If Pixels Were Stitches

Written & Modeled By: Erika Haase
Photos Taken & Edited By: Carolyn Walker

Video games are here to stay. They now have a firm foothold in the world of pop-culture, and whatever becomes pop-culture, inevitably becomes represented in fashion. Gone are the days where every t-shirt bearing your favorite game logo only came in a men’s XXL. The stereotypical Simpsons-esque “comic book nerd” guy is still out there, but he’s joined by men and women in all sorts of physical shape who wear video-game logos and comic book character masks as a source of pride into Spartan Races and World’s Toughest Mudder competitions, get tattoos of iconic logos, or even name their children after favorite heroes.

Fashion, however, took a little longer to catch up. When it did, it stayed mostly in the realm of unisex sized t-shirts of varying quality. Even into the early 2000s, you obtained your video game gear from attending a conference, some relatively sporadic pre-order SWAG, or a random official shirt at Hot Topic. This didn’t do much to elevate a fashion sense, even while it remained a glaringly obvious way to profit off a booming fandom – a fandom that was willing and ready to turn their favorite games into their favorite hoodie, jacket, pair of leggings, socks, and more.

Finally, companies started taking notice. When websites began featuring unofficial art on a host of what were now easily printable t-shirts on sites that priced reasonably, it was inevitable that development studios and publishing companies would want a piece of the pie. While many such websites are still alive and thriving, such as TheYetee.com, Qwertee.com, and RedBubble.com, the big kids on the block are also now in on the action.

At PAX Prime back in August of 2015, you may remember reading about Bioware’s newly introduced fashion line featuring clothing from the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises. Not satisfied to stay in the realm of t-shirts any longer, Bioware had teamed up with the booming ThinkGeek Solutions to bring patterns and color schemes to life. In what might have been the first-ever games fashion runway show, women modeled the latest pieces which included leggings, dresses, and incredibly clever hoodies that blur the line between cosplay and functional clothing.

It’s not just Bioware that’s in on the action. Bethesda and ThinkGeek also produce stellar pieces of merchandise. Everything from collared men’s shirts to hand crafted bone charm necklaces designed by NYC based jewelry designer RockLove. Square-Enix and Crystal Dynamics can’t be forgotten with a line of official Tomb Raider merchandise ranging from shirts to sweatpants.

The prices aren’t bargain bin, either. As demand has increased, so has quality. Bethesda sells an official reproduction of Empress Emily Kaldwin’s signet ring on their website for a hefty $115 USD (Also designed by RockLove). Amulets and rings from Skyrim and Fallout 4 are also available and range from $75-$100 USD. An absolutely stunning reproduction of Mass Effect’s mass relay is available on the Bioware store for $195 USD, and remarkably, sells out regularly.

Game culture and fashion culture are becoming entwined. From a fancy watch or wallet, to a great necklace or pair of leggings, men and women are being asked by people completely unaware of the games these items hail from with the infamous “where did you get that” question. For me, it was the moment that I was paused for a break on an arduous hike up the Mt. Liamuiga volcano in St. Kitts, and asked by a fellow female hiker if my Mass Effect official Tali leggings were from LuluLemon, that I realized we’d long since moved-passed the “nerd zone.” My husband is regularly asked by his co-workers about his N7 laptop bag, and where they might get one – often by people a few paygrades higher who simply appreciate the quality.

Outside ego flattering nods, however, are the more meaningful moments when gamers find each other. Sometimes it’s in a line at a supermarket or while wandering the mall. Strangers have sheepishly asked me if my fan designed Animal Crossing shirt from TheYetee is, in fact, from the game. When I confirm this, we almost always have a conversation about how much we both love the series. I was asked while waiting in line to make Christmas returns this year if another shirt of mine was actually a nod to American McGee’s: Alice. When I said yes, it started an in-depth conversation with a stranger that I would probably have never otherwise spoken to. Humans are social creatures, but in the fast-paced world we live in, it’s sometimes hard to find a way to jump in. With a silent advertisement that you and that unknown individual are in the same “club,” I’ve been astounded at how many times I’ve had a conversation that made me smile.

Even more encouraging is the observation I’ve made that these connections transcend gender. If I’m wearing my N7 hoodie from Mass Effect, for instance, I’ve had men point at it and go “I have that hoodie, too!” When I was bagging groceries, and had a male cashier compliment my Dishonored t-shirt, he asked if they were still selling them. He didn’t simply assume it was “a girl’s shirt.” Games are for everyone, and they are worn by everyone. Now, you just thankfully get the choice of having them tailored to your body type.

Inspired by these connections I’ve made in the world with total strangers and a host of random moments where people were in disbelief that something I was wearing “was from a video game,” I decided to make my own statement. I set out to Saratoga Springs, NY to meet up with a fantastic photographer and fashion blogger, Carolyn Walker, who I am lucky enough to be friends with. My goal was to present a set of five looks as high-quality and fashion ready. While not a gamer herself, Carolyn does have an eye for fashion. Using her skills in photography, and my own sense of style, we picked looks that would work for the setting, and set out for a day of capturing the essence of games as fashion – trendy, functional, and always ready for adventure. I hope you enjoy the results as much as we enjoyed making them.

