Illustration by Ganesh More

A kind, positive, non-toxic fashion community? On Reddit?

It exists, and men are loving it

The fashion influencer first rose to the fore of the zeitgeist as a rebellion; a means to give the layperson access to trends, outfit ideas and information in an attainable way. The influencer was a relatable hook into an unrelatable world, making fashion less esoteric than it had previously seemed. But, just like most counter-religions and movements that start as pushback to the ‘mainstream’, influencer content soon became exactly that: mainstream. Exceptions remain, but the space itself fell prey to all the ideas it had intended to foil; particularly, revenue-led biases.

What’s starting to take shape as a new movement, however, are fashion communities. Websites like Lyst, The Fashion Spot, and Ask Andy About Clothes have existed for a while, providing curated advice to those who are interested. But it’s no surprise that Reddit—built on the concept of community-making—is the hub of interactive style groups. Boards like r/fashionadvice and r/femalefashionadvice—and even more specialised forums like r/PetiteFashionAdvice, r/EnbyFashionAdvice (Non-Binary), and r/TomboyFashionAdvice—are becoming the new go-to. 

One such subreddit, meant specifically for Indians, is r/IndianFashionAddicts, which has more than 2,30,000 members, with up to 150 active users at any given moment. Scrolling through, you’ll find mirror selfies of people wearing outfits they want help with. The pictures are like what you might send to a friend from a dressing room; natural and un-gussied up. The subject lines will vary from ‘Yay or nay for this top?’ to ‘Sheer shirt; confused about whether it's a good purchase or not (because it’s sheer)’ or ‘Which one of these bodysuits suits me more?’. Each post is followed by a litany of comments with opinions on what works (and doesn’t), what might work better, or even just appreciation for the outfit. What’s interesting is that there are nearly as many posts from men as from women.

The thing is, while women might have a group chat or several to cater to the need for ‘real person’ opinions on their OOTD, this forum extends an opportunity to men, who don’t typically have the same sort of networks, to ask for such sartorial advice with abandon.

Or for men like u/Ambitious_Jello and u/Alternatebooty to lend a hand. “I tend to give a lot of advice, and comment on other people’s responses as well,” says the latter. “I mostly respond to posts and give advice; particularly to posts that don’t get many responses for whatever reason. I am the one giving the advice 99 per cent of the time,” the former adds.

But the platform also helps them. “I do follow influencers for fashion advice but just to keep myself updated, since I’m a fashion designer myself,” u/Alternatebooty shares. Meanwhile, u/Ambitious_Jello finds it useful for “learning about current trends in India. It also helps me learn about new brands, since I'm not on other platforms more commonly used by these brands.” He adds, “I don’t use other social media apps, but I follow other subreddits sporadically. I learnt about fashion by watching shows like Project Runway and Trinny & Susannah, YouTube videos, and by studying basic design tenets, like the colour wheel.”

Another user, u/Christmasstolegrinch, doesn’t mince his words when he says, “Most influencers lack substance. The cycle of fashion is inevitable. But style is not cyclical. Style is learning about the fundamentals; understanding the colour wheel. Style is understanding that Indian bodies may not always work with certain Western outfits. Fashion, for instance, is wearing smaller coat lapels, while style is understanding why a spread collar should fit beneath your lapels when you’re wearing a business suit. The more I learn, the more I realise how little I know. I don’t think influencers, however, know any of this. They know social media, they may know some fashion, but they mostly don’t understand style.”

But what really drives each of these Redditors is the healthy, democratic community that this space offers, which is so rare in fashion. “Reddit is not used for promotions, so it kind of filters out the chaff, and you get to hear real reviews,” says u/Ambitious_Jello. It's also fun to follow repeat posters and people interacting with them!” Having been on his style journey for more than 15 years, u/Christmasstolegrinch loves sharing what he has learnt along the way. “Many people here are starting out, and still developing a sense of who they are from a sartorial perspective. I just try to be of some help.” For u/Alternatebooty, it’s just the positive vibes. “The community doesn’t lash out at anyone; the advice is genuine and well-meaning. The people here aren’t snarky or vicious. They’re kind.”