The other day, my boyfriend showed me an article by a certain online university “journal” of dubious reputation, titled “Things you should definitely stop wearing after graduation” (or something to that effect). It called on university graduates to stop wearing things such as tattoo chokers, facial glitter, tank tops on men, and wearing bumbags on nights out. A section which particularly struck me, was the one in which the writer instructed everyone to throw out their smelly harem pants, and buy a pair of jeans, “like a normal person”, and it’s that phrase which got me thinking, and came to inspire this post.
The writer of the article seems to misunderstand why some people, usually people wearing the pieces they deem unacceptable, choose the clothes they do. I wear colourful, patterned clothes simply because I like them. I’m not trying to show off about my gap year by wearing harem trousers (especially as I’ve yet to even go travelling), but instead, they’re pretty and soft and I can hula hoop in them. And, I can bend my knees without any fabric digging in, as an added bonus. My boyfriend, and my friends who all dress ‘differently’ are the same; we wear them because we prefer them in some way to the ‘normal’ clothes the writer advocates. In addition, that’s not to say we don’t wear that sort of thing, anyway. Mom jeans from TopShop are gorgeous and the thick material is warm and good for walks, and New Look is my absolute go-to for basics because they’re so soft and not too expensive. I’ve never met anyone into alternative fashion tell those who do not to change what they wear…
For me, and many others, our style is a huge part of our identity. On a personal level, I was bullied for the majority of my time at secondary school, for being shy, different, whatever you like. The day I discovered beautiful, colourful, unique clothes, my self-confidence skyrocketed. I no longer felt afraid to be myself – I had a greater idea of who I even was. Clothes are such a wonderful way to express oneself, and, as long as you’re not being culturally insensitive, they are a harmless way of doing so. In fact, I find it so much easier to make friends with people who dress like me – not for any particular reason, other that there’s already a platform for conversation, and therefore some common ground. Commenting harshly on someone’s clothes should be just as frowned upon as commenting negatively on any other aspect of appearance. If it’s not bothering them, if it’s making them happy, then why ruin that? Why make someone self-conscious for the sake of it?
Someone I know, a friend of a friend, once asked me where I bought a dress from. Upon learning it was from TopShop, replied with “oh. I don’t buy from mainstream shops”. Though, given past interactions, it was obviously intended to try and make me feel bad, it was shocking to say the least, and actually did shake me for a moment. It took me a while to remember that there’s nothing wrong with wearing things I like, ‘mainstream’ or otherwise. There shouldn’t be gatekeeping or criticism for something so personal (especially not, might I add, that the day after making that comment she was taking a selfie in a High Street changing room, anyway).
As an aside, the writer of the article also decided to bring up the issue of professionalism, their main argument being that, this time, your festival wristbands – another thing they chose to condemn – will make you look ridiculous, immature, at a job interview. It’s the tattoo argument all over again. Surely, now so many of us are tattooed, or have piercings somewhere other than the earlobes, we should be working towards dismantling the concept that not being conventional automatically means you’re not professional. Furthermore, the writer seems to be forgetting that you can’t, just… remove wristbands, string bracelets, and piercings? As a trainee teacher, I know better than to wear my bracelets etc to school or professional situations, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be coming straight back on for the weekends. Am I suddenly less credible because I’m wearing my Boomtown wristband? Does the very presence of a visible tattoo on my body suddenly mean that all my knowledge of childhood development is gone? Similarly, is the dreadlocked banker at my local branch of Santander worse at his job than his colleagues?
I guess the main motivation for this is that I’m tired. Tired of people being judged on appearance, tired of people being designated outsiders because of things which make them happy. I’m not giving up my style after graduation, or for any reason other than my naturally gravitating away from it, to something else. I’ve found what makes me comfortable, and I’m not going to give it up so someone I’ve never met will perceive me as mature.