Stumbled across a magazine whilst visiting Salford Museum and Art Gallery on Salford University campus the other day, the cover of which caught my eye. Love v Style was the title, a fashion magazine I thought, so I rolled it up and carried it home.
Later, when I got around to looking through it, I found it wasn’t a fashion magazine as such, but a project as part of Roma Matrix, an EU Fundamental Rights and Citizenship supported programme, working with Salford University and the University of York. The magazine explores Roma identity, including that that of the community’s young men-folk and their approach to fashion and clothing.
Portraits, photographed by Vasile Dumitru, from the Roma Matrix project, of Roma men living in and around Manchester are featured, with a short synopsis outlining how they dress and how it impacts/conflicts with their identity as Roma men.
It’s really interesting to understand a little of this community’s adoption of western, or as they categorise it, “English,” fashion and how it can often be at odds with the practices and expectations of the older men in their community too.
“I like to look good. I really like bright colours lie yellow, blue and red because they make me feel good. My jeans are from Zara, and my shoes are from Emporio Armani. The belt is Hermes. I like to wear designer things and shiny things. My watch is shiny and stands out. The necklace I’m wearing is real gold – it from my dad, who used to wear it when he was a teenager. He still lives in Romania and gave it to me when he came to visit recently. I’m his oldest son, so this means a lot to me.”
“Today I’m wearing a pink T-shirt from Hugo Boss, some Nike Huarache trainers and a yellow Stone Island jacket. I love to wear very bright colours because they make me feel comfortable. I try to dress in the English style. My trousers are Polo – they are sports style trousers. I buy all my clothes in the UK, from shops in town.”
“I think clothes matter – you have to look nice. My dad and uncles dress a bit differently to me but with time everything is changing. I’m wearing denim shorts today. My trainers are from Firetrap and the bag is from Romania. I have tattoos as well: on my right are are my son’s names, Josef and Yanis.”
“Clothes are important to me because I care about my looks and style. I get fashion ideas from the TV, from Facebook and from seeing people around. My jacket is from Zara and the bag is Gucci. I don’t wear the earring in front of dad and family as they don’t really like it – I just wear it when I’m out with friends.”
“The way I dress is not that important to me – I sometimes buy clothes from charity shops. Today I’m wearing a Chinese suit jacket, some jeans, a pair of driving shoes and a gold necklace. My parents don’t mind the way I dress, as long as I look respectful. It’s the personality that counts to them.”
Vasile Dumitru, in self portrait
“I used to dress a bit more traditionally but I have changed my style. If I didn’t then my friends would laugh at me and call me old-fashioned.”
“My shirt is English style, I think, and the jeans came a bit ripped. My yellow trainers are by Polo, from Ralph Lauren. I think these colours go well together. I change my hair style quiet often. In my opinion you have to care what you look like. It’s important to look smart, to show Roma are respectable.”
“Normally I wear brighter colours than this. I like clothes a lot and feel better if I’m wearing something good. I dress very differently from my dad, who often wears suits when he’s going out. Sometimes my parents ask ‘what are these clothes?’ but the fashion is changing among young Roma guys.”