Surviving Unemployment Showed Me Nothing Can Break Me — Man Like Goldie Iyamu

August 7, 2022
What does it mean to be a man? Surely, it’s not one thing. It’s a series of little moments that add up. Man Like is a weekly Zikoko series documenting these moments to see how it adds up. It’s a series for men by men, talking about men’s issues. We try to understand what it means to “be a man” from the perspective of the subject of the week.

Goldie Iyamu seems to be doing it all. Starting out as one of the OG fashion influencers back in 2014, he’s gone on to launch his own clothing line while working to make a name for himself as a tech bro. 

But before he found his footing, Goldie had to deal with a major career shift in 2019 that completely changed his life and how he looks at people today. 

In this episode of Man Like, Goldie shares why he plans to approach fatherhood differently from his dad, the loneliness that comes with setting boundaries and why masculinity is not important in fashion. 

Hey Goldie, fill me in. What’s happening with you? 

Man, I just started a new role at Chipper Cash alongside running my fashion and lifestyle brand, Metroman. A lot is going on right now. Even though I’m working on two projects I enjoy, I can’t deny it’s a lot, especially with Metroman, which I started in 2019 after I got laid off. 

Damn. Being laid off must’ve sucked

Yeah, it was a crazy time. I think I’m just getting out of that funk. I lost my job around July, at a time when most tech companies were complaining about funding, alongside 400 people in my old company’s global marketing team. Our manager told us some people might be laid off soon, and in like 30 minutes, our emails stopped working. 

I couldn’t believe it was happening until the next day when I couldn’t go to work. The period of unemployment was a very trying one for me. It was eye-opening how quickly people could turn their backs on me. From those who refused to refer me for jobs to those who’d take my CV and do nothing with it, I learnt a lot about how humans change. 

Coming out of that struggle, I’ve learnt not to place importance on other people or their ability to “help” me. I realise now that I’m the only person who has my back. Nothing can move me again. 

Talking about having your back, when did you get your “Man Now” moment? 

I’ve had to man up from a young age. My dad wasn’t in the country when I was really young, so I grew up surrounded by my mum, grandma and aunties. He came back when I was about six or seven and was really invested in making me a man to make up for my time surrounded by women. 

There were also times in University when despite money from my family, I had to make ends meet by designing and selling waistcoats and skirts. Those were moments when I had to step up as a man to care for myself. 

What was it like having a strong male presence step into the picture with the arrival of your dad? 

I probably understand it now, but then, I wondered why he came in with so much vim. He used a lot of tough love because he wanted me to be real independent fast. We always had fights during long holidays because I wasn’t down for washing cars, mowing the lawn or going to the factory to monitor workers. 

Because I had this heightened sense of self-respect, I tried to be independent to avoid see finish from my dad. I was even laughing recently when I remembered I can’t drive because I didn’t want to drive my dad’s car and deal with his wahala. I didn’t want any unnecessary disrespect. 

Our conversations are easier now that I’m older. I wonder why it was so hard for him to relax back then. 

What is this unnecessary disrespect thing about? 

I’ve always hated being spoken to in a condescending tone. Even as a child, I was beaten for talking back to my elders. I was standing up for myself a majority of the time, so if you said something I didn’t like as a child, I’d tell you my mind. That’s why I set boundaries with my dad very early on.

I maintain the same energy when it comes to money. I don’t think I’ve ever borrowed from anyone. I’ve always had to hustle extra hard so no one would start talking to me anyhow because of their money. Remove me from anything that will cause disrespect. 

I feel you 

Yeah. I’ve never been a kiss ass. A client once gave me a snarky reply because I asked for my payment. After a while, I sent him a message saying I was no longer interested in working with him. 

How you carry yourself is how people treat you, so I’d rather just take precautions and keep to myself. I’m not going to lie, it has rubbed some people wrong, and they assume I’m proud. I just want to maintain my lane. 

How does this affect your relationships? 

I’ve had friends who thought I was distant, and one who specifically said I wasn’t letting my guard down. 

In romantic relationships, it’s about knowing boundaries. Like in my current relationship, she understands I’m not the most romantic person. It’s just who I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t love or think about her; it’s just that I like my own space a lot. 

Doesn’t it ever get lonely? 

It does. Like on Friday nights when I’d want to hang out and not know who to call. But to be great in life, you need to know your worth and act accordingly. I won’t settle for relationships or friendships I’m not comfortable with because of loneliness. 

