I grew up fishing, but it was never more than a sometimes hobby—real Huck Finn lazily sitting by the water just waiting for something to bite stuff. It was decidedly not fly fishing, which seemed like too much work. But then I read an article in the Times about how standing in the middle of a body of water and casting a line was the new “chic way to unwind.” After chewing on that for a bit, I picked up David Coggins’ book The Optimist, which makes a nice philosophical case for fly fishing. I figured I’d try it—I didn’t need a new hobby to be chic, but I am always looking for new ways to chill. That, and I always coveted the fits. Lots of great, sun-beaten dad hats, waxed cotton jackets and so much olive. In theory, fly fishing seemed like everything I’d want in a hobby. Slow, quiet and you can get dressed up for it.
Let me say, dear reader, that I didn’t quite get it. Fly fishing: not for me! The looks, however? Those stuck around. I bought a bunch of vintage Barbour. I started wearing swordfish hats with long bills, often with an Orvis long-sleeve. I am not totally a fisherman, but I’m definitely dressing like one.
There’s a little bit of guilt here. Maybe you’re familiar with the idea of stolen valor: that’s the term used to describe people who post as military veterans. Something similar exists in the world of personal style. Camo pants or Red Wing boots are fine, but when you show up to an event dressed like you just spent a day lugging cinder blocks despite having spent all day on Zoom, well, that’s fashion-world stolen valor. And I felt guilty for continuing to wear the gear I grabbed when I fancied myself a fisherman.
But maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad. These days, it’s hard not to incorporate some little element of another person’s hobby (or even your own!) into your wardrobe, even if you don’t realize that’s what you’re doing. It might be fly fishing, or maybe you picked up a varsity jacket for Only NY’s fictional running club, despite the closest you’ve gotten to running for pleasure is reading that Haruki Murakami about jogging. You don’t have to be a parent or a tennis player to own a “Tennis Mom” tote from Racquet Club LA. You’d rather stay warm inside than go hiking in frigid winter weather, but, damn, you’d cop a Jil Sander x Arc’teryx snowsuit in a heartbeat. The closest you come to ceramics is hoping to one day have a Seth Rogen vase in your home, but you own a pair of vintage jeans with specks of dried clay and paint on them. Perhaps you, like me, keep a couple of tomato plants and various perennials on your roof—but act and dress as if you spend your days plowing a field with the help of a lame mule.