THE LOOK BOOK: GAMES AS FASHION 2017
Photos By: Carolyn Walker
Modeled & Styled By: Erika Haase

LOOK ONE: American McGee’s: Alice 

“When you’re not on edge, you’re taking up too much space.”
– The Cheshire Cat, Alice: Madness Returns

THE LOOK: Sweater pullover: H&M, T-Shirt: via Qwertee.com by artist JAZZCOLA, Pants: via Blacksalt by Novella Royale, Tote Bag: Kate Spade

American McGee’s: Alice has always been my favorite take on Wonderland. I wrote an entire article on why you should re-visit the sequel Madness Returns now that it’s backwards compatible on Xbox One. For this look we wanted to capture the bizarre, the psychedelic, the curious, and of course wander down an alley or two. Having a bag that said “Crazy As A Fox” was just icing on the cake.

LOOK TWO: Tomb Raider

“In our darkest moments, when life flashes before us, we find something; Something that keeps us going. Something that pushes us.” – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider 2013

THE LOOK:  Jacket/Skirt/Boots/Red Drop Necklace: Francesca’s, Shirt/Green choker: Timed Official Tomb Raider Merchandise, Belt: Ralph Lauren Polo, Tights: Express

Tomb Raider is deeply meaningful to me. Lara has, and always will be, the embodiment of my independent and adventure seeking spirit. The shirt I’m wearing in this shoot was from a batch released when Lara Croft And The Temple Of Osiris came out. I love it for the original Lara silhouette. However, I pay tribute to the immense talent of the Tomb Raider reboots by wearing her green choker from the new games, which was a fortunate piece of SWAG obtained with the strategy guide. If Lara Croft had to wear a skirt, it would definitely have some studs, and I chose a belt that doubles as a great hook for a carabiner, just in case I have to do any last minute rappelling. If you look closely, Emily Kaldwin’s bone charm necklace from Dishonored 2 sneaks it’s way into this set as well.

LOOK THREE: Mass Effect

“…And Shepard, forgive the insubordination but this old friend has an order for you.
Go out there and give them hell. You were born to do this.” – Garrus, Mass Effect 3

THE LOOK: Dress: Offical Mass Effect Merchandise via Bioware online store, Belt: The Limited, Boots: J-Slides,  Jewelry: Gift

Bringing a brand new adventure on March 21st in a galaxy very new to humanity, Mass Effect: Andromeda promises us a new set of characters to love and cherish for hopefully another trio of games. It’s a franchise with lore that’s on par with the Star Trek universe in terms of complexity and depths to be explored so I’m ready for a new cast of characters. However, I still have a hard time saying goodbye to the red, white, and black of N7. In much the same way Legion chose to stick a piece of Commander Shepard’s armor on his robotic body, I also enjoy honoring the work of Bioware’s universe with many pieces of clothing. In this video-game take of a “little black dress,” I made sure to channel some futuristic vibes in my accessories.

LOOK FOUR: “Tifa” Final Fantasy VII

“Stop running!…You need to think about now. Look at you…You think you’ve got it so damn hard. Well, you hate being alone, so let people in! Sure, you may not answer the phone, but I don’t see you throwing it away, either! – Tifa, Final Fantasy: Advent Children

THE LOOK: Jacket/Skirt/Combat Boots: Francesca’s, T-Shirt: via TheYetee.com by artist BarrettBiggers, Tights: Express, Belt: The Limited, Sunglasses: Dolce & Gabanna 

Tifa Lockhart usually lets her fists do the talking. However, when she lets her talking do the talking as well…look out. She never minces words. Tifa’s loyalty and patience with Cloud’s PTSD in both Final Fantasy VII and Advent Children never takes a back seat to her strong and independent nature that keeps her strong in even the hardest of fights. I wanted to convey her strength in this look, as well as a little bit of her “sexy.” She strikes me as the kind of woman who, if real, would absolutely climb a tree in a skirt and fishnets. As for accessorizing – leather jacket and combat boots for anyone who needs a good beat down along the way.

LOOK FIVE: The Witcher 

“You don’t need mutations to strip men of their humanity.
I’ve seen plenty of examples.” – Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher 3

THE LOOK: Shawl: Anthropologie, T-Shirt: via TheYetee.com by artist Drew Wise, Jeans: American Eagle Outfitters, Belt: Ralph Lauren Polo, Boots: Lucchese, Orange Necklace: Francesca’s, Wolf Necklace: Timed Official Witcher Merchandise

Everything about The Witcher is done on a grand scale. In some of the greatest RPGs created in the West, CD Projekt Red did true justice to the character that was born out of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski’s famous novels. (Yes, The Witcher franchise comes from books. Many books, and you should read them. The only reason they exist in English is due to the popularity of the video games.) For our final shoot of the day, as the clouds drew in, we did a little urban exploration that a modern day Geralt would definitely feel at home in. Amidst broken glass, graffiti, mud puddles, and plants that refuse to die in the shadows of collapsing factories, I channeled my own powers of exploration. While this shirt is no longer currently available by the artist, these games have inspired a massive amount of fan art clothing for you to discover on your own. While I tried to limit this shoot to six pictures each, apparently even The Witcher photo shoots get DLC.

BONUS THREE:

This project took a lot of work, and I have to give massive credit to the fantastic photography and editing work of Carolyn Walker. Follow her on Instagram @mizrolyns or keep up with her blog which she updates regularly with fashion photography and travel photos. It’s always a visual treat.

Game merchandise has come a long way from the shoddily printed XXL freebies of yore. It now conveys everything the games they represent evoke in the players. Curiosity, independence, expressiveness, and strength of character.  Whatever your style, don’t be afraid to wear your favorites on an adventure of your own. You may be surprised at how many people you meet along the way that cheer you on.

/BCG

Disclaimer: Photos are not for public use. Original credit information must be used if you would like to cite them in your own article, as well as a link back to the source. Photo Credit: Carolyn Walker. Model Credit: Erika Haase, 2017.   

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