Esquire (USA)

Dress Code

You’re going to need a closetful of VIRTUAL CLOTHES if you want to hang out in the METAVERSE. What will those clothes look like, and who will be selling them to you?

- By Tim Maughan


I’m just standing, staring at everyone here. Even worse, I’m checking out what they’re wearing, watching bodies move and swirl around me, trying to see if I can pick out cohesive styles, emerging trends. There are a lot of anime girls here. E-boys and e-girls in rave-friendly tech wear.

There’s somebody in the corner dressed like a banana, another like

Master Chief from Halo. Stylistica­lly, it’s chaos, no obvious cohesion at all. It’s almost ugly, anxiety inducing. But it also feels warmly familiar to me, nostalgic, like I’ve slipped back in time twenty-five years to the parties of my youth.

Then the music changes, the DJ dropping a subwoofer-rattling slice of tech-step drum and bass, and the whole room flips. Walls visibly pulse to the bass line, and everyone in the club’s outfit changes, colors strobing with the music. For a nanosecond, the room is bright, and everyone looks like they’re encased in transparen­t plastic.

I laugh to myself, nodding with approval but feeling like I’ve outstayed my welcome, self-conscious that I look like that one old guy you see at every rave. Time to leave. But there’s no fighting through the dance floor to find the exit; just two button presses and I’m out, sitting back in my office at home, gazing at the colorful interface of VRChat—a platform that hosts a veritable smorgasbor­d of interconne­cted virtual worlds—before gently taking the hot plastic weight of a VR headset off my head. A headset I could afford only because it’s been subsidized by Facebook advertisin­g money, because Mark Zuckerberg wants every single one of us assimilate­d into his virtual world: a singular, rosy-cheeked, Pixar-movie vision of the metaverse that’s a far cry from VRChat. I find myself wondering how that’s really working out for him, and if he knows what the kids are actually doing with the toys he’s given them.

IF YOU’VE HEARD THE TERM METAVERSE BUT ARE still not quite sure what it means, don’t worry: You’re not alone. It’s hard to pin anyone down into giving a firm and succinct explanatio­n of what, by its nature, is a nebulous idea. The basic concept is of a vast, persistent, shared virtual space, one where all the Internet services and platforms we’re already familiar with—social media, shopping, video games, virtual/augmented-reality applicatio­ns, chatrooms, you name it—come together and are accessible through a unified über-platform or interface. So instead of logging in to those apps individual­ly, you’d log in to just one—the metaverse—and access them all from there. For some of its most fervent believers, this is enough to claim it will replace the Internet entirely.

One of these believers is Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who announced to the world last year that he was rebranding his company as Meta, so strong is his conviction that the metaverse is the inevitable future of his business.

Facebook—the actual social-media site—will retain its current name, as will Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp. Meta is the umbrella brand encompassi­ng all those platforms, aligning nicely with the

“everything all in one place” promise of the metaverse model.

Whether you believe Zuckerberg is sincere in his vision or simply rebranding to distract from Facebook’s many controvers­ies over the past few years, it’s difficult to think of somebody in a better position to make the metaverse actually happen. Not only does

Zuckerberg have more than three billion users logging in to his platforms and services monthly, but with the Meta Quest 2 VR

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