Six years ago I knew this girl — Britney, I’ll call her —whose fashion sense made her stick out in my corner of Ohio. Britney was the only person I knew who was fond of ankle-tight, high-waisted jeans and yellowing high-tops. She’d often wear red or turquoise ripped-necked sweatshirts with out-dated designs and thick, clashing sports-bra straps.
Were she a member of our student body today, these fashion choices would hardly be worth noting, but in Loveland High School circa 2000, they were laughable at best. I mention Britney not to prove that a select few Midwestern teenagers were ahead of their time or that suburbia fulfills our expectations of narrow-mindedness, but to suggest that, in the equation of our wardrobe, our coolness and ourselves, attitude is the unpredictable variable that can make all the difference.
Had Britney smiled more, or slouched less, or thrown her retro strapped shoulders back while she walked, she might have been the hottest thing in our public school halls. But she didn’t, and I’m reminded of this walking to class, passing legions of students dressed in similar styles, some rockin’ it, some not so much.
So why can some wear cowboy boots and gym shorts with charisma and others disappear into the gray landscape while wearing the highest-quality cotton and perfectly coiffed hair?
The timid, the anxious, the uptight, the slooped- shouldered and the shuffle-footed might as well wear a bag, while the sauntering smilers, the sashaying smirkers, the haughtier-than-thou cat-walkers can wear brown velour from Wal-Mart and have me convinced.
Of course, there are limits, which I was reminded of just now when my friend Mathew walked into the office, clipped on my nickel-sized, faux-pearl earrings and pulled on my lavender knit hat.
“Are these even?” he asks, bearded and grinning. Mathew is quite a sight, and I have to wonder how far he could walk from Burton without eliciting laughter. But I remain confident that, worn with enough gumption, not a soul on this politically aware campus would dare comment above a whisper, and within a week the bearded clip-on look would have spawned several imitators.
What I’m tempted to suggest is to throw fashion to the north-east wind;
while taste is subjective, attitude is always within reach. But even one’s
demeanor is not always within one’s control: the over-worked, the worried
and the broken-hearted will always lose this game. Ultimately, attitude is only
one variable in the subjective equation of taste, style and cash. There’s
no use crying over un-flaunted silk.