Fashion and social acceptance – why the two should never mingle
While I’ve been rather un-mysteriouso with you over the years (‘over-sharer’ is probably the apt term here) I might still have two pieces of personal trivia that I have not yet imparted. The first is that my name in Chinese means ‘good girl’, a pretty prophetic name, let me tell you. The fact that I’ve had an almost completely obsequious youth brings me to my second bit of trivia: yours truly was once, at age 14, accessory to a cargo pant shoplift heist.
I’ll give you a moment to take that in.
It was under the mentorship of my kleptomaniac friend that the deed was done. And it was shockingly easy: simply put the garment on in the change room, then casually walk out again. While the ease of such a victimless crime had tempted my friend to become somewhat of a semi-professional shoplifter for many years, I, on the other hand, yielded immediately to my voice of conscience, and abandoned the pursuit immediately.
Far be it from a genuinely rebellious act, I knew, even then, that this blunder stemmed from my teenage self-confidence issues.
High school life consisted of daily shunning, and, when not being shunned, serving as the butt of jokes for my lack of sophistication in pop-culture matters. So I turned to teen magazines for the secret to becoming ‘cool’. The answer was obvious: I needed to replace my 80’s hand-me-down wardrobe with everything as-seen-in Dolly Magazine.
My traditional Chinese parents were, of course, unsympathetic to my demands for these poorest of poor quality surf brand clothes, and in my angst-y teenage frustration, I resorted to petty theft. However, as parental views tend to do, they were proven in the right in the end. The solution to my trivial worries did not lie in a pair of 100% polyester hibiscus print short shorts.
Now, I do tend to tell my stories as one of those lest ye be judged parables, but I am not at all suggesting that turning to fashion to gain social acceptance will result in your committing a minor misdemeanour (American crime drama terminology chosen for emphasis only). However, it certainly is a pointless endeavour.
Even if you could overcome the impossible obstacle of defining social standards, will superficial friendships with the mean girls really make you happy?
When high school was finally over and I got out in the real world, my eyes were opened to the reality that high school mattered so very little in the scheme of things. The world is full of diverse people and ideas, and the more you encounter, the more you realise that being ‘different’ is awesome. ‘Cool’ in school was like some comment on one’s worth, but in the real world, it’s just an adjective.
As someone who could not be more ‘done’ with some abstract concept of social acceptance, I am determined to wear comfortable shoes to every occasion, and dress in clothes that make my life easier not harder. Ironically, and perhaps to further illustrate my point, there turns out to be a social circle (yourself included), which shares my values. Fashion does have an important place in our way of life, but for me, it will always be a mode for expressing who we are and how we feel, and never a tool to garner social acceptance.