In 1796, German writer Jean Paul introduced the idea of the doppelgänger: someone who looks just like you, living somewhere on this Earth, whom you’ll probably never meet — and, if you do, you’ll likely freak out. By this logic, if you were on a train, say, from Boston to New York, you might see yourself in someone else — in the next car — for a split second. As Paul put it, these are the “people who see themselves.”
Since learning about this theory in college, I’ve been on the lookout for my own doppelgänger. Shortly after starting my job at Refinery29 a year ago, I noticed something in my colleague and friend Zanny Ali (in addition to his wicked name and goddamn L’Oréal mane, that is). With freakish consistency, Zanny and I would arrive at the office wearing almost exactly the same outfit. There was the loose-fitting, baby-blue shirt buttoned all the way up, a gold chain tucked under the collar, black trousers, and Comme des Garçons Converse — the only difference being my kicks were low-rise; his were high-tops. On a different day, it was the Adidas tracksuit bottoms worn with a baggy, gray T-shirt, and Raf Simons-designed Stan Smiths (one pair in silver, the other in bronze). Lucky for us, we work in an office where that’s cool.
Here's the thing about Zanny and I: We both prefer to shop unisex brands; it’s tricky to tell where either of us are from exactly (our heritage spans Bangladesh, Egypt, and the Philippines), though we both have relatively tan skin and long, dark hair; and we have the same deadpan approach to things. Though we’re different ages and we identify with different genders, we like the exact same shit — especially when it comes to clothing.
Zanny and I usually only wear black, white, gray, or navy. Twice a week, we'll throw in a slogan, print, or a fine line of color (be it an orange detail or neon-pink hair tie) to be a bit less boring. We like high-tech, sports-luxe fabrics, and go mad for a bright-white sole on a patent black sneaker. We invest in any fashion athletic collaborations that we can afford, like Nike and Sacai. Our staples are black jeans, baggy T-shirts, and Converse All Stars (Zanny calls this “a hangover from my indie days,” calling back to his time in an indie band that once enjoyed major success in Austria). We have an obsession with sportswear and cult Japanese designers, namely Yohji Yamamoto and Rei Kawakubo. Incidentally, Yamamoto and Kawakubo used to be a couple; their relationship was once described as “that of two regal and feline siblings with a priestly aura” by Judith Thurman in The New Yorker. But back to how we dress.
The term "androgyny" tends to sound sexless, like you’re trying to be nothing. We prefer the word "unisex," defined in this context as “non-gender specific clothes suitable for any gender.” And while unisex dressing is, of course, nothing new, it's starting to define the fashion industry and its infrastructure, permeating the way heritage brands like Burberry, Tom Ford, and, as of next season, Gucci, present their collections (men's and women's, together, as opposed to separate times during the year). Clothes, constructs, and stereotypes that relate either to men or to women are fast becoming irrelevant in the millennial mind — and even more so in fashion. Lines are blurring, and this newfound freedom encouraging people to embrace their own aesthetic, whether it's more masculine, more feminine, or a blend of both, and say, fuck it, I can dress however the hell I want. Most importantly, this new wave of agender dressing allows us to be ourselves first and foremost. And I like that Zanny and I can both be ourselves, and still see ourselves in each other, too.