When a scumbro is seen in the wild, it’s usually an assault on one’s senses. Their brightly coloured and patterned clothes clash. They look both expensive and like the street urchins from Les Mis, thanks to their deft combination of Gucci and oversized op-shop selections. And the smell…when they are hungover, unwashed and have smoked a million cigarettes and then doused themselves in a Byredo fragrance, one cannot escape their aroma.
Pete Davidson, aka Mr Ariana Grande, is universally recognised as King of the Scumbros. Whether you think he looks good or bad, his style is certainly memorable: logo and graphic tees, sneakers, skater hoodies and patterns so bright and hideous that they will make your eyes dazzle.
Locally, rockstar Daniel Johns is our very own scumbro, as he haunts the streets of Sydney after big nights out wearing singlets, graphic patterns and glam-rock feminine touches like eyeliner. Fashion tragics may make connections between the scumbro look and the very early collections by Australian streetwear label Ksubi (then known as Tsubi) from almost twenty years ago, which were ripped, trashed and back then, expensive.
Other notable scumbros are Justin Bieber, Jonah Hill and Shia LaBeouf: rich and famous, yet dressing like a teen skater who wags every class except for art.
My favourite thing about the scumbro style, though, is that it can be worn by any gender, body type or persuasion. Sure, the male celebrities rocking it are known for their blokey swagger and BDE, but the scumbro aesthetic is so chaotic, loose and scrambled that anyone can wear it.
In fact, the scumbro trend first came to my attention when Eva Chen, fashion editor of Instagram (i.e. the woman with the coolest job in the world) described one of her outfit photos as “scumbro”.
She was wearing a baggy short-sleeved shirt with leaf patterns on it, basketball shorts, plastic slides and a camo-print bucket hat. Esquire has described Kristen Stewart and Bella Thorne as “sleazelords”, and if I’m totally honest, scumbro has had more of an influence on my personal style than Vogue or any Instagram model this year.
I love the idea that we may see more fellows draping themselves in their scumbro best (worst?), because despite experiencing significantly more privilege than women, men cannot confidently or seriously wear a dress, skirt or other “feminine” articles in everyday life without discrimination. I say this as someone whose dear friend would love to do so, and has battled his whole life to work up the guts to do it. Although the scumbro look isn’t about the girliest clothes, at least it is expressive, androgynous and somewhat anti-establishment.
So, really, I had no choice but to ask my husband to dress up in the scumbro outfit I’d picked out for him. He protested and said he looked “ridiculous” and “like a teenaged drug dealer”…but he was the one who already owned that jacket. Why complain when, deep down, you probably already are a scumbro?
The jacket was from an op shop in Port Macquarie, NSW, and this recent experiment was the first time Jeff had worn it. He put his hands in the pockets and pulled out a small, soft, orange object. “What is this?” he asked, before screaming, “Argh, it’s a cigarette butt!” Neither of us smoke.
I wanted Jeff to do our grocery shopping in his scumbro attire, but he refused, ultimately removing all of the items except for the yellow hoodie. He kept muttering the word "ridiculous". Finally, he said, "Pete Davidson looks good dressed as a scumbro, but you can only pull of that look if you're rich and famous. I'm a regular guy. I can't get away with looking like this."
Oh, I beg to differ. You don't have to be a wealthy celebrity to dress in the way that makes you happy. But I do support wearing whatever is comfortable, and not letting your wife force you into clothes that freak you out. Sadly, my husband is not a true scumbro, but at the very least, I can borrow his jacket.
What do you think of the scumbro trend?
Carla Gee is a writer and illustrator, living in Canberra. You can follow her on Instagram, @bycarlagee.
This isn't exactly Scumbro, but we profiled some dapper gents and asked them to talk about their style.