When you plan a photoshoot and interview with Macalester’s improvisational comedy dynamic duo and arts magazine mavens, Josh Marcus ’17 and Mike Curran ’18, you don’t know what to expect. Three hundred pictures and an hour-long interview later, I have attempted to capture the wit, depth, goofiness and authenticity of these two friends. Our conversation touched on topics ranging from androgyny in fashion and healthy masculinity to their favorite Macalester trends and the importance of tote bags.
However, both Marcus and Curran are quick to downplay the extent of their knowledge and thoughts on fashion. While neither of them claim to be style experts, both have perfected the effortlessly stylish look. According to Anna Van Slice ’16, Curran and Marcus “look like [they] put effort in, but, like, not too much.” Though they definitely walk the thin line between effort and effortless, our interview demonstrates that they do have specific thoughts on how the politics of gender, socioeconomic status and consumption interact with one’s personal style.
Let’s start with their views on fashion at Macalester. According to Marcus, “It’s a really stylish campus, I must say. It’s almost like there’s this [style] default.” He followed up by adding, “It’s all very unassuming too. None of it’s in your face.”
Curran specifically gave a shout out to his Macalester fashion inspiration Ella Schoenen ’18. He raved about how Schoenen “wears velvet pants, and just looks fabulous. She throws together textures and colors really well and really elegantly.” Both Marcus and Curran appear to respect people who use their style to express themselves in a unique way.
For example, this spring, Marcus wants to see “people wearing pretty classic stuff but with some super zany twist, like if you have some weird pin your Aunt Myrtle gave you or something.”
Curran, on the other hand, is ready to see “buttons, zippers, clasps … the layering of buttons and collars.” He’s also looking for the emergence of “soft denim” as a trend. While they’re both anticipating these new spring trends, they still have praise for Macalester’s commitment to winter fashion, especially in the face of frigid Minnesota temperatures.
In the words of Marcus, “People don’t let the cold stop them. I feel like people don’t hunker down inside of industrial clothes. People still find a way to express themselves, [in order to] be stylish [and] do fun stuff.”
Marcus was also sure to give a shout out to the “ladies of Macalester” for their “cool, gigantic furry coats and trench coats in crazy colors.”
Curran added, “There’s a great diversity of sweaters here … cable knits, swaggy grandpa, summer camp, baggy crews.” He continued on to list absurd sweater name combinations, but I lost count and gave up at some point. Curran is also a vocal supporter of the tote bag. The following quote is a PSA from Curran: “Listen, everyone should have a tote bag. You see people with backpacks and it looks like they’re going out for the entire winter and hiking the Appalachian Trail. They’re crouching under the weight of it. I used to be one of those people until I found tote bags.” Marcus followed up the impassioned plea, “Wake up, America.” There you have it, folks, tote bags are the future.
The pair’s irreverent improv tendencies showed up many times during the interview. Their talent for zany word combinations became apparent again when I asked them to describe each other’s style in three words. Marcus called Curran’s style “Bedhead Maynard deckhand,” while Curran referred to Marcus’s style as “Wes Anderson noir.”
While Marcus and Curran’s wit was front and center for much of the interview, they also reflected on some of the dynamics of masculinity, self-expression and fashion.
According to Marcus, “Women’s fashion is the move. I think that style’s moving that way, in the sense that men are flashing their ankles a lot, and pants are getting tighter. I feel like men wear more jewelry these days.”
Along this vein, Curran was quick to add, “I’m all for androgyny. When I was home, I bought four pieces from the women’s section. I think there’s a stigma because women can buy men’s clothes and it’s great and cute, but men can’t shop in the women’s section. I wish I could shop more there.”
Unsurprisingly, the conversation then turned to short shorts. Recently, Curran has started fashioning his own short shorts out of old jeans. When Marcus asked him what he does with the remaining jean material, Curran simply answered “turtlenecks.” More seriously, Curran talked about how his shorter shorts have been empowering. He feels passionately: “People shouldn’t tell other people what to wear in the first place.”
Similarly, Marcus’s general rule is: “If it makes you walk faster and have a little extra zip … that’s what you should be wearing. So for me, those are some short shorts. I like to flaunt it.”
Curran and Marcus also have opinions about the importance of compliments. Curran stressed, “People should be more vocal about complimenting each other, especially [when it’s] guy to guy. Guys should tell guys more often that they look good.” To Marcus, this cultural shift would “almost desexualize fashion,” and he thinks that guys should stop being held back by the fear that their platonic compliments to other guys will be misconstrued as flirting. However, both Curran and Marcus are still aware of the complicated history of male-to-female compliments related to gender dynamics, bodies and fashion.
Curran mused, “I do feel a bit weird sometimes complimenting women, because I don’t want it to come off as being flirtatious, because there’s such a bad history of cat-calling and that sort of thing.”
Finally, the guys discussed how their hometowns have influenced their personal stylistic expression. In Curran’s case, “Growing up in a city in Maine really affected my style. I think Mainers pride themselves on work and distinction. They like to define themselves [through their] Yankee ingenuity and its simplicity. Maine is simple and easy. Portland is very much a place that’s trying to figure itself out. It’s an old port town, but also there’s a new contemporary arts scene, and hipsters and thrift stores are popping up. I want my style to be a reflection of that. I want to wear a Carhartt and a nice watch and see what happens with that.”
On the other hand, Marcus claims, “There were a lot of surfer guys and athletic guys in my town.” However, he developed his own style identity through thrift stores where he found funky ties and cool sweaters. His new choices were inspired when he started reading more men’s magazines and style blogs. Marcus said, “I started thinking about fashion as a fun way to express myself in a new way.”
For guys who claim to not know too much about fashion, Curran and Marcus are surprisingly reflective and insightful about the role of style in their personal and artistic expression. For a fitting conclusion, here’s Curran’s ideal outfit: “Chacos and socks with really high jean shorts, a plain white tee with a light cardigan and a tote bag.” Of course there’s a tote bag.