Street Capsule: Jasper Chen
Thoughts | Vanessa Nardin Kruczaj
Sights | Sophia Sharp
Jasper Chen, ’22 Richmond Hill, UofT Computer Science
Sitting on a cushioned chair behind a brightly lit screen in one of UofT’s many computer labs, Jasper Chen is unorthodoxly approaching the field of programming. The music producing UofT student is conscious of how his daily interaction with fashion is associated with his evolving identity and influences the way in which he is perceived by society. Having the opportunity to interview Jasper, we delved into his interests and hobbies, and his take on the impact of social media on style,fashion as a form of self-expression, and the emerging brands everyone should take a look at.
Let’s begin with what you’re wearing right now:
Jasper: This [sweatshirt] is Gosha Rubchinskiy. It’s a Russian brand, and the designer is Gosha Rubchinskiy. It recently became popular in 2010, but its now starting to gain more traction. It’s unique, but also very simple. They alway put their name or logo on the front, and [incorporate] some weird design. This one is an oversized look, and has a double collar, giving a nice contrast with the blue and grey. These are just Air Forces and sweatpants.
For my earrings, I’ve recently gotten into silver jewelry and I wanted something to complete the look with all the rings and other silver jewellery I have. I have black studs and diamond studs, but that doesn’t really match. I was thinking what’s a kind of loud earring that’s not too obnoxious but fits with the jewellery; I found these. The hoops are the same thickness as my rings, and the cross indicates the street style, hip-hop vibe I was looking for.
K-Pop, I think, popularized [unique earrings]; Korean and Japanese street-wear brought it here. A lot of street style wear that is popular now, not in terms of hip-hop or rap, but mainstream streetwear, is from Korea and Japan - all the cropped pants, the weird kimono-looking things, all the Chinese, Korean, Japanese people wear it.
What do you do outside of school? Sports? Hobbies?
Jasper: If I have time, I go to the gym, that’s number one. I love working out, and the reason being is I love music. If I’m working out, I get to isolate myself with something I can focus on and play music in the background. It’s a zen moment for me.
Speaking of music, I also like making music. I recently started in the summer with a friend, making beats, producing music. I also play piano, which is fun.
And, sleeping is a hobby!
What type of music do you listen to? Do you think it influences your style?
Jasper: 100%. The music I listen to the most is hip-hop and rap. Fashion is really big; before they were dressing like gangsters, now it’s turning more into street wear. I listen to all types of music, mainly because I started off listening to EDM and electronic music, and pop. My parents also love classical music, so I got into it. Once I started piano, I had to listen to classical music, since that’s what I had to play. I also listen to Indie music to look for things I can sample for making my own beats, making my own music. I’ve had friends who listened to Korean and Japanese pop, and they introduced me to that genre. I always look for new music, so I listen to everything, but I mainly focus on rap.
Do you listen to current or old school rap?
Jasper: Right now I’m trying to catch up on current rap, but when I’m looking for that vibe, I go old-school. If you count 2008-2009 old school, I [listen to it] a lot. Now, it’s just a bunch of mumbled rap. Sure it’s cool, it’s fun, it’s catchy, but when you want to get to the peak of rap, in my opinion, it’s in those times.
Are there any specific artists who inspire the way you dress?
Jasper: Kanye got me into fashion. Now, he’s a dad. So, no thank you. He’s dressing like a dad now. ASAP Rocky. His looks are always above average. He rocks everything he wears with confidence, he knows what he’s wearing. He’s the best. I love him.
What is your everyday, typical outfit?
Jasper: School: The comfiest thing I can wear. Honestly, if I’m in a lecture, have a 5 hour day, listening to professors talk about shit I don’t understand, I want to be as comfortable as possible. Going Out: Depending on the occasion, I will probably put on something unique but not too loud thats getting a lot of attraction. I’ll wear black, I’ll wear jeans, a black pair of sneakers, a nice belt with a colour that fits with the outfit. If I’m wearing something black and grey, I might want some white in between. With white and black, I can have grey as the accessory. It’s a lot of colour theory. I always put on accessories, that’s something I love.
Do you think the way you dress influences how people perceive you?
Jasper: A lot of people like to say no to that question because its controversial but I think 100%. When you are talking to someone you are constantly judging them by how they look. A lot of times when you see someone you probably won’t talk to them if they look like a slob. Their personality may be 10/10 but you’ll never know unless you go and talk to them. What enables you to talk to them or perceive how they are, is usually their appearance and how they’re dressed. It plays a big part in how people perceive me. It gives off the impression I want people to perceive, I hope. If I wore Sketchers and dad pants, I’d probably talk to a lot less people.
