Man Repeller's Haley Nahman on Her Most Perfect (and Confusing) Thrift Store Find
It invariably sounds like a stretch to call someone “a voice of their generation,” but Haley Nahman may just evoke that descriptor. The writer has earned herself a cult following as the Deputy Editor at Man Repeller, where she helps oversee site content and poignantly—and at times heart achingly—ruminates on everything from online authenticity to too-short pants (re: the latter—UGH). On social media, she’s gained influencer status by narrating her NYC life in a manner that’s at once adorable and deeply self-aware (and wholly addicting). We love her for all of it—but also for her cool-kid style, which consists of great denim, under-the-radar designer pieces and vintage-y finds that looked as if they were plucked from a cardigan-wearing older brother’s high school closet. In classic Haystack form, we asked her to spill on a favorite age-old clothing item. In her case, a thrift store sweatshirt with a message that manages to be both utterly nonsensical and entirely inspiring.
My most cherished item of clothing is a bubblegum pink sweatshirt made of thick, worn-in cotton. It has a collar that stands up three inches tall, forming a loose but structured funnel around its wearer’s neck. It’s somehow both loose and shrunken, a quality vintage sweatshirts seem to inexplicably share. Dark pink thread spirals up one of the too-shirt sleeves like a scar, where someone must have mended a split seam before depositing it at a thrift store in San Luis Obispo in 2010. Printed across the front—and this is important—are four english phrases that make no discernible sense:
[Bike symbol] CLUB
SET YOUR SAIL ACCORDING TO THE WIND
THE WEAR HAVE ONE LANGUAGE EVERY WHERE.
What one likes one will do well
I found Bike Club, which I’ve come to lovingly call it, when I was a senior in college, living in a house with three other girls on the central coast of California. The thrift store was three blocks from our duplex, down a sleepy concrete slope lined with bushes and medical buildings I couldn’t name if I tried. The store was small, curated and overpriced, with cheap sunglasses made to look expensive in glass display cases. The chunky pink collar called to me from the crowded rack. The price tag was high: $30. I immediately knew I would buy it.
What is Bike Club? I wondered. Who made this? What does it mean? I liked to imagine the sweatshirt being designed by a serious cycling committee intent on getting the right message across. I loved it. I loved it for reasons I couldn’t even explain. I had to have it.
At the time, I was in the midst of figuring out whether I was a Forever21 girl or a thrift girl, sometimes wearing tights pants and cropped jackets, other times old t-shirts and ripped jeans. What I really wanted to be was an Urban Outfitters girl, but that was cost prohibitive, as most fantasy personalities are. So it was a year of deciding who I was based on achievable, predetermined identities. A year of choosing affordable boxes to squeeze myself into.
Bike Club felt like an invitation to somewhere less concrete.
It was ridiculous, for one. The collar made no sense to me or anyone, and yet I loved it, felt like myself in it, was sure it was cool without a single person telling me so. The message was funny and also kind of prescient—what I liked I did do well, didn’t I? And it would be wise to set my sail according to the wind, wouldn’t it?—and I memorized it immediately, sometimes getting the phrases stuck in my head on an absurd loop years later. I wore the sweatshirt when I was hungover, and whenever I got stoned with my friend Mark, and to class, to draw, to clean, to blog. It was a curious, saccharine security blanket. And it’s remained as much since I slid that cashier my debit card in 2010 and asked, emphatically, how it hadn’t been purchased yet. The things we find inconceivable say a lot about us.
I’ve cleaned my closet several times over the years, tossing things into the giveaway pile with alarming and unfeeling haste. I own nothing from 2010 today—and probably haven’t for five years—except Bike Club. Because Bike Club will forever make the cut. Not just because it’s a perfect garment (it is), but because it came to me during a year I found oddly restraining, and offered me a different way to be myself. A distinctly me way. A small price to pay for $30.
A wear really does have one language every where, doesn’t it?