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What I wore this week: making like Zayn Malik

What I wore this week: making like Zayn Malik

Zayn has unexpectedly become a clothing action hero, fearlessly enacting style stunts I’m waaaay too scared to pull off myself

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What I wore this week: making like Zayn Malik

Zayn has unexpectedly become a clothing action hero, fearlessly enacting style stunts I’m waaaay too scared to pull off myself

Priya Elan

‘I have become Zayn Malik.’ Photograph: David Newby/The Guardian

Priya Elan

Priya Elan

Fri 22 Jun 2018 12.59 BST

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When I was a child I had a disturbingly large array of imaginary friends. They lived in their own country and had occasionally fiery relationships with each other. One was the polar opposite of me: a carefree soul called Jill who, in retrospect, was definitely a hippy: she did whatever the hell she wanted everyday, all day, and was so laid-back she was basically horizontal (or actually so laid-back that she didn’t actually exist).

I think about Jill as I channel former One Directioner Zayn Malik for this week’s column. Because in the same way Jill was my proto clean-living spirit friend as a child, as a man Zayn is my fashion beacon in a dark night of cheap dotcom fashion retailers that have Pitbull as a guest designer.

I’m surprised at this turn of events because when, years ago, I met Zayn as a dewy-eyed teen during the “judges’ houses” round of The X Factor (fun fact: Simon Cowell had an actual butler who dressed in a Downton Abbey style and the tea service was real silver), I thought he was a typical awkward adolescent: a bit annoying, quite boisterous, with incredibly clean teeth. He was dressed in a nondescript way: vaguely sporty but lacking a distinct look.

Priya Elan in blue sunglasses

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Fast forward to the solo years and he has unexpectedly become a clothing action hero, fearlessly enacting style stunts that I’m too scared to pull off myself. Green hair! Blue hair! Bleached hair! Bleached beard! (OK, maybe not. ) He’s become a walking advert for louche streetwear with edge. A bit sporty, a bit goth, slightly “aspirational exchange student”.

So tonight, Matthew, I have become Zayn. I’m wearing a red Hawaiian shirt (sorry about the chest hair), some multicultural bracelets, a necklace and some sand boots. I feel lacking a toe ring and facial hair. What I realise about “being Zayn” is twofold: a) there’s a fine line between looking like a pop star and looking like I work in a tiki bar and am sick of cutting limes; and b) going to Zaynadu is more about an attitude than the clothes – I have sworn off smiling (I’m pouting until I can’t feel my cheeks) and now feel incredibly drawn to getting a tattoo.

In short: I don’t think I can pull this off for long. But I bet Jill could

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Priya wears shirt, £85 and trousers, £90, both allsaints.com. Boots, £229 redwinglondon.com. Bracelet, £150, by Rubinacci, from mrporter.com. Necklace, £10, topman.com. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson. Grooming: Samantha Cooper at Carol Hayes Management.

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