Justin Bieber Abandoned Sleaze for Semi-Earnest Nostalgia. I Am Heartbroken.
Imagine a man driving a car along an empty road. On this road, there is no speed limit. In the distance, he can see all there is to see. There's nothing blocking his view, there is no reason for him to change course.
That is, until there is a reason to change course. It could be as complicated fork in the road or as simple as a westward turn. Ultimately, a decision has to be made, or else our driver finds himself in danger.
Now imagine that man is Justin Bieber. Imagine that car to be his wardrobe choices. Imagine that road to have gone on for years. Seventeen months ago, Bieber's road trip caught our eye. It was one of the catalysts behind our deeming the summer of 2018 "The Summer of Sleaze." Bieber was our patron saint, a member of our Mount Rushmore, and our most recurring character. For that year and a half, Bieber hit the gas, and paid no mind to, well...anything. He ran hot, he transcended each of the seasons—he forgot to close his zipper. It was glorious. Each time I came upon a photo of Bieber in the wild, I shed yet another single tear, biting my bottom lip in admiration. He doesn't give a fuck, and the audacity has been an honor to witness.
Recently, Bieber busted through the guard rail. He didn't anticipate that westward turn.
Last week in Los Angeles, our founding father was photographed in a fit that'd normally get my blood pumping. On first glance, I filed it into the sleaze index. As I looked closer, though, disappointment set in. Ultimately, our boy has waded into uncharted territory. So often he'd toed the line between giving zero fucks and emitting some level of intent. Here, he lost me halfway down his leg.
That is to say, I love the audacity of the trucker hat. I love the crustiness of the mustache. The hoodie, it's good, and oversized in all the right ways. And yes, I still bow down to the man's inability to close his zipper. But the pants upon which that zipper lays unfastened—from his own brand, Drew House—are just too fucking big. And you know what, I'm not buying the shoes, either. In fact, they're perfectly emblematic of why this fit need not apply to Sleaze University. The most endearing element of sleazy style has been its timelessness. Bieber's off-road endeavor skids into a desperate reverb of '90s skate culture that I'm just not buying from him. In the balance between an aimless middle finger and over-orchestrated intent, these enormous pants and '90s skateboarding shoes show too much of the latter. The result is almost an insult to the spirit that sparked the movement. In the 7-Eleven parking lot theory of Sleaze, the best fits can be found out back, by the dumpster, baggie full of ditch weed in-hand.
Justin, what’s happening here?
What Bieber deployed here can be found sitting outside the front door, sipping a Slurpee, desperately trying to come up with a way to hide the fact that it can't ollie. I miss the hotel slippers without a Drew House logo. I miss the Things That Just Don't Go Together. I miss the middle finger of it all. And though our boy has indeed missed that westward turn, the road is still there. I have faith his hands are still on the wheel. Here's to hoping his navigation sets him back on course.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.