I Dressed Like Keanu Reeves for a Week and Became a Living Meme
What is it like to live as a man who puts minimal effort into his outward appearance because his value is not inherently tied to his presentation?
I've never been an exceptional dresser. It's not for lack of effort. I just get so overwhelmed trying to make a decision sometimes that I end up wearing a bizarre medley of clothing. Unlike many of my friends who have either given up on dressing stylishly or achieved it long ago, I exist in a vague middle ground, eliciting looks that ask, "Is that what you're wearing?" and "Why wear this?" or the most frequent, “Opheli, what?”
In that respect, Keanu Reeves makes me feel less alone. He's a successful Hollywood actor who's been spotted barefoot in public more than once and has been seen in cargo capris. No one really knows if Keanu dresses the way he does because he doesn't care, or if he's trying and failing at some kind of "effortless" style. I would argue, based off of his most recent look, we're reaching new levels of apathy fashion either way.
I decided to spend a week dressing like Keanu to see if true apathy would bring me closer to a personal sense of my own fashion. To my dismay and surprise, I already owned all the items I would need for this experiment. By the end of the week, this would prompt me to max my credit card out trying desperately to distance myself from a look that I quickly realized was just “men who put minimal effort in to their outward appearance because their value is not inherently tied to their presentation.”
No shade to Keanu Reeves––who was certainly wearing the designer version of the stuff I own, which was mostly sourced from sale bins and thrift shops –– but these were terrible looks. They mostly rendered me not a subject of ridicule or weird stares, but instead just totally unspectacular in any way. As a Sagittarius with her moon in Taurus, I hated that.
After my week dressing as Keanu, I realized I looked a lot like professors walking in and out of NYU buildings, and that men can dress like shit and it’s fine. And this isn’t just limited to men who dress apathetically. Even the male style icons we’ve established as a culture dress, by and large, like fucking idiots. There’s whatever is going on here with Justin Bieber and his “got lost in Florida gift shop for maybe six years” look. And whatever the hell is going on with these dopes. I wanted to know what that kind of freedom felt like. Here's how...
For my first day, I decided to go with the look I had dubbed “Chimney Sweep, but 2004.” After pulling on a pair of jeans, a T-shirt that I turned inside out (I own no plain T-shirts), a black cap, a scarf draped around my neck, and the only blazer I own, I walked to my kitchen, Keanu look complete.
My roommates were already there, making coffee. Upon seeing me, they both burst out laughing. “What are you, a small French boy?” they asked. I did look like a small French boy. Later in the day, another friend asked if I was going to be performing slam poetry. I wasn’t.
On my train to class, I spilled hot coffee all over my lap. I pondered what Keanu would do in this scenario. I believe he’d keep the jeans on, not giving a second thought to the coffee stain that looked like a rorschach test covering most of his thigh. So on I went.
An afternoon meeting with a professor elicited an “Are you feeling tired?” I was tired. Was it the ragged, exhausted spirit of Keanu, seeping through my blazer and baggy T-shirt and coffee-stained pants, or was it that I was a week away from graduating college and in a fuck ton of student loan debt? Probably a bit of both.
This was by far the worst look for me. It was pretty warm outside, so I was sweating uncontrollably. I began fantasizing about wearing shorts or tying up my shirt. Throughout the day I couldn’t stop thinking about how maybe the outfit could have looked cute with my shirt cropped. I went to my work study job on campus, to a doctor’s appointment, and to Crate & Barrel to look at furniture that costs more than my rent. I asked my friend to take photos of me on the streets of SoHo, because if I was going to submit myself to this style disaster, I was going to do it in one of the hottest fashion spots of the world.
I walked past tres chic clothier Kith multiple times during my week, and felt more judgement than I ever have in my life. People emerging from the boutique where you can buy sweatshirts for upward of $200 seemed to hate what I was wearing. I also hated what I was wearing. But as I felt their looks of disapproval, I felt good about how bad I looked. At least none of my ugly clothes cost much.