Would you say your style is associated with your identity?
Jasper: [Style] definitely showcases who you are. You are going to wear something that makes you happy, or you like it. Even though you may have not thought too much about your identity or where it came from, its something that embodies you. You wear something that you like, that makes you happy, people look at you and think ‘this is what this guy [or girl] wants to be’, what kind of look they are going for, what kind of vibe they want. It might not get that in depth because there are a lot of people who don’t Google the backstory on designers or what messages they are trying to create. [Style] definitely has your own personality integrated into it. You’re making a choice, any time you make a choice, it’s you.
Do you think going to school in downtown Toronto (compared to in the suburbs) has influenced the way you dress?
Jasper: No, I don’t think so. As long as I’m dressing in a way that's unique and different from everyone else, and incorporates a new type of street wear, I’m happy.
When did you first become interested in fashion and style?
Jasper: I’ve always liked clothes. My interest definitely began in grade 8, but I fully went into this world in grade 10 when my friends introduced it to me, got me places to start, places to look. I was like, ‘Holy shit, this is really cool.” You have all these different ways you can look at clothes, all these different backstories and ways you can portray yourself. There are all these new pieces you probably wouldn’t see if you didn’t follow street wear. Street wear introduces you to a lot of brands.
Do you have a desired career path for the future?
Jasper: Since grade 2, I’ve always wanted to do computer science, and programming in general. Now, I’ve completely narrowed it down to artificial intelligence research. I don’t like just sitting down and doing the typical orthodox way of programming. I want to advance the field and actively do things in a research lab.
How do you see fashion fitting into your future and/or career?
Jasper: Everybody tells me, if I dress like this I probably won’t get hired. I will have to incorporate my style separately, or try and go more formal and less hip-hop, street style [inspired]. I would be surprised, [if it fit]. If my company accepts dressing like this, I will.
Do you believe your interest in fashion hinders how people perceive your intelligence?
Jasper: 100%. It was such a big thing in high school. I had teachers think I was cheating because of the people I hung around with and the things I wore. You don’t give off the academic vibe. People will think you aren’t academic. It’s weird. When you look at someone, you think of what they wear as them before you start talking to them. It’s not static. There is no one set meaning for it. Someone might perceive your outfit differently than how you perceive it. Especially with teachers; they are from a different generation. The way they dress is completely different from the way we dress.
How would you say social media has impacted the pieces you buy and wear?
Jasper: I don’t use Instagram, but I do use the internet. If I didn’t have any access to the internet, I probably wouldn’t dress as sophisticated and streetwear [as I do]. When you have the internet, you get to see what people are wearing all around the world. On a website like Reddit, you get to see the top rated thing that people think is the best and that categorizes it nicely. If people don’t like it, it's probably not unique, it something you’ve seen before. Now you get to see the brand new styles and pieces, and say “I have something that could work with this or I think this fits me.”
What store or brands do you buy most of your pieces from?
Jasper: [I buy] 100% online. I would buy in store if I could, but Canada is not the best place to buy a lot of stuff because you either can’t find it in store or they just don’t have it here. So, mostly online. There is also times where pieces are sold out, now I have to buy resell. You can’t buy resell in real life. I wish I could buy in real life, [it] helps looking at it in person. But with the beauty of free returns, you won’t have to struggle too much, it just takes a bit of extra effort.
In terms of designer, there is this one retailer called SSENSE that carries a lot, but it's usually just wherever I can find it for either the lowest or just find it in general. If I’m buying resale, its either I ask a couple of my friends if they know people selling it, or I go on GRAILED. It’s like Ebay but for men’s clothes. The whole point [of Grailed] is that you are looking for your holy grail, the one piece you want.
Would you say fashion is an effective form of self-expression?
Jasper: Decently well, I mean, it’s the only way you can self-express. When you want to express yourself the best way is to have a full conversation with someone, but your not always going to do that. Clothing is the second thing to look at. They will look at your face, they will look at your body, but your clothing is like ornaments you are attaching.
Do you have a “feel good” outfit, one that makes you feel most you?
Jasper: I don’t think so. If I did I would probably wear that all the time. Maybe that’s why I’m trying so much new stuff, because I’m trying to find what’s actually me. Thinking right now, there isn’t something that’s ‘oh that’s me’.
Comfort or Style?
Sneakers or Boots?
Denim or Leather?
Day or Night?
Going Out or Staying In?
Winter or Summer?
Movies or TV?
Nike or Adidas?
Old Kanye or New Kanye?