Art by Zahi.
One of the most obvious defining characteristics between the main character’s two love interests is one that could appear deceptively simple: fashion. I commissioned this to show a visual representation of the fashion in the book, and how it informs and affects each character and their relationship with each other.
John, the man that Damien meets at Crash, is wearing a pretty typical punk get-up. Like any good English punk, his look is intentionally distressed and he wears many of the staples of punk around the world, including safety pins, ripped shirts and studded leather vests. He’s also thoroughly British in his style. In England, the punk movement was more about disenfranchisement of the working class than in America, in which it remained more of a fashion statement. Even John’s anti-establishment fashion choices are in line with his development. They show his rejection of mainstream societal roles and perceptions at the time. John’s specific alignment to this particular movement is a deliberate choice that he has made which should, in theory, inform his choices in a way that allows him to be honest with himself. That provides the necessary framework for Damien to influence him in a way that no one else in his life ever has, because without this attitude--especifically, his punk attitude--the relationship that he ends up having with Damien would have simply never happened.
Damien’s style is purposefully a lot more understated. He’s in the middle in every sense of the word, wearing perhaps the least distinctive clothing. Mindful of the fact that he has to wear appropriate business attire to go to work, Damien’s clothing is chosen as functional, but his sense of style remains present. Damien calls attention to himself by wearing slim fitting attire which shows of his figure, combining it with a few statement pieces. Damien’s style can best be described as normcore; understated, but he cares greatly about the way that he looks. Unlike either John or Levi, there’s no piece of Damien’s clothing that can be pinned to any particular movement--punk or preppy.
Like John’s, Levi’s look is carefully planned out. Unlike John, Levi’s clothes have less to do with rebelling than they do with fitting in. Levi is tall, well built black man. He’s also very young to be a professor. All of these factors make him stand out at work, which is the last thing that Levi wants. Levi is ambitious and works the system to get ahead, which makes his fashion choices important. He wears preppy nerdy clothes, understated colors, and cardigans to make him seem more friendly and approachable, both to the faculty and to his students. Even while keeping up appearances, he also keeps up with his heritage. His long dreads are the accent to his style and show that he’s not afraid to represent who he is even in an unwelcoming environment.
Both John’s and Levi’s looks also inform Damien as a character, representing different sides of the same coin. Both men show Damien different ways to engage with society. In their own individual ways, John and Levi are both working hard to achieve their goals, which is visible even when simply looking at their clothing.