Miami, Cuba, New York, Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan: distinct locations with something key in common: each place has inspired the personal aesthetic of Macalester senior Chris Mendoza. He is something of a chameleon, emulating the essence of the variety of locales he cites as influences. Considering the distinct feel of each of these places, Mendoza’s stylistic affinities often contradict each other. His outfits walk the line between colorful and dark, flowy and fitted. Always open to new innovations, he continuously refines and reinvents his style. He describes the current iteration of his style as “modern urban minimalist,” and claims that his aesthetic aspirations stem from his desire to become a professor.
Conscientious and humble in his approach to style, Mendoza exudes a quiet confidence and expertise. You will see him sporting fashion-forward items like longer length t-shirts, cardigans, ponchos, leggings and chukka boots. In case you’re lost in the fashion lingo, Wikipedia offers a short definition of chukkas: ankle-high boots, often suede or leather, with open-lacing.
Mendoza humbly explained, “I wouldn’t consider myself a fashion expert.” Nevertheless he confessed that he spends “a large amount of time trying to find innovative individual pieces on the internet through Tumblr inspirations or my favorite website, Asos.” Mendoza’s commitment to forward-thinking and incorporative innovation becomes clear as he discusses his own stylistic journey.
Mendoza has long been interested in fashion. In Miami, he was drawn to both the pastels and the vibrant colors that populate the city. Wanting to “emulate the tropical vibe,” Mendoza embraced this style and internalized the city’s commitment to dressing sharp.
He explained, “Dressing well is a huge part of how you present yourself. I’m always surprised when people wear sweatpants to class here. Not saying that people shouldn’t wear what they want, but I always try to dress less casual in the presence of professors. I always grew up wearing button-downs to family gatherings, saving the sweatpants and basketball shorts for hanging around the house.” While Mendoza doesn’t often wear the button-downs he once sported in Miami, he’s had difficulty shaking his affinity for bright colors. His commitment to bright colors comes from more than his home city of Miami. He cites his parents’ respective Cuban and Puerto Rican heritages as a major inspiration, considering that “the islands have such a rich palette of bright colors that I try to bring into my style and dress when the weather’s a little gloomier.”
The innovator he is, Mendoza adapted to his new environment when he arrived to Macalester. He claimed that his friends teased him for looking like a J.Crew catalog during his first year because of his classic uniform, composed of “corduroy pants or some sort of J.Crew slacks, and a plain sweater or shirt top.” He asserted that he kept it preppy and predictable for his first two years at Macalester, but everything changed after he spent the summer after his sophomore year in New York doing a research fellowship. He contended that this period is when he started experimenting with an edgier look, incorporating pieces from his favorite stores: Pacsun, Kenneth Cole, H&M and Forever 21. This new look also involved a new haircut. Mendoza was quick to set the record straight on his haircut. While he’s often told that his haircut, a pompadour with a hard part, is reminiscent of the popular haircut sported by Macalester Men’s Soccer players, he clarifies that, “it’s a really common haircut for Latino guys back home in Miami,” making it a logical choice to express Mendoza’s hometown pride. Part of this new hair aesthetic was also due to Mendoza’s decision to come out as queer after the summer between his sophomore and junior year.
Another sizeable shift occurred after Mendoza’s semester in Azerbaijan during his junior year. He talked about how his Macalester friends began to notice that he “experimented more with dark colors after a semester in Azerbaijan where it was most common to wear different shades of grey and black.” While Mendoza currently has a soft spot for dark colors, his wardrobe is by no means monochromatic or pattern-less. One of his favorite trends is checks as an accessory pattern. He went on to explain how universal checks can be, stating, “Adding a little pattern into a formal suit outfit can make business attire a lot more interesting and memorable.” In case you’re lost, checks are another name for a tartan pattern.
Checks may be his current favorite trend, but Mendoza also gushes over his Macalester style inspiration, Seth Loeffler-Kemp ’17. He raved, “He always has the cutest outfits and his tote bag is always filled with beautiful hardcover notebooks as well. He’s my queerspiration.” Mendoza may be humble about his fashion sensibilities, but he has gone through quite the evolution over the past four years, and it is certainly worth highlighting.