In a vision board world — to say nothing of our collective interest in curating our lives, interests and wants on Pinterest and Instagram — it makes perfect sense that many guys are assembling their own menswear mood boards, or a running tally of every fit they desire (or just like to admire).
In a 2016 paper, “Visual Organizing: Balancing Coordination and Creative Freedom Via Mood Boards,” researchers defined the mood board as a “sketchy collage” that evokes emotions and provides inspiration for wider development processes. For creatives in particular, the researchers continued, the mood board works “as a point of reference, as a source of legitimization at moments of aesthetic non-alignment.” Basically, since creativity rarely unfolds in a continuous or steady process, the mood board is a place for scattered thoughts in the form of imagery to live and breathe.
But for guys who just like thinking about and talking about clothes, the mood board is less a means to an end as it is an end unto itself. “A mood board like mine is an intimate look into the mind of the curator,” Hidden, a graphic designer in New York, tells me. “It isn’t about how they look, what they eat or where they live. It’s simply about the art and culture they love.”
To that point, some of the more recent images on Hidden’s mood board include an uncaptioned, completely out-of-context photo of Kanye West standing in front of a purple pyrex-branded skateboard. A few squares over, there’s a pair of white denim pants, intricately painted with Japanese-themed designs. Next to that are famous paintings juxtaposed against Suicoke slippers and New Balance shoes. “For me, the fashion I post is art, not product,” Hidden explains. “I enjoy the aesthetics of footwear and clothing, I’m not necessarily thinking about purchasing or wearing it.”
For obvious reasons then, Instagram is a popular platform for menswear mood boards. Among the more popular ones is that of Throwing Fits co-host Lawrence Schlossman, which he dubs howtotalktogirlsatparties. It’s perhaps the closest thing, thematically and visually, to what you might have found on Tumblr in the early aughts: A fleece jacket. Paul McCartney sipping coffee. Python-skin boots. Young Harrison Ford. Old Harrison Ford. Paul Newman. No fuss cardigans. Ethan Hawke in Gattaca. Stacks of clothes.
Meanwhile, on the Male Fashion Advice (MFA) subreddit, the “Inspo Album” is its own version of the menswear mood board. For redditor midnghttt, whose most recent inspo album features guys wearing bucket hats, guys in gorpcore, guys in overalls and Jonah Hill in a tie-dye shirt, the purpose of creating the album was to brainstorm pathways to evolve his personal style. “I’m currently going through a fashion identity crisis — I recently turned 30 — so this is where my head has kind of been at,” he writes. “I’d say I’m leaning into a mix of all of these aesthetics,” adding that the album is his way of merely “trying to find what fits me best, ya know?”
Again, though, aspiration or utility isn’t necessarily a requirement. In the case of MFAer wuzpoppin, he just wanted to put together photos of people, albeit well-dressed people, posing like airplanes.
“No matter what you think about this trend, you have to admit people posing like airplanes are looking real snazzy,” he writes. “Maybe you’re an arms-straight-down walker or maybe you like to shuffle your feet — either way, you should try this trend of sticking out all your limbs like a beautiful airplane so you can feel what it’s like to be a large, flying machine.”
Who knows whether he’ll ever take flight like this. But whenever it crosses his mind — seriously or otherwise — he at least always knows where to look.