Practical Fashion in a Pandemic: An Illustrated Guide

By
Illustrations by Max Wittert

Published April 20, 2020

Max Wittert mines jokes from everyday micro-tragedies. The New York–based comedian, who got his BFA in illustration in the Bay Area (“which they definitely check for at the door when screening performers for comedy clubs”), has combined his dual knacks for drawing and humor into comic strips that he shares on social media and art that he projects during his stand-up shows. With his monthly live gig on hiatus (called Get Reel, he and co-host Joe Castle Baker invite comedians to join them in dubbing lines over movie clips), Wittert is focusing on a podcast (So Fashionating, with Ruby McCollister) and updating his Instagram with comics and the occasional tasteful selfie. “But,” he says, “don’t go to my Twitter—it’s hell.” Below, Wittert provides a few pragmatic suggestions, from a crinoline skirt to a dog cone for adult humans, on how to keep stylish in an age of social distancing. 

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NICK HARAMIS: How did this series come about?

MAX WITTERT: I wear glasses, and as anyone who wears glasses knows, it’s a constant struggle to see while wearing a face mask because condensation from your breath collects on them. This ranges from an Old Hollywood Vaseline-cam haze (pleasing) to a blinding fog (not pleasing). Going down the street to get sweet potatoes can suddenly feel like driving drunk down Mulholland Drive, so I started fantasizing about alternatives.

HARAMIS: The crinoline skirt that you’ve drawn was actually quite popular in the Victorian-era plague scene as a precursor to social distancing. Did history or culture inspire any of these looks?

WITTERT: “Plague scene” is something I’m writing down. I’m imagining side-swept bangs, skinny black jeans, and boils. I think for me, cultural and historical influences tend to creep in as a secondary effect: when I design silly things like this, I’m usually thinking about shapes, and, ironically, practicality: “What’s the need? What’s the problem? What’s the stupidest way I can solve this?”

HARAMIS: How would you describe your comedy?

WITTERT: In both my comedy and my drawing, I tend to veer micro. I fixate on small moments or interactions, and extrapolate from them. As I’ve progressed as a comedian, I tend to focus a lot more on things that upset me—and I don’t mean the grand, omnipresent terrors of the world. I mean the small dissatisfaction of opening a greeting card from someone and not having money fall out of it. Or the Sisyphean task of getting the two cowlicks on either side of my head to play nice. It’s maddening. I can’t sweep my hair to either side without it resisting. It’s like the cow just kept licking, thinking it was going to like the flavor eventually, and then gave up and coughed (and for the record, I have a third cowlick in the back of my head which I think of as the cow’s cough). There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. I’m going to go panning for that later.

HARAMIS: What’s the wildest do-it-yourself PPE you’ve seen?

WITTERT: Do cigars count as a sartorial choice? I think they’re kind of a style statement and I’ve been seeing a lot of guys in my neighborhood smoking cigars amid a respiratory pandemic. That’s a style choice; to not even be smoking cigarettes because you’re addicted to them, but instead to stake out a spot on the block and smoke a cigar. That’s wild to me. You know what would be funny? If the kink community came out and finally had a reason to wear their ball gags in public, citing the need for a face mask. I also saw someone with a Bernie Sanders shirt tied around his head. It was me.