Most people would argue that I’m an extravert, and although I do have those tendencies, I’m very much an introvert. On the continuum of ‘E’ to ‘I’, my slider is much more toward the ‘I’, which is one major reason I’m not comfortable in large groups of people. I feel exposed and awkward.
Last night I had a wedding to attend. It’s not only the large group thing, but I also don’t like to wear fancy, dressy clothing. I know this because I really don’t own anything besides casual clothing. I also know this because of the bulging eyes and gasps from my friends last night, as they’re scrambling to find their cameras, in complete disbelief that I was wearing a dress. That is, my $3 thrift store dress with sandals I dug out of the back of my closet, that were broken and stapled together to stay on my feet. I guess I fit in well enough with the current trends in clothing, which was good, because a wedding is no place for me to make a statement about society’s pressure to conform to ‘socially acceptable’. The photo on the ‘right’ shows how I feel about fashion. This was part of a gallery showing I had a few years back called ‘excessable’. It says more than I could ever put into words.
I’m quite sure my feelings on clothing stem from my childhood. My mom had me in beauty pageants and I was never allowed to choose clothing I liked. I was taught from an early age that you are judged by your appearance, which explains a lot about the way I dress myself today. If I’m going to be judged, I do not want to be thought of as a conformist to our culture.
Don’t get me wrong here, I like style and a lot of my clothing is what would be considered ‘in style’ by our current fashion trends. It’s the excessiveness, the name brand gods and the financial prostitution that bothers me. Yes, I know those are harsh words, but allow me to explain. I really wouldn’t mind having a new top, or for that matter, a whole new outfit. The excess in this industry makes it difficult to choose an outfit, and if I can finally select one, it becomes my identity. People don’t see me first, they see what I’m wearing.
The financial part? I use the words financial prostitution because it means money and using your talents for an unworthy cause. 80% of my wardrobe is from thrift stores and the rest from discount stores. Sometimes I wish I had a new outfit, but I’m not willing to make the financial commitment that is associated with it. The retail establishments are making a killing off of clothing, many of them using cheap labor overseas to make it even more profitable.
Finally, the name brand god. One of my favorite pairs of shoes are my Ed Hardy shoes, although I only wear one at a time, the other being a Converse or Sketcher. My EH shoes were free, but they make the statement that I spend a lot on my clothing and that I support major retailers. I like the artwork on them, but I think people see the name, not the art, then they judge. Cynically, I do this too. I see name brands and here’s the process I go through. First I judge them, thinking they have spent a lot of money and have been sucked into the excess of our culture. I get angry with them for being wasteful with their money. Then I get angry with myself for judging, as it’s not right, I should treat others like I want to be treated. I don’t like being judged so I shouldn’t do it. After my conviction, I realize I don’t know their story. Maybe their stuff was free, maybe they paid full price, not for me to worry about. I need to worry about me and my actions, which brings me to my latest experiment.
My most comfortable pair of shoes is a beat up pair of Nike shoes. I’ve had them for about 6 years? I paid full price for them when they first came out. I’m not sure it was money well spent, but I have gotten a lot of use out of them. I was looking at these shoes one day and realized I’m a walking advertisement for Nike. Each shoe has the name or the swoosh on it five times! I got a razor blade and cut all of the logos off. Sadly, they still look like brand name shoes, even with giant holes in them. I’ve worn them at least five times, in different settings. Not even one person noticed anything or said anything. It really makes me want to go cut all the logos off ALL of my clothing. Don’t be surprised… Oh, here’s a pic of the shoes.
Society’s expectations of style and fast moving trends are a reality, and not something I want to eliminate. What I would like to see? Balance. (you just thought of New Balance shoes, didn’t you?) Money spent wisely on sensible clothing purchases, supporting companies that support fair labor practices and all of us, including myself, not to judge people by what they’re wearing.
I have to wonder if I would be as uncomfortable in large groups if I knew we all embraced each other’s outer and inner individuality, without judgement? Probably not, but it might make it more tolerable. Am I the only one that struggles with this? I would love to hear your thoughts.