Custodian Billy Ridder: embracing the emo lifestyle

Exploring the style and life of William “Billy” Ridder, beyond the label.
William Billy Ridder is a janitor at the school who dresses in the emo style. He embraces the lifestyle, enjoying a vibrant clubbing nightlife that led him on a journey of self-discovery.
William “Billy” Ridder is a janitor at the school who dresses in the emo style. He embraces the lifestyle, enjoying a vibrant clubbing nightlife that led him on a journey of self-discovery.

In the bustling hallways of our school, William “Billy” Ridder stands out not just for his role as a building and grounds worker, but for his distinct style that echoes the shadows of an era gone by. 

Now celebrating his first anniversary at our school, Ridder’s journey from a 16-year term at FedEx Express to various retail jobs paints a picture of someone who has walked a diverse path. 

Ridder’s life outside work is just as vibrant as his dark, emo attire suggests. Living a clubbing nightlife void of the responsibilities that come with having children at his age, he embraces a youthful spirit. 

“If I had kids out of high school, they would be your age,” he says, indicating a life lived on his own terms.

Despite his appearance, which students playfully dub as the “emo janitor,” Ridder doesn’t box himself into labels. He appreciates uniqueness in others and himself, maintaining a lane of his own. His style, influenced by the goth-punk and alternative vibes of the ’80s LA music scene, is more a reflection of his personal history than a statement. 

“I never shopped for brands, so more often than not, I just shop out of necessity,” he said. “Shoes, I have shoes for purpose. Obviously, I like a certain style. I shop mostly for function, never for a certain aesthetic or whatever.”

His wardrobe, devoid of brand obsession, is functional yet aesthetically aligned with his taste. Thrift shops and functional attire like his repurposed FedEx boots form the crux of his fashion, emphasizing practicality over wastefulness.

Addressing misconceptions, Ridder clarifies he’s far from the drug-fueled stereotype often associated with his looks and active nightlife. A pact with his sister to stay clear of drugs has been a guiding principle in his life. 

“My older sister, she’s five years older than me, and we kind of had a nonverbal unwritten pact a long time ago to stay away from drugs,” Ridder said. “We don’t even smoke pot.”

His only indulgence is the occasional responsible drink. For the most part, however, he drinks primarily water, which he credits to his well-kept habits.

Ridder’s life story reveals unexpected layers – from a shy theater kid in high school to a nightclub aficionado. His transformation began when, thanks to his brother, he accidentally enrolled in a theater class, an event that broke his shell of shyness. He then began to realize his true identity leading up to his senior year of high school.

“While getting into my senior year of high school, my sister took me out to my clubs for the first time, and that was the summer leading into the last year of high school,” Ridder said. “I got to start experiencing things a little before everybody else.”

The clubs he started frequenting in his senior year opened a new world to him, leading to a journey of self-discovery that continued through community college. However, this journey wasn’t without its detours. His initial interest in potentially pursuing a career in claymation and animation pivoted due to the demands and realities of the industry. Yet, his passion for artistic expression remains undiminished. 

“When I was leaving high school, I thought I wanted to get into claymation, but when I got into community college, someone broke down to me all the information I didn’t have access to in high school,” he said. “He told me it takes like seven years on average to do one of those types of films. And in the meantime, you gotta have several side gigs going on. Like a main job, basically a boring job.” 

Ridder’s story challenges stereotypes and invites a deeper understanding of the person behind the “emo” facade. As he continues to explore his artistic niche, his path serves as a reminder that identity is an evolving and winding path of experiences and expressions, regardless of one’s labels and societal expectations.

“I mean, I’m not really an emo, but I don’t know,” Ridder said. “I like what I like and I just appreciate uniqueness and diversity from everybody.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Mirror
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Van Nuys Senior High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

About the Contributor
Baron Kim
Baron Kim, Staff
An avid korean drum player, Baron Kim is a news and features writer at The Mirror. He is a junior in his second year of journalism. He enjoys playing the drums, trying new food, and watching sci-fi shows in his free time. Outside of journalism, he is involved in JROTC and National History Day. He plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
Donate to The Mirror
Our Goal

Comments (0)

Comments are encouraged and appreciated. All comments are moderated. Please limit all comments to the topic of the post. Observe proper online behavior rules: No name-calling, profanity or personal attacks. ALL inappropriate content will be immediately removed.
All The Mirror Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *