It’s safe to say that Michael Meere’s sense of style is anything but – the Visiting Assistant Professor of French keeps his students and his colleagues guessing with bold prints, clashing patterns, and unexpected color. The Argus sat down with Meere to chat about the necessity of underwear, the importance of not following rules, and the time he accepted a science award for his high school while wearing black lipstick and a canary yellow leisure suit jacket.
The Argus: Describe your personal style in three to five words.
Michael Meere: Bold, colorful, unexpected, and eclectic.
A: Someone described you as the “best-dressed Floridian” she’d ever known. How does that make you feel? Do you agree?
MM: [Laughing] I’ve never heard that before. Well, I left Florida when I was 17, and I’ve lived in large, international cities ever since—Chicago, Paris, New York, and London. So I think my style has evolved over time. I was in Paris for a total of 10 years, and I was in London for two years before taking the job at Wesleyan. So I don’t really identify as a Floridian anymore anyway. I do go there—my parents are still there—but it’s a funny comment.
A: To what extent are you interested in fashion?
MM: I go through phases of interest in fashion. When I was in college, I got really interested in fashion, and I would follow runway shows, magazines, and things like that. And then in my twenties, I went to graduate school, and I didn’t have any money, so I didn’t follow fashion so much. But I was in Paris, so I was influenced by fashion, and I had friends who worked in the fashion industry. So I’ve always been sort of fashion-adjacent. But it comes and goes, my interest in fashion.
I’m not shopping right now. When I’m in a shopping mode, I follow fashion, just to see what’s happening—not to follow trends, but just to see what’s going on. I mean, I wear what I wear; I buy what I buy. I don’t really think about what is cool.
A: Who are some of your fashion icons?
MM: It’s maybe a little cliché, but I like Christian Lacroix. I like his use of colors and patterns. And Paul Smith is great. I’m really interested in pattern mixing and pattern clashing—mixing plaid and stripes—and Paul Smith is known for those sorts of mixes.
When I was younger, I really liked Dolce & Gabbana, but I’m moving away from that sort of aesthetic. And then there are, of course, the fashion icons, like the Madonnas, and things like that, that I’ve always found interesting.
A: Do you just admire those icons, or do you try to emulate them?
MM: Oh, no, I don’t try to emulate them. I don’t really admire them, either. I just watch them. They’re interesting. They take risks that are fun to follow.
A: What piece of clothing would you not be able to live without?
MM: I mean, nothing’s indispensible. But I guess I’d go with underwear.
A: Nobody’s ever said that before.
MM: Yeah. I mean—well, I won’t say why. [Laughs] Or should I?
A: Your choice.
MM: Underwear is something whose functionality is designed to protect our bodies from our clothing—so to keep our clothing looking nice on the outside. Because we’re actually kind of gross, right?
A: How do you get dressed in the morning?
MM: I don’t ever plan my outfits. When I do, I usually don’t wear that. I’m always reminded of a scene from “Absolutely Fabulous”—do you know that show? An episode opens with a dream sequence. [Eddy] has her outfit on the floor, ready to go. She puts it on, goes downstairs for work, and everything’s great. Then she wakes up to the alarm and looks at the outfit and puts the outfit on, but it doesn’t work. She goes through the closet and picks a space outfit instead.
In any case, I think of that episode when I even contemplate picking my clothes out at night, because it just doesn’t work for me. I’m usually in the shower in the morning and think about what I have in my closet, what’s clean, and what might work together.
A: How often do you repeat outfits? Is it a faux pas to wear things twice in a short span of time?
MM: No. When I travel, I’ll sometimes bring one outfit for a weekend. I don’t want to take a lot with me, so I’ll change the undergarments. I figure I’m not going to see the same people twice, so who cares?
I don’t have outfits. I have pieces that I mix and match. I guess I have repeated them, but I just don’t think on those terms.
A: What does your closet at home look like?
MM: It’s crowded. It’s generally ordered by article of clothing, but it gets mixed around a bit, because I get lazy. I hang most things up. I fold T-shirts and shorts and workout gear and things, but most everything gets hung up.
A: What’s your perception of fashion at Wesleyan?
MM: I’ve already used the word eclectic, but it is an eclectic campus. There are people who dress for the gym, people who dress in pajamas, people who dress to impress, and people who are creative. It’s just very diverse in terms of style, which is nice.
In terms of my colleagues, there are some pretty stylish professors on campus.
A: Where do you shop? You said that you aren’t shopping right now, but when you are, where do you go?
MM: When I’m in Middletown—I live in Middletown—I shop online. I use websites such as Gilt and My Habit, but I’m very thorough on them, so I can spend hours looking for the best deal.
Otherwise, I like to shop in New York. I like high-end consignment shops. There are lots of fun places like INA or Tokio 7, but I only buy things that I can tell have never been worn, or only been worn once. It’s very hit-or-miss, but every now and again you’ll find a great pair of pants or blazer in those shops.
A: Are there any rules that you follow absolutely?
MM: No. I can maybe look a little bit clownish sometimes, but I don’t care. It’s fun. I think it’s more interesting when people break rules than when they follow arguably outdated guidelines.
A: What’s a notable fashion risk that you’ve taken?
MM: High school was wild. No one could categorize me. One day, I would dress—this was in the early 90s—in all black and paint my nails black, like with a Sharpie marker or something, and people would think I was Goth, but then the next day I would do grunge. And then the next day I’d be preppy, and the next day I’d wear makeup and barrettes. No one knew how to categorize my style. I didn’t like being in a box. And it continues today.
I went to the state science fair in high school, and I wore black lipstick and a canary yellow leisure suit jacket. And my hair was sort of whatever, and the chaperones told me I had to dress appropriately for the awards ceremony. I refused to do it.
I ended up placing in the state science fair, and I had to go down and represent my school. It was in the SeaWorld stadium in Orlando—I think that’s where we were—and I was on the big screen, taking the award for my high school. When I got back to school, my chemistry teacher said I should apologize to the principal, and I refused to do it. I guess that might be the biggest risk.
A: Do you enjoy getting reactions out of people when you dress?
MM: I think I was looking for that in high school. I was a queer student, but I wasn’t out officially yet. It was pretty different in the early ’90s in Florida. No one in my school was out. But when I dressed, I was very queer—we didn’t use that word either, “queer,” but looking back, that’s the way one would describe it. So I was coming out through my fashion choices.
I knew people were talking about me a lot, but I never said anything. I said, “Let them ask me.” And no one dared ask, so I never came out officially.
Today, no. I dress for myself. If people react to it, they react to it, but I never dress to get a reaction.
A: Of all the cities you’ve lived in, which had the biggest influence on your sense of style?
MM: I’d say it’s a toss-up between London and New York.
A: Not Paris?
MM: No. Not Paris. They dress really well. Don’t get me wrong—they’re very sleek and chic and put-together. What I did get in Paris was “sprezzatura.” You know, studied carelessness. It’s a term that derives from the Renaissance. It’s really a term that relates to conversation or knowledge, but it can be extended to the way one dresses. For example, a woman with a long dress on has to skip over a puddle, and you’d never see her stockings normally, but she has really flashy stockings. And she lifts her dress just enough so you’d see them. It’s careless, but it’s studied—it’s on purpose. Parisians are really good at that.