Alex Hutchins has found carrying a musical cane to be ‘instrumental’ in finding comfort.
“I will always wear what I want to wear and I will treat people in the way that I feel they should be treated, not in the way society or the people around me think should happen,” he said.
For less than two years now, 22-year-old able-bodied Hutchins has carried a cane daily to learn music. At Albany’s Tulip Fest in 2014, Hutchins bought a cane at $60 for its dual function as a flute. “I don’t have the time or inclination to sit down for hours a day and practice, but by carrying it with me all of the time, I’ll find a spare five or ten minutes to give it a little practice,” he said.
Using his cane every day, Hutchins sometimes feels uncomfortable walking without artificial support. “I’m used to that sensation of that little leg I have when I’m walking,” said Hutchins.
Over time, Hutchins has made an effort to bring his cane wherever he goes. Working shifts at Starbucks, he manages to keep his cane close-by, in his car. “I’ve always just brought it with me and assumed that if somebody had a problem with it, that they would say something and I could put it in my car or leave it outside,” he said.
Aside from working, Hutchins has had few barriers preventing him from sporting his cane. He looked into the legality of carrying the object from class to class, prior to using the cane in public.
“I’ve had people ask ‘Why are you carrying it? Is it a weapon?’ and I say ‘No, it’s a flute and I’m carrying it because I’m learning to play the flute’,” said Hutchins.
Getting into 1960s British rock band Jethro Tull whose leader singer plays the flute, compelled Hutchins to buy the wind instrument cane at Tulip Fest. Having no formal music training, Hutchins considers himself ‘mildly successful’ at playing the flute.
Prior to Tulip Fest, Hutchins’ fascination with canes carried from an early interest in swordplay. As a child, being unable to handle a sword, Hutchins went from fencing twigs in his yard to using walking sticks.
Although Hutchins owns five canes, prior to purchasing his most recent cane, he rarely brought his walking sticks in public. “Because this is flute, there’s just that added level of security in people’s heads,” he said.
Growing up with Asperger Syndrome, Hutchins avoided following social norms in public and chose comfort over conformity. At Greenville High School, he would regularly wear a cloak to school. “I really just stood out,” he said.
Over the last four years, Hutchins made alterations to his style. Much of Hutchins’ current attire is centered around medieval trends. “I frankly don’t give a damn about contemporary fashion statements or any fashion statements at all, for that matter,” said Hutchins.
He explained, his hat, which he bought at a renaissance festival, protects his from sun exposure, rain and keeps glare out of his eyes. His shoes, replica sixteenth century leather boots, were chosen primarily due to their endurance and historical value. “To me these are beautiful by virtue of them being functional,” he said.
Looking ahead, Hutchins does not envision his future without a cane. “Whenever I’m going out with friends, whenever I’m driving to the grocery store and wherever I go — this cane comes with me and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.” said Hutchins.