“What are you wearing?!”
This is how I was greeted when I entered my friend’s room last Friday night. It was Fake Halloween, but my friend’s disbelief stemmed not from my fishnets, black lipstick or eighties metal wig, but from my footwear. I was wearing Crocs (those ugly plastic shoes with the holes in them).
“I thought you hated those...”
I do. I did. My grandma bought them for me over break. I couldn’t stop her. And they’re really comfortable. And I had planned to only ever wear them inside, as house-shoes, so only my boyfriend and roommates would know my shame, but in the rush of getting ready for the costume parties, I had slipped up and stepped out the door in my secret. Soon everyone would know: I had given in to a trend that I hate.
Which is only the latest incident in a greater trend, the downward trend of my personal fashion history with trends: I’ve gone from setter to given-inner in only seven years.
I remember when I first appeared in the fashion scene as a trend-setter well. It was eighth grade, spring of 1999, and I was wearing capri-pants. Fourteen, thinner than I knew, blond and wearing capris — as far as I could tell, I was as cool as it got. I was Holly Golightly (no one had explained to me that Breakfast at Tiffany’s was about prostitution). Of course, no one else knew I was this cool, because no one else had seen capris before, and the boy across the street teased me the whole bus ride home, asking me if I’d put on my kid brother’s clothes by accident. Time would amend this. By the end of the summer, capris had become a staple, and the boy across the street became the first to try to give me a kiss. He, like the rest of my peers, had come to realize that I was a trendsetter, a powerful thing to be.
I should know, because nowadays I have the hardest time fighting them. Fugg boots, patterned galoshes, shrug sweaters, leg warmers, Crocs — all started by invisible, unnamable trendsetters whose collective mission is to litter the world with apparel offensive to my very sense of sight. The most recent evil seed they’ve planted in the world is the obnoxiously sparkly bag, the only obstacle that could come close to ruining my first summer in New York City. Crossing the street in Manhattan on a sunny day I saw so many glitter-bags that I thought I was having an ocular migraine.
Not all trends are bad. For instance, the long-skirt trend that emerged over the summer promoted both modesty and a warm weather option drastically more flattering to most body-types than the mini-skirt. But it’s hard to think of many other trends that prove this beneficial. Bad trends are much easier to spot and deconstruct: leg warmers are itchy, shrugs make everyone but those with swimsuit slim tummies look a little pregnant and flat footwear makes most people’s legs look stumpy. Bad trends are ugly and annoying. Especially when you give in to them.
Why, I imagine you must ask, do you give in to these trends, Emily, if you hate them so vehemently? It’s as simple as this: Oberlin is ugly, wet and cold, and you gotta wear ugly, warm and practical stuff to survive. Legwarmers? A silly, itchy, amazingly warm and life-saving invention. Childish Galoshes? They keep my jeans dry three out of five days of the week. Fugg Boots? I didn’t buy these, but I got something close, and let me tell you, my feet will be warm come horrible, horrible northern Ohio winter, and I won’t slip on the seldom de-iced paths in “flattering” heels. Shrugs? When half a sweater is all they’re selling on sale...you’ll buy it too. Layering is key. And Crocs? What excuse could I possibly have for my ugly, trendy, cold but comfy black crocs?
I’ll get to that in a second. The bigger question is, should we bother (or should I bother, I don’t know if you’ve been attempting this or not) to try to resist trends at all, if many of the ugliest prove to have a practical side? Normally, I would argue for originality, for self-expression, for dressing for your body type and not for your peers, but boycotting a trend simply because it’s trendy has got to be a mistake. Even if it’s an ugly one — if it’s so popular, there must be a reason why. In the future, I’m going to do my research and ask some questions before I’m so quick to judge. Perhaps every trend has a practical side (those stupid shiny bags must be really easy to find in a hurry, just scan your apartment for the glowy spot in the corner!)
As for my Crocs, I kinda like them. And like I said, my grandma bought them
for me. I couldn’t stop her. And they’ll look really chic with my
black sundresses and some Holly Golightly shades next spring.