Jean has been freelancing with us since I met him while doing this shoot. Without fail, every time he comes into our office, he walks around and high fives everyone while looking them in the eye and asking how they are. It is sadly startling in its unusual sincerity and touching warmth. I find myself not knowing what is more magnetizing about him, his effusive and glowing tenderness or the layers of colorful patterned clothes and jewelry with all of the perfectly constructed touches, like a bandana on his head or in his pocket, and then of course, his wildly expressive head of hair. He says that he never wants to feel like he is not being himself around anyone and that his style is an extension of who he is, which says to me that it is true what is tattooed across both hands, “Love Life.” As Jean explains, “Everyday I wake up in the morning and I give thanks for being alive,” and it’s a reflection of the fact that this concept is all too often so easy to forget.
The reappropriating of divergent vintage clothing that Jean does with ease – like the Nantucket picnic basket bag he wears around his neck over a polka dot button-down with an ebony and gold medallion necklace, couture tribal jeans, Nike sneakers and an handmade American Indian wooden pouch with feathers slung around his torso – speaks to his refusal to cop to the usual divisions between people. He is the leader of an artistic collective in his hometown called the “Jersey Klan” aka “NJ Street Klan,” that was inspired in part by a collaborative called A.L.I.E.N NYC, which stands for A Legion In Every Nation, and expresses themselves so freely with music and style that Jean vividly recalls their exciting intermingling of streetwear like ninja pants and shoes meets skater punk. The Jersey Klan is a collective that promotes artists of all kinds, from concerts to art exhibits. Jean is an artist himself who raps and writes his own music, but the coordinating of his events is driven by a passion to give a platform to others, espcially young kids who would otherwise not have a chance to be exposed to the public.
The attendance at NJ Street Klan affairs are as diverse a tapestry as Jean’s genres of dress. He laces his Air Classic Kicks with zebra laces, mixes a camouflage top with a multicolored patchwork jacket and a Davy Crockett hat, and wears a Hawaiin print shirt with DIY studded Eskimo boots. “Punks, college kids, street kids…come together for the music… if you’re white, black, Asian, whatever color you are, it’s for everybody. It’s not about where you’re from and what race you are, it’s about the music, the culture, the word, the energy, the vibe.” He is so intense about the ability to express oneself though music that he produced a project called “No Faces,” that is a freestyle mix without any visuals in an effort to promote the importance of pure music, free of the pervasive hype of celebrity and “faces” over substance. Of his music and “No Faces,” Jean says, “You don’t have to know who I am… listen to my words… it doesn’t have a color…it’s something that I love to do…we are surrounded by too many people who just want to be celebrities and not leaders.”