Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fashion Conformity: Dare to be Different

Today, we take a break from our regularly scheduled weight loss program to bring you a rejected article.  I initially wrote this for a Trinidadian online magazine (twice!), but it seems that we're not a match made in heaven, no hard feelings... but, thank goodness for blogging and self-publication!

Make it work!

Many people often stop themselves from dressing “out of the ordinary”. Fashion may seem like a small part of the big picture, but being a trendsetter, actually takes a lot of courage and confidence.  Choosing to be different is choosing to utilize your own voice. Many of us go along to get along and often play it safe when it comes to expressing ourselves through what we wear, but the question is, why?

According to social psychologists, there are two main reasons: the desire to be liked and the desire to be right (I learned that in my Intro. to Social Psych class, who’s an attentive student?? I am, I am!!). Approval and acceptance is something that we, as human beings, crave, even if that means altering our behaviour to meet others expectations in an effort to appear more “likeable.” We also tend to get a sick self-satisfying pleasure from being right. Unfortunately, we seek it out from others’ opinions of “right” and “wrong.” The more uncertain we are about something, the higher our chances of being influenced. Be careful who you seek advice from, because you just might end up with a vajazzled vajayjay if you seek advice from the wrong person (consider yourself officially warned).

I tried a little “social” experiment of my own last semester at UWI. I took a basic, wire headpiece that I made in my Carnival Studies class and put it on my head. I walked around campus observing people as they observed me. People could not stop staring. My own friend walked behind me in silence trying to figure out what was going on with my head.  My lecturer, Dr. Skeete (awesome lecturer btw, no brown nosing here.. just truth), stopped midsentence in class and said, “Ok, now that’s interesting. Is that a new style or something?” She was so confused that she lost her train of thought and couldn’t remember what she was lecturing about.  One man even went so far as to ask me if I was receiving adequate signal.  Rude Trini’s again nah!

This small addition to my outfit caused people to stop in their tracks, stare me down, and peaked curiosity to the point that people couldn’t help but comment. No wonder it’s difficult for people to break social norms. Conforming is so much easier.

So, how do we overcome this need to conform? Well, I’m no social psychologist, but common sense tells me a great place to start is to stop looking for approval from others. 

Before our current State of Emergency, I was in St. James getting my burger fix.  There was this badass chick with a dyed Mohawk and a face studded with piercings on a motorcycle not too far away from the burger cart. The Burger Delight man and his family were catching rel kicks from heckling said badass chick on the hog. It made me wonder, if they can harass her, who is me?  She looked like she could annihilate the burger man and his entire burger flipping family, yet that didn’t stop them from talking.  Trini’s doh have cover for they mouth, that’s a given, but the goal is to stop caring.  Don’t be afraid to be you.  Fear is for chumps and you ain’t no chump!

Companies like Colour Marketing Group and Colour Association of the United States, get paid BIG bucks to colour forecast, which is predicting what colour trends will take place within the next couple of years. Now, they don’t just pull random colours from a hat, it’s not that simple.  They look at a number of factors that can affect what colour might be “in” for the years to come. Once the final choices are decided upon, the shades are printed onto a palette and distributed to thousands of retailers for companies to manufacture products (everything from clothes to accessories to home decor) that will coordinate across the board, therefore influencing everything we buy for the next few years.  Changes your perception of freedom of choice, doesn’t it?

We seem to have this distorted pre-colonial notion that whatever is from “away,” is what we should be wearing.  Instead of waiting for fashion trends to come down to the island, we should be influencing the masses with our island flavour.  My friends from NY were so excited to come to Trinidad to get “unique” pieces, when I had to wake ‘em up and let them know most of our stuff is coming from where they reside!

Yes, Trinidad’s fashion industry is stepping up its game.  We have our Peter Elias, Claudia Pegus, Christian Boucaud, and Meiling, and we can’t forget Anya Ayoung-Chee who’s rocking it on Project Runway (don’t forget your hash tags when tweeting peeps #PR9Anya), but ya’ll realize there is no Caribbean Vogue magazine? The cluster of islands in the Caribbean Sea, in which we belong to, has no representation in the world’s leading fashion magazine. We can change that.

And what about the everyday guys and dolls on the streets who can’t afford the designer clothing?  Fashion is expensive, style is not!  Late fashion trends trickling down from “away” onto our local store racks all tend to look like clones of one another. Amongst the sea of Mohawks that’s plaguing Trinidad, it’s hard to tell one Mohawk guy from the next.  The other day I stopped the wrong Mohawk guy thinking he was the Mohawk guy from my Visual Arts class, but in actuality he was the Mohawk guy from my Lits class, who gave me a weird look when I asked him about the stained glass project that was due that day.  See how confusing that was?  There’s no individuality.  And in that, people get lost in the crowd.  I cut my once long black hair into a short a-lined blonde streaked bob and now I stick out like a sore thumb.  Is that a bad thing?  Don’t know, don’t care.

People always make assumptions based on appearances.  It’s the first thing we register when we meet someone. But, guess what? They’re going judge you and think what they want regardless, so why not do what you want and wear what you want regardless as well?  It’s your life. Don’t let other people stop you from being you.

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