Theatre student uses purple for confidence

GVL / Eric Coulter
Matthew Fowler: The Purple Man

Eric Coulter

GVL / Eric Coulter Matthew Fowler: The Purple Man

Kari Norton

Once upon a time, Matthew Fowler kept to himself. He would sit in the back of the room in his high school classes and not talk to anyone. Where most people strived socially and struggled with public speaking, Fowler was the exact opposite – better at planning than improvising, he said.

But all of that changed the day he wore his first purple shirt.

Now, Folwer is a Grand Valley State University icon of sorts, known all over campus as the “Purple Man.”

The infamous t-shirt had a T-Rex wearing 3D glasses on it, with tall buildings and airplanes all over it, and every time he wore the shirt he would have an excellent day. It was a conversation starter, he said.

From there, his purple collection grew.

“I tell people all the time, it’s not an obsession, it’s a lifestyle choice,” Fowler said. “Part of the reason that people call me the “Purple Man” openly is because I don’t obsess over it. I very rarely say the word purple without someone else saying it first. I will just wear, and have a bunch of purple things. In a sense, I’ll be non-verbally purple.”

Fowler’s enthusiasm for the color spans beyond just his history, he has meanings for it, too.

Psychologically, red represents passion, ambition and love, and blue represents the ability to have a good time, be carefree and take life one step at a time, Fowler said. When you combine those two colors, you get him.

“My political reason is, I identify as both a Republican and a Democrat, I’m kind of the mixture between them, I’m a donkephant,” Fowler said. “If you take blue Democrats and red Republicans, you get me.”

As for Fowler’s social reason for liking purple, it doesn’t rhyme with anything, but neither does he, he said.

“I’ve got the purple passion, I wanted to show people that I’m purplicious,” Fowler said. “I’ve got the purplicious, purple passion.”

Being the “Purple Man” has allowed him to make instant friends and connections. Fowler said he’s just soaking up every minute of it because he knows that once he gets out beyond college he isn’t going to be able to wear purple every day.

“My promise is that, if you like purple and you give me the time of day, then you’re my friend. It doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter what you do,” he said. “You can be a mass-murderer, if you give me the time of day, as long as you don’t stab me, we’re friends. I don’t care what your political views are, I don’t care what your race or sexuality is, if you want to be my friend, I want to be yours, and that’s my promise.”

Besides purple, theater is also a big part of Fowler’s life. He is the president of the student organization STAGE, a group that shows off what people can do in all areas, whether it be writing, producing, acting or directing.

“I start each meeting by jumping on a table and shouting, ‘HEEEEEEEY STAGIANS!!’ and they respond, ‘HEEEEEEY WHAT?’ and I say, ‘Are you ready to start this meeting?’ They say, ‘YES’ and cheer, and then I jump off the table, do a heel click or a spin and the meeting has begun,” Fowler said.

His theatre career began junior year of high school when he auditioned for his first play and instantly fell in love.

“I am destined to be theatrical from here on out until I am on my deathbed,” Fowler said.
He’s considered a character in a sense, and is recognized by many of GVSU’s students, especially when wearing his purple trench coat.

“My ultimate goal is to make people happy,” Fowler said. “I have hopes and dreams of being a motivational speaker, and in the future I want to use purple to do that exact same thing. I want to improve people’s lives, even just a little bit.”
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