick. The nice thing about Faith’s style is colors are easy—her outfit is entirely neutral except for bright pops of red. Neutrals all “match,” and the red is supposed to stand out, making it a simple formula to replicate.
In terms of accessories, Faith is about things that are functional first, everything else second. To that end I really like the Net Backpack from Pieces Omesh. Unlike a lot of fashion-y backpacks, it’s an actual backpack and not a tiny square hanging weirdly from your back. It’s huge and has a lot of pockets, but the netting detail makes it feel a lot less like you’re on your way to the your first day of school. Lucky for all of us, backpacks are suddenly very trendy, so there’s a lot of choice and we can all take a break from having one incredibly sore shoulder (although apparently there’s an attempt to rebrand them as “rucksacks,” which… don’t, they’re backpacks, we all know they’re backpacks). At $67 it is kind of pricey, but I think bags are a great place to invest. Nothing sucks more than having a strap break on your way to catch your train.
It’s true that women spend a lot of time grooming themselves, but the eight minutes a day I spend putting together how I want to be seen really helps me actually leave the house. There’s no harm in taking pride in how you look, no shame in needing to treat your eyeliner and shoes as warpaint and armor. If you can step into your sneakers and feel like Faith Connors, I’d say do it.
Gita Jackson has dedicated her entire adult life to wading through the marginalia of popular culture and finding gold. As much as she’d like to be called a “fashion expert,” she is more likely a niche fashion enthusiast. She would probably love to talk to you on Twitter @xoxogossipgita.