HubThreads: Celebrating Boston Street Style

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Photo by Diana Levine

Critics say this city has no style. We’re here to prove them wrong. Welcome to HubThreads, where we chat with the most stylish people we find out and about in Boston. Think you or someone you know has the best street style? Let us know.

RACHEL

You’re a teacher in Lexington? Yes, I teach orchestra and I’m also in the bands Walter Sickert and the Army of Broken Toys and the Jaggery, both of which have been nominated for Boston Music Awards.

Where do you perform? Oh my gosh, everywhere! Rock clubs like the Sinclair and the Middle East, we’ve done shows at the MFA and the planetarium at the Museum of Science. We’ve also done theater productions that we’ve crafted ourselves.

And what do you do in the band? I play viola.

I have a funny story about a viola. I was obsessed with a boy who played the viola and in the early stages of us dating I went to see one of his shows. He came off the stage with a huge hickey on his neck. I was furious and stormed out of the venue without speaking to him. Much later, I learned that the chin plate on the viola leaves behind a mark on the neck. Rookie mistake, live and learn.

Have you always been interested in music? Yes, all through school and then I found my niche and went to the Boston Conservatory. So I’m classically trained, but ended up in these rock bands. It’s been such a great outlet for expression and for forming relationships. My bands are my longest relationship, I’ve been in them for almost 10 years.

Did they all go to the conservatory with you? No, nobody, there are all sorts of scattered backgrounds across both ensembles.

Have you always wanted to be an educator? Yes, when I was in high school I said I wanted to be a music teacher or a lawyer, but music teachers seemed happier, so I stuck with that.

Did you recently have a baby? I did! He’s almost two.

And I saw on your Instagram that you also adopted a dog. Yes, he’s so awesome. He’s an adult pit mix. I was doing so much before I had a kid, that having a kid in some ways forced me to do less. I was working several jobs, working seven days a week, and I was in these bands, so I was always hustling. Having a kid makes you slow it down a little. I think I’ve found my balance.

Have you always been interested in clothing and fashion? In my early 20s I started shifting my aesethetic. I’ve always taken up a lot of visual space, but I didn’t really have anything to say until my early 20s. As my personality settled in, my ability to express it through what was on my body got sharper. I started looking around and thinking, that’s not bright enough for me, that’s not big enough for me, I wish it did this, I wish it did that. I started experimenting with making my own stuff or buying stuff and editing it and a lot of that I’d say was highlighted by when I started working at John Fluevog on Newbury Street.

That’s why you have so many pairs! Yes I’ve worked there for, it’ll be 10 years. Working there, surrounded by these shoes that are filled with whimsy and color and shape and are so evocative and so inspiring that I would buy a crazy shoe and then plan a crazy outfit around it. I could use the crazy shoe to express whatever I felt like expressing that day. Having that puzzle piece of these funky shoes really led to me cultivating my sense of style. I’ve always had a decent eye for color, but having the texture and construction of a shoe as a starting place, really allowed me to expand.

Have you always done your makeup and hair too? I’ve had locks for 12 years and its been a long learning and growing experience, cause its like what can my hair do this week? It becomes sculptural. I wear almost no makeup. I wear the same two pieces, eyeliner and lipstick, that’s the level of drawing with crayons on my face that I can get down with. It’s basically just an extension of the outfit, a way to wear more color, to change shape, or to accentuate, it’s like a punctuation mark on the outfit. It’s not every day, but its definitely been a fun, extra part of the palette.

How would you describe your style? Colorful. There is a large emphasis on geometry and symmetry. I’m queer and define myself as femme or high femme, so there are always super girly elements and usually some sort of 50s inspired shape. I wear lots of A-line and full skirts. A lot of that comes from what I think flatters my body. I have a fairly hourglass figure and dressing for that figure and understanding how my body is read by other people has been an evolution.  I might want to wear a pencil skirt and a fitted shirt, but I recognize that its not gonna read the same on me as on a woman who doesn’t have a figure that’s as exaggerated as mine. I find ways for me to highlight my femininity without being seen as a sex object immediately. If I wear something that is really, really fitted, that shows the contours of my body in its entirety, it’s often read as too much.

And this way you can be in control. I don’t like the visual of me buried by clothing. Some people have bodies that lend themselves to layers and cocooning the silhouette, but for me, I found that it was easier to work with my silhouette than to do try and modify it with drapey things. I tend to wear lots of opaque tights and funky heels a lot.  I’m secretly very short, but I can fake like I’m tall through an illusion of hair and shoes. I also tend to incorporate elements of mens’ fashion, although on me they just read as hyper feminine.

There’s a fine line between feeling sexy and feeling vulnerable. Like you’re proud of your figure and you want to show it off, but sometimes that can feel a little unsafe. Yes and I teach high school so my metric for what I wear is based on what I imagine my high school teachers wearing. The problem is I didn’t have any high school teachers who looked like me so I’m always trying to figure out what is appropriate. I just go with my gut. Its been a nice puzzle to see how can I still express myself and feel like myself and also fit the metric of appropriate in the high school classroom.  I haven’t shaved my arm pits for years, can you remember any of your high school teachers having visible arm pit hair? It feels weird, right?

After Trump got elected, in personal protest I grew out my arm pit hair because I didn’t want to feel feminine, I wanted to have some masculinity. I couldn’t believe how much shit people said to me! I caved and shaved because I felt so judged. Its crazy how people feel entitled to talk to you about your own body.

Do your students say anything to you about your arm pit hair? No. Can you imagine saying anything to your teacher? If anything, they’re saying things to each other. They meet me in the fall, so hopefully I’ve already made enough of an impression that when April comes around and I wear a dress and they see that I have arm pit hair, they’ll just think that’s a weird thing about Ms. Jayson. I’d like to believe that I’ve left whatever impression I’m going to leave before they see the arm pit hair, but its something to be aware of. If I want to wear a summer dress, does it mean something different coming from a teacher with visible arm pit hair? I’ve been settled on no and I’m gonna keep wearing summer dresses. I was really surprised though, I went on Facebook and said I was going to rock arm pit hair and some of my old professors said it was unprofessional. I was like, not you guys, you know I’m a good educator!

Do you ever feel like your style prevents people from taking you seriously? At work people take me seriously because I’ve been teaching for nine years and my reputation proceeds me. I think that people respond to my energy and I speak in a very direct way, so I think that people read that as strength. I haven’t had too many experiences where people have assumed I’m ditzy. The closest would be customers at Fluevog that I have helped for years that have never asked me anything about myself. They just assume what they see is what they get, and selling shoes is all that I do with my life. They don’t know that I have a Master’s degree and have conducted ensembles, but that’s not their job or their position to know, its not why they’re there. I think one of the reasons why I take so much care in my presentation is that we can’t control a lot of things that people think about us, but we can control what they see. I take a lot of care to make sure that my outfits represent exactly who I want to be that day because I know that is the only thing that I can control. I still can’t control how they interpret it, but I can control my outfit.

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