Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Biggest Fashion Faux Pas of Them All...

As with a lot of my entries, they’re generally inspired by a conversation or some sort of life event that might have befallen me. And this one will be no different because this weekend I had a fairly interesting conversation with a stranger about her job as an Assistant Merchandiser for a company which I forget the name of. She gave me the rundown of what she does but then mentioned that despite all the fashion relevant stuff she gets her fingers stuck into, she has absolutely no interest in fashion whatsoever. And this I found amusing because I know that I’ve tried to get in with a company that I had no real interest in at all, and pretty much fell flat on face trying.

But I digress. Spring will soon be upon us and with the turn of the season will come a brand new onset of fashion trends that have already hit the catwalks and will subsequently – if they haven’t already – start climbing onto the hangers of the nearest high street retailer. I can’t remember what year it was, but there was a time when the poncho was big in fashion. Some time before that, there was an emphasis on flares and flared jeans/trousers. Apparently, the checkered shirt has been popular for quite some time now. And does anyone remember when leggings came back in fashion? I believe that may have only been a few years ago actually but it just goes to show that despite the notion of trend setting, things often regurgitate and repeat themselves a little down the line, which leads me to wonder if there’s really a point to all this fashion mallark.

Now, I have a couple of friends who are strongly infatuated with clothes trends and ‘looking good’. They’re the kind of people that prefer quality over quantity – and spare no expenses in order to achieve their moral standards. And I understand this. Sometimes, it’s better to spend a bit more because clothing of a better quality is supposed to last longer…apparently. And I must admit that even I jumped on the bandwagon – to an extent - during my university years when I actually had money to throw around. Heck, without even realising it, I even started following the trend. Back in Spring 2010 (I think), I bought at least three pairs of high-waisted shorts when they were all the rage, but now the rage has turned its nose up and those high-waisted shorts are buried somewhere in the bottom of my wardrobe. But not forgotten. No way! I’m just waiting for the sun to come out because that’s when I’ll use them again. Over the years I’ve become a more practical consumer – I dress for the weather first and foremost. Looking good comes second.

Because yes, we all want to look nice – or our own definition of nice. When we go to a party or a job interview, we want to ‘look the part’ so to speak, but I’ve seen time and time again where people seem to sacrifice logic for this desire to ‘look good’. People see images on television or in magazines of super models and other celebrities looking their ‘best’ and want to look like that. So they spend ridiculous amounts of money on a belt and step outside in the snow freezing their knickers off in order to await the moment when someone comes up to them and says “you look nice”. Because we all gain gratification from compliments – even those of us that find them a little awkward. But some of us - more than others - like to be looked at; some of us like to feel like a million bucks or want to look like Michelle Obama. And so the cycle repeats itself because apparently, the clothes make the man….or the woman.

But what can we do but submit to what the world wants us to look like really? Because when the world says “snoods are hot; earmuffs are so last Saturday”, you can bet your cotton socks that finding earmuffs on the high street is gonna be a chore for you. After all, I once tried searching for a purple top when the season was red. I kid you not when I say that I searched the entire shopping centre – roughly 60 stores - and uncovered ONE top. Needless to say, my shopping experience that day was exhausting. But maybe I didn’t don’t have the correct  attitude towards shopping. After all, retail therapy is supposed to be about swanning about in no particular direction, seeing something you fancy, trying it on to see if it does you justice and then buying it for some unanticipated event. But these days, I‘m pretty quick about it. I often have an idea of what I’m looking for; I’ll dive it, pick it up and dive back out again – no time wasted. Five years ago, I needed a tracksuit. A quick trip to JD Sports and here it is, five years later. Earlier last year, I needed trainers. Thank God for the internet. That took even less time to buy still. But do you think I’ll ever be able to find those items again now? A cheap imitation maybe, but ultimately…probably not.

In fact, I remember having bought a pair of boots which I decided I would wear to a nightclub years ago only to be told by a supposed friend of mine: “you’re wearing those?” with a rising intonation on the end. The same girl told me a little later on that year that what I had been wearing the day we went shopping looked ‘nice’ and that I should “dress like that more often”. I fobbed it off back then but I look back on this now and think to myself what right did she have to approve or disprove of the way I dressed. She owned a leopard print coat for crying out loud. Oh don’t get me wrong. She had the right to dislike it, but to make me feel like there was something wrong with my choice of clothing – and as a friend as well – was not cool. But let’s not sugar coat it. We were never really friends to begin with anyway. We merely hung out with the same people and now we’re no longer in contact. Good times!

The point is, however, that as people we are constantly influenced – even without realising it – and some of us more than others. We are constantly told what we should and shouldn’t wear and as consumers, we buy into everything because the old gets old and the broken or tattered is useless; we don’t mend things anymore, we just toss it in the bin. Alternative, we seek the new and the shiny and these are reinforced by the faces of our favourite songs and movies. But ask yourself this. What’s the point of looking like someone else…or like everyone else really? Wouldn’t it be better to be different. To stand out? Think of the punk cultures of the 1980s. Or maybe that’s just it? We don’t want to ‘stand out’ – not really. We’re afraid to be a little different – to truly be stared at – and that ‘desire for attention’ – is nothing more than yet another method of fitting in with the rest of society.

By let’s push the psychology aside on this one, because clothing’s only surface material really. And at the end of the day, the gloves...and just about everything else - come off. Therefore, in my opinion, fashion’s biggest faux pas is in effect, itself. It seeks to set trends and tell people what to wear and how much to spend and it seeks to do it just about every year – heck, every season – in order to make money off of the strength of our vanity. But truthfully, no one has the right to tell you how to dress but you. So the next time you see a woman walking down the street looking a bit like a tart, don’t sneer at her. Maybe she likes the way she looks. Or some guy who's got a hole in his shirt? Maybe he’s not skint. Maybe he’s setting his own trend. All I know is – currently, I’m the most comfortable in leggings and tracksuit bottoms. And I may not always look the best to someone else, but I like it and truthfully, that’s all that matters.