"Feeling unique is a habit you shouldn't give up."

- Alberto Fermani

"Anyone can get all dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their off days that is the most intriguing."

-Alexander Wang


I've just finished the book "Just Kids" by Patti Smith who you may think is the lead singer of the Pretenders. At least I thought that. Wrong, wrong, wrong. She is, however, known as the godmother of the punk rock movement. She also had a long and important relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, the famous photographer. This book briefly introduces Patti's childhood and her subsequent meeting of Robert in New York in the late 1960's. They were artists and they began an artist's life at a time in New York when legendary artists abounded- we just didn't know it yet. Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, and Sandy Daley were regulars in or around the Chelsea Hotel, as well as musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and countless others. Patti and Robert had not yet found the mediums that would make them famous (her, music and him, photography) but they were talented in many creative endeavors with Patti's being primarily poetry.

I usually am not drawn to non-fiction and certainly not autobiographies but this book is amazing; the kind of book you don't stop thinking about for days. I finished reading it in bed last night and fell asleep with it on my mind only to begin dreaming about it several times during the night. I couldn't describe the dreams now. I only remember that they involved music, my children, and a kind of mystical energy surrounding both of these that was not scary but did keep jolting me awake.

On another note, I couldn't help but notice the important role clothing played in Patti's life. I imagine she describes these types of things throughout the book because they are memories that stayed with her; you know how sometimes you can remember a moment exactly when you look at the outfit you had on when it happened? But I don't know if she had in mind that the way we dress ourselves truly does project to the world how we feel about ourselves, about our environment, and, perhaps most profoundly, how we function in that environment. When I realized that this was a recurring theme in the book- maybe a quarter of the way in- I started marking each page that referenced something she wore or someone else wore. The pages are dogeared frequently and it has been fun to go back and re-read those descriptions, imagining how she looked and the reactions she caused. It wasn't until I read the last sentence of her story that I realized this path had been laid out since the beginning of her story. Early after her arrival in New York, she gets a job at a bookstore named Brentano's and covets a simple necklace from Persia that laid in the case in the jewelry and crafts department. She says, "It was made of two enameled metal plaques bound together with heavy black and silver threads, like a very old and exotic scapular." A boy she had met briefly in Brooklyn shows up (Robert Mapplethorpe) and buys the necklace prompting Patti to ask him not to "give it to any girl but ." Soon after, they meet again, with Robert rescuing her, and giving her the necklace and then beginning a deeply meaningful relationship that would last until Robert's death in 1989. Patti ends her story contemplating the few things she has left of her love and ends her story with this description, "And in the folds of faded violet tissue a necklace, two violet plaques etched in Arabic, strung with black and silver threads, given to me by the boy who loved Michelangelo."

The story is amazing and beautifully written as well as historically fascinating. If you have time, pick it up and read it. And take a minute to notice all the wonderful references to the clothing that was chosen by the rebels and artists who helped define their generation and continue to influence all of us today.


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