I always enjoy blog posts which reveal a little about the writer, and have been meaning to write something a bit more reflective for a while now. I’m interested in the role clothing can play in expressing identity, and thought I’d share a few examples from personal experience:
Clothing has always been important to me.
I had two obsessions while at junior school; I desperately wanted a dog, and I desperately wanted to wake up one day as a boy.
I don’t analyse the second of those obsessions, where it came from and why it left me as I approached finishing junior school; I think there is a danger of devaluing and explaining away the emotions in the process of analysing them. I suspect, in part at least, I had subconsciously assimilated a limiting view of what is was to be a woman, and was attempting to circumvent it. I read a lot of Enid Blyton (actually obsessively – I had hundreds of her books and a picture of her in my room) and books of that era, where the only girls who did anything of interest wanted to be boys.
While awaiting my overnight transformation, I nagged my mom to have my hair cut short, and only buy me boy’s clothes. She consented to both, with the exception of underwear; boxer shorts were a step too far. It was important to me that the garments weren’t simply not explicitly feminine, but that they were purchased from the boy’s section of the clothes store. I had a zealous commitment to my dress code, which speaks of my desire to prove my seriousness to others, and to myself.
In my experience, while young children are extremely accepting of difference, teenagers are pack animals; during secondary school, clothing was important as a means of fitting in. I remember a few occasions where friends and I bought the same t-shirt, which involved making a solemn pact never to wear them at the same time. Even in school, where we wore a uniform, it was important to be aware of the current tweaks to that uniform required to fit in; for example, this week, you might need to wear your tie backwards and extra short.
As a teenager, clothing was also about declaring our musical affiliations. I was an indie-kid, and Damon Albarn was my style icon (as well as my main celebrity crush). A treasured possession was a grey Kappa jacket, the closest I could find (pre internet shopping) to a blue jacket which Damon was photographed in. I wore a silver identity bracelet because Damon did, and would have killed for the jacket he wore in the Parklife video.
A rare photo of the Kappa jacket
Towards the end of secondary school, and through sixth form, my friends and I expressed our lack of interest in fitting in, by adopting wardrobes of the least flattering and most ill fitting clothing possible. Thankfully, our fleeces and jeans era was short lived, and minimal photographic evidence of that period survives.