A lot of things come to me in my solitude. I get my best ideas when I’m in my own space. This makes me intentional about the associations I make. 

How did your relationship with your dad influence the man you are today? 

My strong sense of independence today is one of the good results of how my dad approached parenting. My half-brother said the other day that we all learnt to be sharp from our dad. There’s also being able to diversify my interests because he had a lot of businesses when we were growing up. 

But would you approach parenting differently? 

I’d try a softer approach. I obviously want to impact my child’s life, but I also want to be their friend. I see kids playing with their dads these days, and I realise this wasn’t the case for me growing up. 

I want a loving relationship from the get-go. 

Love it! Let’s talk about fashion. When did you develop an interest in it? 

I’ve been interested in fashion for as long as I can remember. Before I was 10, I’d already convinced my parents to allow me to pick and buy my Christmas clothes. 

My mum was a significant influence on my love for fashion. How she mixed and matched her aso-ebi colours still influences how I coordinate my clothes today. Covenant University was where it really took off. I got in at the height of colour blocking, and that was my shit, so it came easy to me. You know when they say, “e dey body?” That’s how I feel about my relationship with fashion. 

This was about ten years ago, right? 

Yes. 

What was the response you got from people back then, as a man experimenting with fashion? 

People weren’t receptive. I remember I had red and wine pants back then. LOL.  

There was an incident in university when a friend and I were walking back from fellowship. This guy had neon green pants on, and we were like 1000 students walking back to the hostel. From nowhere, students started making fun of him, shouting, “Fally Pupa”. I could tell he was very embarrassed by what was happening. 

Back then, wearing bright-coloured trousers was weird. But it was just colours, so I didn’t care. In less than a year, it became popular. I can say the same thing about when they called me and my friends “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” for wearing vintage shirts back in school. The funny thing is I ended up selling a lot of those vintage shirts by the time school caught up. 

Did the pushback get to you? 

No. I knew these kids didn’t know what they were saying. I was wearing shit their grandfathers wore. It had been done before and was accepted, so they’d get it later. They didn’t know more than me. 

What does fashion mean to you as a Nigerian man? 

Fashion is a statement for me. Wherever I’m going, I make sure I’m well dressed. It’s also a form of self-care because, first and foremost, what I wear is for me. 

It impacts my confidence. It really gets to me and how I present myself if I don’t feel well dressed. 

I’m curious. Do you feel more comfortable with fashion now or when you were younger? 

I was more experimental then. Now, I’m more laid back. There’s nothing too serious about my style these days. I look back at some of my older pictures, and I’m like, “Na wa for you o.”

These days, I’m more focused on dressing for the occasion than just freestyling fashion. 

What’s your view of masculinity as it relates to fashion? 

I don’t think masculinity should influence how we as men approach fashion. Most men are just scared and lazy to dress up, so they wear the same design of trad every day. 

When we look at pictures of our great grandfathers, we see that they were trying different things and nothing is strange or new. There’s nothing that should be off limits in fashion because of gender. I believe in trying different styles, colours and cuts until I find something that works for me. 

Still on masculinity, how do you handle pressure as a Nigerian man? 

What people think about me doesn’t get to me. I’ve taught myself to appreciate the little steps and understand that I’m the only one that has a say in the direction my life takes. I don’t succumb to external pressures anymore. The only person that can put pressure on me is me. 

I’ve blocked out society. 

Has anything ever threatened your masculinity? 

Back in university, I felt a way when guys went out to watch football, and I knew it wasn’t my thing. I used to mention Arsenal whenever they asked what team I supported so they wouldn’t say I was a woman. I don’t care about pretending like that anymore. Now, I’ll tell them confidently that I don’t watch football. They can’t beat me. 

Don’t get me started on people talking about how “Goldie” is a woman’s name. Uber drivers are always telling me they were expecting a female passenger. And recently, someone sent out a press release quoting me as “She”. LOL. 

I’m dead. So what gives you joy these days? 

I have more clarity of purpose. The things I’m working for are coming to fruition, which makes me happy. I’m more confident in my journey because other people reaffirm my belief that I’m on the right path, from fashion to my 9-to-5. 

Would you change anything about this journey? 

I should’ve come as a trust fund baby or a Kardashian who sells out immediately after they drop a new product. LOL. 

Apart from that, I feel every step has been necessary to getting me here. Looking at what’s happening in the world today, I feel I’ve had it easier than most people. 

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