What We Can Learn About Fashion From Pro Wrestling
You may not rock a leopard print or a bright pink fanny pack, but there are surprising lessons about personal style to be found in those outlandish threads that these performers wear in the ring — and out.
Last month, former NWA World Television Champion and current Impact wrestler “Outlandish” Zicky Dice was vacationing with his wife in Panama City Beach, Florida, when a pack of young girls shot him the stink eye. He was rocking bright yellow Crocs and a soft pink onesie, looking absolutely outlandish, like he likes it.
When his wife saw the girls mocking him, she immediately burned them with a glare in return. “I saw you,” she said to them. “You’ve never seen true style.”
Dice is a fan of the pink, a lover of the animal print, an advocate of the fanny pack. His style is not normal. He peacocks the crap out of everything. “The people around me know that it’s just me now,” he tells InsideHook. “It’s nothing new.”
His detractors looked down in shame, while he pranced off with his wife on his arm. “Oh, baby,” he says, he felt “comfortable and sexy.”
Dice’s flare traces its lineage to 1942, when George Wagner transformed into Gorgeous George, the human orchid, turning pro wrestling flamboyance into a pop culture phenomenon. Wagner dyed his hair platinum blonde and donned a sequined robe, strutting to the ring to “Pomp and Circumstance” while tossing golden hairpins to the audience (deemed his Georgie pins). He was wrestling’s first crossover star, influencing Muhammad Ali and James Brown.
Wrestling performers teach the world swag, showing what fashion choices push people away (wearing leather pants in a hot tub—I see you Chris Jericho) and what clothing connects performers to their audience (the New Day dresses as if they’re attending Comic Con). Goldust proved that unapologetic eccentricity can be self-love, and MJF shows that the best way to tick people off is to is to wear a Burberry scarf while half-naked. Entertainers watch the squared circle as if it’s a fashion show. Rappers spit bars about Ric Flair’s drip. Boxers emulate wrestlers’ glitz. Heavy metal influences wrestlers; then the wrestlers influence heavy metal.
The best performers know exactly who they are and what they want to project, says former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar and current Impact Knockout Chelsea Green. Superstars search for their essence, then turn the volume up to 100. It’s in their gear, their hair, and their makeup. “I really think the key to fashion in general and not just in wrestling is finding who you are and then elevate that,” she says.
One key component to creating your character is knowing what emotions you want to elicit. “Style goes hand in hand with the story that you’re telling,” Green says. “If you’re a bad guy, you might be more of a Barbie character. You might include really obnoxious pinks and purples and sparkles. Or you might be a very dark character, and you’re only going to use really deep purples and reds and blacks. The minute you step out [for your entrance], you want the audience to have an idea of who you are and what your character is.”
To find your gimmick, you should, “Think about who you are. What do you like? Are you a sports fan? Are you a comic fan? Are you an anime fan? Standup comic?” says Man Scout Jake Manning, an independent performer whose gimmick is that he is a grown-up Boy Scout. “Whatever it is, whatever the things you like, they should project on what you wear.” He recommends that people become brand ambassadors for themselves and what they believe in. “If you have a restaurant, wear your restaurant shirt and make sure it looks cool.” Even during his off days, Manning filters everything he wears through his character. “You’re gonna see me wear a sports team shirt, a cyclops shirt, or a Boy Scout shirt of some sort.” He hopes his looks sparks conversation with randoms, giving him opportunities to promote his brand.
It’s important that performers constantly exude confidence, but wrestlers are humans, says Green. “We all have insecurities and you can tell when someone is truly confident and when they’re trying to put on a show.” Every performer, as they learn to embrace themselves, goes through a period of having to fake it till they make it. Eventually, “there’s going to be one time where you walk into that room and you are confident. You know you’ve really made it.”
People respect commitment, says Manning, so when you pick a style, stick with it, no matter how ridiculous it is, and eventually people will appreciate you for it. “My style has to be matching someone who has very little style sense,” he says. His gimmick includes him rocking short shorts, knee high socks, and a Man Scout uniform loaded with achievement patches. When he debuts before new audiences, he’s a heel, a bag guy, and the fans laugh at him. But after he returns to the same venues, again and again, week after week, eventually the fans start cheering. “All of a sudden it becomes endearing to them,” he says.
The goal is to make people stare, says Dice, who wants his style to pass the airport test, where if he is at an airport, “You would look at me and say, ‘Wow, that guy is somebody.’ Zicky Dice is loud and proud. And you can pick him out in the middle of a crowd.”
And even though Dice says he “is bigger than professional wrestling,” he also hopes fans remember he is just your average pink latex-loving dude. “The moment I started having the most fun in my life and my career is when I stopped giving a fuck about what everyone else thought about me. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter.”
Now that is true style.
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