I’d like to make a particular note about the sunglasses: Never in my life have I worn a pair of sunglasses that were so tremendously unflattering. The man I bought them from seemed moderately horrified by my decision to purchase them, and I wasn’t too pleased either. But in the name of Keanu, I wore them for exactly 20 minutes before I decided I’d rather have my retinas burned to ash than wear these nose framing monstrosities for another second.
This was my least convincing look in that it is impossible to find army green cargo capris because it is not 2003, and I don’t have access to the Ann Taylor Loft outlet mall that’s off of a major interstate somewhere in Central Florida. I tried my best, though. I would argue this was the least susceptible outfit. I couldn’t carry around the helmet all day, but I like to think that Keanu didn’t carry around his either.
I didn’t wear the jacket because it was the first true warm day in New York City, and I wanted to feel the sun on my arms.
No one really commented on my appearance, except for a guy on my block who cat called me. One girl I know, who is decidedly cooler and better dressed than me, complimented my look. This left me confused for the rest of the day. But as I looked around, I realized that many of today’s “hottest trends” were kind of silly.
I continued to feel extremely schlubby, despite the compliment, because I think that the exact ratio of ankle Keanu and I exposed was the absolute most unflattering ––somehow showing two to four inches of ankle is currently on trend. You’d be hard pressed to find a pair of pants at Urban Outfitters that aren’t high waters right now. Even still, the four inches I was sporting made me want to die. That much pale unshaved lower leg was like a poorly placed em dash on my body.
Any other day that felt like the worst, was quickly overtaken by Thursday, the actual worst day. I realized all of the sweatshirts I owned are cropped. So it was harder to pull off the bonnet style that Keanu was sporting in the photos, until I borrowed a co-worker’s normal-lengthed one. I spent all day at VICE HQ, and at one point I got caught trying to snap a mirror selfie in my full Keanu outfit––I darted quickly into a bathroom stall and didn’t emerge for at least ten minutes.
This made me realize the audacity one must have to not only make the decision to wear a sweatshirt on your head at all but to do so in public. Has Keanu Reeves reached a level of fame or success where looking ridiculous no longer matters? Was this look meant to conceal the fact that he is Keanu Reeves? Protect him from the rain? There’s absolutely no answer to this question that could possibly satisfy me. Maybe that's not Keanu at all? I see the resemblance, but how sure are we it's actually him?
Either way, I wore this all black, layered outfit on the first 90-degree day in New York City. I couldn’t keep my blazer on for too long because there was a real possibility I’d pass out. Taking a closer look at the photo of Keanu, it seems it wasn’t that hot out, based on the apparel worn by everyone else in frame: light layers, three-quarter length sleeves, open-aired patios. So again, it begs the question, Keanu, why in God’s name did you put that sweatshirt on your head like that? Why? Why did you (assuming that's you) do that?
For my last day as a VICE intern, I came dressed in Keanu’s most infamous look, the barefoot, red trucker hat, scraggly mess that he was famously photographed in last week. He looked like he'd been watching Nascar for three weeks with no access to a shower or bed.
According to some sleuthing I did on various Keanu fan pages (they exist!), he was likely wearing this outfit while filming or training for some of John Wick 3, so it’s less insane than the cargo pants or sweatshirt tied to his head, in that this may have been required work wear. An old waitressing job I had required me to dress like a sailor, so I get it.
For lunch, I went to a popular Brooklyn spot that seemed to be composed entirely of people who were too wealthy to work on a Friday. So my “Keanu look” of sweatpants, oversize T-shirt, bad hair, trucker hat, and plastic slides wasn’t leaving anyone starstruck. I like to think people assumed I was so wealthy that I felt no obligation to dress decently for the public, but based off the grim look of a woman wearing what looked like a $300 skirt, I think they could detect the sale-rack quality of my clothing.
After a week of dressing in clothes that did not flatter me and were largely uncomfortable, I cared a little less about these judgey glares from people I’d never want to hang out with. But also, I like feeling good about how I look, and because of that, I clearly will be burning everything I wore this week. Especially the red trucker hat. RIP to that, and long live Keanu.
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