After 41 Years in Prison, This Man Reclaims His Identity in ‘Worn Stories’ Docuseries

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Who knew a TV show about clothes could be so emotionally engaging? In the upcoming Netflix docuseries Worn Stories, real people open their closets to reveal an article of clothing that holds sentimental value to them and discuss the story behind what makes it so special. Based on a collection of first-person narratives by writer Emily Spivack, Worn Stories explores the connection people have with their clothes and how they are part of a person’s identity.

One of the stories featured on the docuseries is between two Latino strangers, Carlos and Rudy. Episode three introduces audiences first to Carlos–a California man who spent eight years of his young adult life in prison. Carlos talks about how everyone is just a number in the system and is dressed in the same orange uniform. He explains that before he was released from prison, his family was allowed to send him “dress outs,” clothes he could wear when he stepped off the prison grounds for the first time. If you don’t have family on the outside to send you “dress outs,” you have to wear whatever the prison provides.

“A lot of times, they give oversized stuff,” Carlos said on the series. “You look ridiculous. If you see a guy with big ol’ pants, tank top…you’re gonna think this guy’s a gangbanger, a cholo. These stereotypes have always lived for brown and Black people.”

To give back to the community, Carlos decided to join the Ride Home program, a program where volunteers pick up individuals without families who are being released from prison and get them situated for living on the outside world. This includes taking them to their first meal, setting them up in their rehabilitation residency and going to the store to buy them clothes. This is how Carlos meets Rudy.

Rudy has spent the last 41 years in prison. “The journey that I was on, it was rough,” Rudy says. He remembers what he was wearing the first time he walked into prison years ago: six-pocket Levis jeans, fancy shoes, which he calls “biscuits,” and a Pendleton shirt. Without a family to send him clothes, however, Rudy walked out of the prison wearing sweats and a t-shirt. So, Carlos takes him shopping to begin his new life.

“I feel overwhelmed,” Rudy said. “I was given a second chance. [Prison] made me really reflect [on] the things that I’ve done.”

We won’t tell you everything that happens in the thrift store where they purchase Rudy’s new wardrobe, but what we can say is watching Rudy transform into a person he hadn’t seen in decades is a touching experience. Worn Stories delivers some authentic moments with warmth and optimism.

“I’m a free man with the clothes I got on,” Rudy says. “I’m not looking back. I’m moving forward. I looked in
the mirror, and I liked what I saw.”

Worn Stories premieres on Netflix April 1.