A small price to pay for a piece of authenticity

by phil on Saturday Mar 11, 2006 1:26 PM

In the throes of idealism, around September 2003, I strived for an authentic fashion. Part of being true to myself involved wearing precisely what I wanted to, irrespective of current trends. This turned out to be quite a challenge.

Every piece of my ensemble was heavily affected and part of a unifying aesthetic theme. For shoes, I wore slip-ons with a printed graphic of a digitized wave crashing. For pants, I wore big black jeans that were so baggy you could put them on while wearing boots. For my upper-body I wore two layers: underneath a solid black shirt-sleeve with collar was a bright, solid-red long-sleeve. Over my eye glasses, I donned thick, black, bug-eyed blue-blockers, kind of like what the elderly wear to hide light. Then to top it off, my head was shaved except for my bangs, creating this wavy tail of black hair swinging down to my chin.

My attire and hairstyle emphasized the minimal amount of shape and colors needed to represent a certain attitude. My hair evoked Sonic the Hedgehog, as if I were an aerodynamic shark. My shoes, laid against all the black, were like I was lit up with power feet. My red long-sleeve was like all my heart and passion exploding out. And my baggy black jeans served as a pyramidal foundation to support the entire expression. Perhaps my aesthetic is reminiscent of the De Stijl movement, expressing a utopian ideal of spiritual harmony and order.

I was rejecting the confused and messy ensembles that are the norm. Most guys wear drab blue jeans and then maybe a light-colored or dark-colored shirt with some graphic, design, or texture. If you see someone walking around with this layout, it appears as if they are carrying too much baggage and all the materials are flying out. It distracts from the prime feature on any person: their face. This is why fashion designers wear black turtlenecks.

As I walked around the university campus I didn't draw too much attention. My look was hardly any different than the punk or goth styles that the occasional rebel wears. However, as I entered more intimate settings, like the classroom, I became a distraction for some students. In one class, there was this half-muscular, half-fat dude with a sharp, short haircut that scowled at me every time I glanced his direction. When I encountered some of my acquaintances, they stood a few inches further away from me, and even their heads seemed a little tilted back. Outside of campus, things were much harder. Older men and women gave the meanest condescending looks.

The negative reactions to my clothing are unwarranted. I wasn't wearing swastikas, nor was I trying to steal attention. Their look expressed "you shouldn't do this" and yet I could not find any reason why not. Perhaps they wanted to suggest to me that deviance and rebellion is a failed strategy. But these scowls indicated no altruistic nature, rather just personal disgust. It was like, "you shouldn't be so weird because it bugs me." And what is wrong with weird? Weird is different, and difference is a source of innovation. You'd think, that in a place like Silicon Valley, my kind of outside-the-box behavior would be encouraged.

Maintaining my radical attire conflicted me. On the one hand, it made me uncomfortable to receive all those scowls. On the other hand, dressing like everybody else is an endorsement of unjustified attitudes. People don't deserve scowls for dressing different.

There is no reason to be treated that way. And yet we can all see why I was.

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