For 27-year-old Vance Lewis, it all fell down when he was invited to a Vogue party.
“I had on the fresh Balmain s**t you know I do. Well, you don’t know me but you know what I mean. I came across this French n*gga who started looking me up and down. He said he made the outfit I was wearing and I ‘wore it well,’” he says while grimacing. “I said ‘what the f**k?! You gay my n*gga?”
Lewis recalls the man replied, “in fact I am,” to which he said “oh.”
Lewis says during the awkward silence that ensued that he realized he had never considered the sexuality of the people who made his clothes. Nonetheless, his life was irrevocably altered. “I’m not gay, so I had to act accordingly,” Lewis says matter of factly. He told his friends, who nicknamed themselves “Passport Gang” because of their obsession with European luxury clothes, they had to immediately retire their name and burn their clothes or be “associated with homosexuality.”
After the decision, did Lewis resolve to dress more modestly? Did he replace his Louie and Fendi obsession with that of Nike and Adidas?
“If I’m not in designer I’m not wearin’ nothing,” he says while sitting naked on his couch, admiring his manhood.
“When we were 15, we all made a pact that if we couldn’t stock our closet with European s**t, we wouldn’t wear s**t,” Says Theo Joseph, Lewis’ friend of 24 years. “Vance always been like the leader of the squad, so he made the pact up. I thought he was joking, but he brought it up recently, and we all gotta follow. Or we not a real n*gga.”
Parrish, who had to quit his marketing job, says he showers most of the day
The group, who all grew up in the same Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, then realized what the decision would mean: if they weren’t wearing clothes, they couldn’t go outside, and certainly couldn’t be around each other.
“I ain’t bout to be around no naked n*gga, hell naw,” admonishes Peter Parrish, AKA Passport Pone. Parrish says he thought about wearing Nike gear, until he realized it “wasn’t expensive enough” and “they invest in private prisons,” he said while searching for the meme where he learned that. As a “conscious n*gga,” he could “never support the white man.”
When he was told that the Europeans who made his clothes were white as well, he became combative.
The men went to school together from Kindergarten through college, but their relationship “ain’t the same”—through no fault of anyone in the group. In fact, they’d love to be friends, just not on their current terms.
“Our mothers are all close, so we’ll tell them to say what’s up to each other,” says Joseph, who’s had to work as a freelancer since his job’s office requires clothing.
Lewis said he wanted to talk to other members of the crew, but thinking about talking on the phone with a “naked n*gga” deters him.
“I want Kanye to buy up all them fashion houses so we could get back on our s**t and be friends again, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen,” says Parrish over the phone.