Ask The Experts: Arash Afshar, Artist

Author: Zachary Lowell

Arash Afshar

Here at ShirtsMyWay, we’re all about being unique, and Arash Afshar is one of the most unique people we’ve met. After pursuing a career in business and marketing, Arash left the rat race and turned his attention to photography, video direction, design and music. Currently this talented man on the rise is part of the San Diego-based creative collective and hip-hop group known as the Diego Brown Project. Yet, frequently taking the stage wearing a shirt and tie, Arash’s distinctive clothing choices are anything but what you might expect from an uncensored artist. Recently we had a chance to talk to Arash and get his take on fashion as a creative outlet.

Shirts My Way: Can you tell us a little bit about what your experience with fashion?

Arash Afshar: The obsession with covering up began in high school. I was very overweight, insecure and felt incredibly unattractive. Beyond that, I was maybe the tallest kid in school so hiding and just blending in was not an option. I specifically remember my fashion milestones…

Elementary school – I had just moved to the US [from Iran] and we were too poor to have too many options. My wardrobe consisted of nothing by clearance section selections from Ross, left over from the 80s.

Middle School – I rebel against my mother’s selections and choose some t-shirts and baggier shorts. I wear vests to cover my belly. I discover “layering.”

Early high school – I attend kind of a rough school and avoid fights on a daily basis. I find that I can blend in with the Mexicans best because I look most like them. My fashion is boring but I discover “consistency” and what kinds of jeans I can wear that don’t look so baggy that I look like a gangster but which cover my knock-knees and love handles.

Late high school – I move to a new (less rough) neighborhood and I start taking my brother’s hand-me-downs, mostly business casual stuff left over from the office. They mostly don’t fit me right but I find ways to make them look right with the right sweater and jacket combination. My style becomes very preppy. I learn that I have a wider neck than average so I need special fitting (when I wear my shirts based on neck size, they tent all the way out).

Collage and beyond – In art school (in the older days) they would teach you to learn from the masters by copying their work and then branching out and creating your own. I, inadvertently, learned the rules before I started breaking them. My fashion was very conservative. Today, since I instinctively know what works and doesn’t, I enjoy rebelling. I used to always get complimented on my fashion sense but as I grew older, that became less and less frequent as I was expected to dress nice (in high school, people were impressed because I stood out). Another thing I realized is that being obsessed about what I put on was a symptom of my insecurity. So I relaxed my style a bit. Today, I look at my body as a creative canvas. I’m always looking for new ways to break the rules. I hate wearing ties in a work atmosphere but I love wearing them out on the weekends.

SMW: How would you describe your own style now?

AA: I couldn’t answer this one so I asked my girlfriend. Her response: “Eclectic but with a twist on the traditional.”

SMW: As an artist, how has your style influenced your art?  Also, how has your art influenced your style?

AA: As an artist and performer, I NEED to be creative. If I’m not being creative, I get frustrated. So when I’m going out and I don’t get to take my sketchbook, my body becomes the canvas. I find ways to create something new. The average guys’ uniform in a downtown club is a black button down with blue jeans. If I absolutely must do that, I’ll do some sort of twist. But usually, I hate wearing the same thing everyone else is wearing.

SMW: You mentioned that you often perform wearing a tie and cuffs. How have your fashion choices been received by your peers, and your fans?

AA: Mixed reviews. People either are annoyed that I don’t look like all the other guys on stage or they say that everyone should dress like me. They have a tough time with the fact that the three of us are individual personalities with our own sense of style. Ricashay has the hip-hop and Rasta influence, C-Rey is the casual guy and my style is the fashion-lover/club-kid thing. We didn’t plan it this way but ideally, each of us brings a different kind of fan to the music. We don’t like to pigeon hold our audience so the idea is that hey, maybe someone who normally would not be into underground hip-hop will see me, my style and the fashion influenced poster art and say “hey, this is different, maybe I’ll check this out.” Ultimately, as performers and artists, we can’t listen to everything everyone says. We take their input and if we’re hearing the same thing over and over, we’ll take it into consideration but for the most part, we have to be true to ourselves and our vision. The audience, even if hesitant, will come around eventually. See Kanye West and Andre 3000 as perfect examples.

SMW: Society is a pretty tolerant about letting musicians, artists and other creative people make bold fashion statements.  If you were involved in some other kind of profession, do you think you might have a different outlook on fashion?

AA: My outlook would not change but I imagine I would be forced to tone it down. Even back in my entrepreneurial and career ladder days, I was in a pretty liberal field (marketing) so I never felt the pressure to assimilate. If anything, that pressure exists more in my social circles. When I go out with my fraternity brothers, for example, I’m their target because everyone is wearing the guys’ version of the little black dress (black button down, blue jeans) and I’m wearing maybe a shirt with an 80s style jacket and skinny black jeans. As I got older I cared less and less – everyone who is anyone in the fashion world probably stepped on a lot of society’s toes. I accept that because I’m sure that in the near future, my buddies will eat their words when I’m getting coverage from – say – a fashion blog! I mean, do you really think that Lenny Kravitz’s style was celebrated when he was a nobody? I’m sure people saw him as the weirdo in the club.  The funny thing is that my style is not that far out there or anything; I just live in conservative San Diego.

SMW: Any final words of wisdom you’d like to leave our readers with?

AA: A few months ago, I was out with the rest of the Diego Brown Project guys at a bar. As an excuse to start talking to this girl, my buddy asks her if my outfit works. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt over a button down and blue jeans. She started preaching to me that I can’t wear one pattern on top of another pattern. It took a lot of self control to not get very condescending with her but I submit the following: “Says WHO?” The people who make the “rules” are just that: people. Who says I can’t wear this pattern with this pattern? Are we all a nation of zombies? If you want to try something new, do it! [People] may think they’re better than you but they are secretly (or subconsciously) envious of your confidence and adventurous attitude. People put each other down because they are jealous – and at the end of the day, that’s ALL it is. Something that’s chic now will be out of style next year. Does that mean we should go back in time and un-wear things we wore last year? WE make the rules.

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One Response to “Ask The Experts: Arash Afshar, Artist”

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