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6th May 2024

Student Style Diaries #2: ‘Doing my best’

The Mancunion’s Music Editor Alex Cooper takes us through his style, from reference points to recent revelations
Student Style Diaries #2: ‘Doing my best’
Credit: Collage by Maia Penny @ The Mancunion

‘Student style diaries’ is a series at The Mancunion’s Fashion & Beauty section where students talk about their style, their all-time favourite pieces, and give advice on finding your own personal style.

Name: Alex Cooper

How would you describe your style in three words?

Doing my best.

What’s your go-to outfit?

At this point in time, in my final year, it’s more about what’s clean than what I choose. But I’d say that I love wearing button-down shirts and cords more than anything, and I try and engineer my outfits around that, adding or taking away layers depending on the season. I feel most myself when I’m dressed at least a bit smart, so I go for that.

I love my Clarks Wallabees for shoes; they’re like slippers to me, and they’ve received more attention than any other bit of clothing I’ve ever worn, so that’s got to be a good thing. In terms of outerwear, I have a Lacoste blue shirt-coat that I bought on Park Street in Bristol for £20 when I was 16, and I adore that. Most likely, I’ll be wearing some approximation of this on any given day.

Credit: Jonah Willits

What (or who) has inspired your sense of style the most?

In my teenage years, I was quite inspired by mod/Britpop fashion, and I think there are probably traces of that in my wardrobe today. I was obsessed with Oasis, and had my hair cut like Liam Gallagher to varying results, so it’s no wonder I ended up in Manchester but quite ironic that the look didn’t pervade as soon as I moved here. It probably wasn’t much of a look anyway! I think my mentality changed as soon as I grew my hair out at 18, and because I was bold with that, I felt I could get away with experimenting with fashion more. I was already quite distinctive, so nothing more could hurt.

Music is a big reference point for me. My big philosophical answer is that I appreciate the style of artists like Alex Turner and Nick Cave, because much like their music, they’re so open to change and development in their fashion to suit different eras of their career and lives. In reality, I borderline copy the styles that appeal to me.

Nick Cave has most recently inspired me to buy a pinstripe suit after seeing him live in Zagreb two years ago, bookmarking it in my head for the next time I had to invest. It’s a bit oversized, so on a good day it’s like David Byrne, on a bad day the bit at the end of Tom Hanks’ Big where he turns into a child again. I bought a 2mm chain, unashamedly, because of Connell in Normal People. If I see something and I like it, I make a note of it and if I’m still googling it a week or two later, I know it’s time to invest.

Credit: The Mancunion

What’s your favourite outfit you’ve ever worn?

When I went to see Bob Dylan as a journalist, I fashioned the most suit-like ensemble possible with the contents of my uni wardrobe. Hilariously, I was going on my own and was doing nothing afterwards with anyone else, so I was dressing up for the mystical presence of Bob Dylan. It felt a bit silly, but as soon as the show started, it made sense why I felt compelled to dress as smart as possible with the resources I had.

Apart from that, going to clubs in outfits is fun, especially when you’re in safe spaces which are free of judgment. Going with my housemates to the Freak Queer Rave at the White Hotel in a more bold ‘fit than I would usually wear was very liberating. Despite thinking about it, I’m still quite restrictive with my fashion, and going to events where there’s so much expressive fashion on show helps you realise that no one’s watching or judging, and you can do whatever you like.

Have you always dressed in the same way or have you gone through phases and tried different aesthetics?

I think I started caring about style in sixth form and had the tools to express myself with my style when I got to university. I’ve never consciously subscribed to one aesthetic except for my aforementioned Oasis years, but I go through phases with seasons, and I’ve started to follow fashion a little bit thanks to The Mancunion Fashion and Beauty section. I’d say I’m a few steps behind because it takes me a bit longer to absorb fashion and compute whether I like something or not.

However, I feel like I’m in a really good place with fashion because I’m always open to changing my style now. That’s what’s good about the internet and the connected age, particularly living in student Manchester, you don’t have to subscribe to a certain aesthetic to belong, but you can choose what you genuinely like, and people mostly look for the similarities rather than the differences. That’s my experience, anyway.

Credit: Alex Cooper

Who is your favourite designer?

I always wear Clarks shoes. They’re made of durable materials, but they also age with you, and become an archive of scrapes and misdemeanours. I have scratches on my Desert boots that have become a map of stories, slowly becoming unique to me as they’ve taken me through sixth form and all three years of university. I’ll probably wear them until the soles wear through, and then reinvest and start the whole romantic process all over again.

The Clarks collaborations are also incredible and inventive if you can make peace with the fact that the crepe sole will age and brown over time. The Ronnie Fieg x Adidas Originals x Clarks Originals shoes are my Roman empire at the minute, and other brands and fashion houses are queuing up to collaborate with Wallabees. There’s never a better time to get involved.

Credit: Alex Cooper

What’s your favourite piece in your wardrobe?

I have this one v-neck jumper that I adore, and I picked it up at a Vintage Sale downstairs in the Students’ Union for £7. It’s long in the arms, but not too long in the body which suits me well, and it’s quite a versatile bit of clothing, suitable for undercoats and overshirts, wearing on its own, bringing as an extra layer in the coming summer days. It never misses and it brings me a lot of joy that I have something like it, that just fits.

I love anything with a story; ask me about an item of clothing, I’ll usually have an attached bit of provenance. That’s what makes your wardrobe special.

Credit: Joe McFadden

Do you have any advice on how to find a personal style?

If you like an item of clothing, but the idea of wearing it scares you a little bit, it’s most likely worth investing. That’s where the sartorial growth happens, and it feeds into over areas of your life too. Experimenting with fashion, in fact, is a brilliant way of getting over self-centred fear and finding out who you really are. As a man, that’s been very important for me.

Style is a massive part of your expression, and you can reach new levels of comfort and understanding about yourself if you embrace what you truly like and you truly don’t like. Don’t be afraid to donate or sell clothes you don’t wear anymore, and always go to charity shops. Never think that an item of clothing isn’t for you and hold contempt for it before you’ve given it a fair hearing.

A spokesperson for The Mancunion has commented, upon being asked about their perception of Mr Cooper’s style:

“Mr Cooper is neglecting the fact that he often reverts to the Ariana Grande pulled up over the wrist sleeve. In fact, the most essential part of the Alex Cooper outfit is the ever-moving sleeve. I am unsure if this man owns any t-shirts, or even has arms, I’ve never seen them. Although, I will add he was robbed of the Bob Dylan biopic role. I struggle to see how Chalamet will match not only Dylan’s style, but also his posture and gait. Would’ve been a walk down the line for our Alex.”

Take a look at the previous article in the ‘Student Style Diaries‘ series to see how French and Arabic student Elli cultivates her effortlessly cool ‘grandpa in jorts’ look. 

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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