I have never been a fan of brown shades. In my mind, they were all just a “wanna-be” Black. My senior year in fashion school changed a lot of significant things about me, but one of the more subtle changes was my perception of the color brown. This new discovery may be a huge stretch or just down right unrelatable, but indulge me here. The color brown is all around us. It is seen in skin tones, hair colors, eye colors, and even in something as basic as dirt. We see it in all its variations every day. For me, brown represented a dull indefinability. My hair was brown, my freckles were brown, and my huge birthmark on my right arm…. all brown. To me this color was what I was given to work with at birth. I don’t really know where this thought comes from, but it became a symbol of what I would be if I didn’t achieve anything. I started with brown so I could not finish with brown, right? While struggling to accept what I was given, what drew me to fashion was what they are constantly selling in fashion magazines: reinvention, elite status, an escape from your reality. To me, a basic brown was the antithesis of these characteristics.
I grew up one of seven kids in Kansas City, Missouri. I looked so much like my siblings I was often referred to as simply, ”the little Brewster” or “little Brinks” (my oldest brother). I remember very much disliking my freckles. It is not that my self-esteem was ever low, but I just thought that I would be so much better looking if I wasn’t covered in dots. Of course, other kids’ comments like, “is that dirt on your face” and other chiding remarks about freckles don’t make a kid think too fondly of these spots. This perception of freckles, and partially the color brown, changed one day when I was complaining about my freckles to my mom. I wasn’t asking for anything too crazy, just that I basically wished they were not on my face. But then something happened that would change that wish. At that time, while I was in high school, I was working at Old Navy. I had a customer that was exactly what you probably think of when you think about your friends’ moms. A brown, wavy bob with those mom bangs. (No shade, I love all the mommas out there, but we all can picture this haircut, right?) I scanned in all her items, placed them in the bag, and handed it to her with a, “Have a great night.” This was nothing different than the usual interaction. As she was leaving, she paused with her hand resting on the glass door to exit the store. She then turned to me and said, “You know those freckles are kisses from your angels, right?” Hearing this, I was honestly kind of shocked at this random event in the otherwise monotony that plagues the life of retail workers everywhere. I told her I had not always liked them. She responded with an understanding smile and nod saying,” Well you should!” She then made her way out the door. I do not know who that woman was, but from that moment on I decided my freckles were bomb and a sign of how much I was loved. One could say I am reading into this moment or being dramatic, but moments like that do not happen often. Moments when you experience a profound shift in perspective are few and far between. I am so thankful for whoever that woman was, and for her willingness to speak into my life that night. I am also thankful for a God who knew what I was wrestling with, and who cared enough about me to cause our paths to meet.
With this back-story in mind, we are stepping back to this past year while I was completing my degree, in Fashion. For my senior year, we were assigned to create a collection from start to finish with full creative liberty on concept, category, and execution. While considering options for my concept, I felt I had gotten distracted by the things that drew me to fashion in the first place: escapism and elitism. Those were the things that drew me into fashion, but I knew those things drew me in because of something I was missing in myself. That missing piece was harmony. I wanted that escape, because I could not make sense of myself. When looking around at the other men surrounding me, they all seemed to have an understanding that was unspoken. Things like: how to greet each other (“Bro hugs,” which to this day I don’t understand), how to talk to each other, and more importantly what to talk about, just seemed to flow naturally. I have little to no interest in video games, football, and beer, which can make it tough to make connections when around a lot of guys my age. I did not understand why I seemed to not get masculinity. Over the course of the year, I dove into this and all the other parts of my identity. I found that I seemed to be sitting in the puddle of mud in a tug-of-war between the two extremes of identity that everyone else so easily found themselves on one side. I came to the conclusion that I over-corrected in fashion, and that is not what I wanted, because it was not sincere. I had been trying to find myself on the extreme/liberal side of high fashion, an edgy in-your-face fashion that seemed to alienate most people, but I am not there. That is not truly where I stand. My identity pulled me another way, because I genuinely want to connect with people on both sides. So, I came to the conclusion that I was somewhere in the middle. For me, that meant accepting myself for who I really was. And, that brought me back to brown. This became part of my color story for my senior collection, ADAM.
This got very personal, which I was not really planning on. But isn’t that what style is about? Your style is your style for a reason, and that reason is personal for each person. So, with that in mind, let’s end with some actual styling and fashion advice. Brown can be very versatile and soothing. I realized this when I spent some time in Arizona with my then girlfriend. In Arizona, everything is a neutral. And, if there is a color, it is muted. Now I am not being a visionary by any means with expanding my wardrobe to include more browns and neutrals. The Kardashians and many others have brought a whole new luxury and beauty to browns and nudes. Working brown into your wardrobe gives you an approachability and warmth that you simply do not get with black. So my advice is: go to your local thrift store. Instead of pushing past the browns, tans, and beiges take a closer look at them. Your whole new outfit might just be in the same spot on the ROYGBIV rack. Here are some looks that take brown to a whole new level and honestly bring me so much aesthetic joy that I never thought I would be getting from the color of poop. 😜
All of the pieces in these shots are thrift store finds except the khaki denim, which was a Target or JCPenney find, I can’t remember. The sweater layered with the cardigan under the over alls makes for the warmest, most comfortable outfit for the winter. Accessorizing it with the red/brown woven belt and combat boots send this 50 shades of brown look over the top and not in a bad way like the movie. LOL. Finding pieces that make a statement in a subtle way like this beige cardigan with these incredible leather buttons are pieces that can really put your personal style on a whole new level. The Beauty is in the details. The second look has all the pieces I actually enjoy from menswear. A shoulder padded double breasted suit with a classic dress shirt underneath but of course oversized. Because I like keeping my proportions big and broad on top and tight to the body going down. And again the beauty is in the details. Wearing a choker with a dress shirt gives this classic work the edge that makes it my personal style. And don’t be afraid to reuse accessories! Same belt and boots for both looks.
Adam James Brewster
P.S. Thank you so much to my great friend Moriah Roberts for taking these photos, my brother Trevor Brewster for editing them for me, and Rachel Kater for helping edit this post. (Hit up their socials, if you’d like) This was so fun to put together, and I hope to have more coming soon.