Phil Wizard and the intersection between breaking and fashion
As Phil Wizard prepares to make his debut on the world’s biggest sporting stage in Paris this summer, there is plenty on his mind.
Preparing for the biggest competition of his career requires hours of practice, and a level of focus reserved for the best athletes in this world to perform in a pressure-filled environment.
He’s also thinking about how he will present himself on the world stage.
“Breaking is about self-expression and finding your style within the dance,” Phil says. “But you can also do the same thing with fashion.”
He chuckles when asked about his most impressionable looks back in his teenage years.
“I was probably the most unfashionable kid in high school,” Phil says, laughing. “When I look at photos of myself from back in the day, I’m like, ‘Wow, I had no fashion sense at all.’”
It wasn’t until he started breaking that Phil began to give more thought to how he dressed. Just as his moves became a way to distinguish himself from the competition, the clothing he wore gave him another avenue to express himself.
But like his breaking journey, from a kid discovering the scene in Vancouver to representing Canada this summer in Paris, his fashion discovery also took time to evolve into something bigger.
Phil remembers the Puma Suede being his most-coveted item when he started breaking.
The history of breaking goes back to the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Popularized by B-Boys and B-Girls who showed off their skills on the streets in New York City with their improvisational moves, their individuality also came in the form of their fashion.
Because breaking is one of the traditional four elements of hip-hop (along with graffiti, MCing, and DJing), the style within his subculture also has its origins in the same realm. So early on, as the breaking scene started to emerge in New York, the cool kids wore Pro-Keds and Puma Suedes on their feet with a pair of Lee Jeans to match.
Specific fashion pieces in the 1980s became synonymous with breaking, including the Kangol hat and K-Way tracksuits for comfort and sliding. The 1990s introduced brands like FUBU, Karl Kani, and Lugz to the mainstream, and these popular clothing brands crossed over into breaking.
Decades of fashion history in breaking become a reference point for people like Phil. So he bought a pair of Puma Suedes to start.
“It wasn’t the shoe for me, but I had to get them,” he recalls. “I wasn’t willing to say no because they were the B-Boy shoe. I was more insecure by then. I was less experimental.”
Phil was still figuring out his wardrobe at the time and came to realize that the most important thing was finding a personal imprint with your clothes.
Over time, he discovered the functionality that came with wearing certain styles.
“I prefer baggier fits because when I’m doing certain movements, there’s a bit of a lag,” Phil explains. “So say if I do a sweep of the leg, depending on the fabric of the clothing, it can create an extra silhouette effect and make a difference in how your breaking looks.”
He has travelled across the world to different competitions and taken fashion inspiration from breakers across the globe.
“There are cultural differences based on where you’re from where you can see certain trends within countries and cultures,” Phil explains.
He says the best part about fashion in breaking is that you can create your own rules. The sport is one of imagination, and the fashion aspect of it is no different.
“There’s so much more you can do with your clothing than you think,” he says. “Oftentimes, I’ll think a pair of pants work well with a shirt, and then I start mixing and matching and I start finding lots of different opportunities with clothes I already own.”
A signature fit of his that has become well-known in the breaking community is his all-white outfit with his pink Lululemon jacket as the stand-out piece.
“That’s the look I’ve become known for. It gets associated with you as a breaker,” he says. “A lot of people started reaching out to me about the jacket. I want to do my best and win every competition but I also want to look the freshest. I want people to talk about what I’m wearing as well.”
The experimentation can take all shapes and sizes and even in ways that only the breaker would notice.
“I’ll wear a different scent to practice just to mix it up,” Phil continues. “I also have started to accessorize more. I like the feeling of having a necklace on when I break. It’s a more casual look and it makes me feel more confident.”
After a recent photoshoot with Monte Cristo magazine where Phil was styled in Gucci and Prada, he’s gotten the idea to bring a new look to breaking culture.
“The culture comes from the street. But I want to see high fashion brought into breaking,” Phil says. “It would be dope to wear a pair of Prada pants over time so you can see scuffs from the way we dance. I love the look of worn clothing. I want to bridge that gap into high-end brands.”
The shoes have also changed over time. As Phil prepares for Paris, he is practicing in two Nike models: the Vomero 5 and the P-6000. A few pairs of Salomon sneakers have also made the rotation.
As for what he will be wearing in Paris? Phil is coy about what it may be, even if it’s probably already rattling in his mind. After all, why commit to a look when there are still several months to go for a few more experimentations and transformations in his fashion approach.
“I envision wearing an outfit there that I’ll never wear again,” he says.
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