I met Marshall and Parker Mulherin about two years ago, when their father was helping me record piano cues for Woman’s Picture, my second film. Like their dad, the twin brothers have more than a passing interest in music. Until recently, music seemed to be their primary focus. Now it’s taken a back seat to sartorialism.
I was shocked when their sister Savannah, a regular Evelyn Avenue collaborator and a close friend, told me they’d been keeping an Instagram diary of their outfits. The kids I remembered (15 or 16 at the time) didn’t seem the least bit interested in fashion. I can’t even remember what they were wearing. I think hard and come up with a sum total of brown.
The palette of their Instagram page is impressively diverse, and the way they approach clothing feels more like art than fashion to me. They use their bodies as walking art installations, basically, and they curate the Instagram page like a gallery exhibit. They put a lot of time into selecting, tailoring, and coordinating their outfits, then they put them out into the world, not just online but on the street. This kind of thing is maybe a matter of routine in larger cities like Manhattan. You don’t see a lot of it in Memphis, and even less of it at their age.
They say their style is classic American prep meets sportswear meets dandy. I haven’t heard an 18 year old use the word dandy in a pretty long time. To hear one saying it in pink pants gives me a lot of hope.
They acknowledged their style has British influences as well, so I asked them whether they’d ever looked into Mod fashion or, say, ska culture. What they’re doing seems wider than preppy and dandy to me – it’s more original than that, with tentacles extending in all different directions stylistically. They’re taking references from many different places, and in some small way their dress becomes social observation. It’s a kind of refined kaleidoscopic commentary on ideas of the Southern Gentleman, fantasies about leisure, chivalry, adulthood, masculinity itself.
Being twins, they’re a united front in this socioartistic enterprise. Watching them put outfits together yesterday afternoon, while we filmed the short above, I wondered whether they’d be doing this if they didn’t have each other’s support. It takes balls to present yourself this way – and if two is better than one, four balls have got to trump two. They’d never really considered it – not the balls thing but strength in numbers – but they’ve never been in the position of needing to, maybe. They did say that it’s something they’ve always done together – the entire process, from conception to execution. Doing it alone is probably unimaginable.
People joke about trying to tell twins apart. I had trouble remembering who was who (“Marshall has glasses,” Savannah kept reminding me). Every time I turned around yesterday the one was wearing something the other had just had on. They’re impossible to color code. They probably wouldn’t see what they’re doing this way either, but I love the idea that they inject a little extra bit of friendly anarchy into social interaction, a constantly mutable which is which of shifting color and pattern. Knowing one had glasses and the other didn’t meant nothing to me, I guess because I imagined they must be trading those out too.
They told me that, aside from it just being fun, dressing the way they do is a means of communicating various things to the adult world. To me it seems like a way of demanding to be taken seriously as a presence, a person, and an intellect. I can’t imagine the take-away ever being “brown” again, after yesterday. It’s also somehow a perversion of classic acting out – doing what you’re not supposed to be doing at your age. It’s turning that Youth in Revolt thing on its head, restoring a sense of the unexpected to the now exhausted social rite of acting up. Any guy their age can break into his old high school and vandalize his former calculus classroom. For the real rebel, wearing pink is a much more revolutionary form of graffiti.
(Photos of Marshall Mulherin taken from his blog, The Modern Prep; Group photo is of the band the Specials)