"In its widest possible sense, a man's Self is the sum total of all that he can call his own, not only his body and his psychic powers, but his clothes...."
- William James
I should get out more.
Working at home, avoiding rush-hour traffic, staying off the street, etc., you miss things. So when I do make that chance trip to the mall, the movies or wherever other people congregate, it's culture-shock time.
I didn't know clothing styles had changed that much. Whatever happened to the color-coding fad of a few years ago, when experts analyzed your personality and skin tone, decided you were a "winter," etc., and knew exactly what colors you should wear to enhance both? Did I miss the revolt?
Nothing matches anything anymore, and no outfit seems reserved for any particular category. Gardening clothes, sleepwear and scanty stuff that used to be worn only at the beach now show up at the supermarket, the workplace, and McDonald's as well as the beach.
Why, I can remember when it was the height of mortification if a woman's slip showed. Now, if bra straps and boxer shorts aren't showing, a girl or guy apparently isn't "hip." (Oops! That word is probably out of style by now, too.)
Casual is obviously hip, or whatever "in" is called today, but I'm inclined to agree with the gentleman who said, "I don't mind being casual. I just don't want to look like a casualty."
Also, what about variety? Recently a local department store ran a full-page ad featuring "back-to-school" clothes. But no matter how hard I looked, about the only difference I could see in at least 20 outfits was the angle of the models' pose. Every child had on jeans and a T-shirt.
My grandchildren and I disagree, but jeans are jeans, no matter what shade of blue they are, or whose name is sewn on the back pocket. Baggy, belted, or bejeweled, even when paired with a different color shirt, they're still jeans.
And while we're talking about appearance, what in the world has happened to hair? I must brush up on my manners. I know it's not polite to stare.
Now, I do like some of the neat, creative ways women have found to cover their head with tiny braids, or angle their "part" into a designer maze, though I can't imagine where they find the time to create such intricate designs. But the other day when I saw a teen-aged boy with his orange-tinted, bleached-blond head covered with pattern-less, three-inch braids, I had a hard time being impressed.
Again I thought of the time involved, and wondered why he was spending hours in front of the mirror when he could have been swimming, studying or squeezing his extra-large frame into a pre-season football uniform. When I spend that much time at anything I like to have something to show for it.
But the "hairy" story that takes the cake for me was on the young man, perhaps a little past his teens, who has been spending his non-working/sleeping/athletic hours designing his beard.
Creative clips have been in vogue for a long time. Handle-bar mustaches, carved initials left on shorn cheeks and lengthy bib and tie replacements are nothing new. But braiding your goatee? I did a double-take at the appendage which seemed to be growing out of said gentleman's chin. I had to admit it was creative, but I couldn't imagine what he did with that four-inch protrusion when he sat down to dinner. I drove home with visions of malformed unicorns dancing in my bewildered head.
But I think we're even. If you can accept my short, straight hair and rag-tag, stay-at-home, sometimes doubling as gardening or sleepy time attire, I can get used to your straps, braids, and designer-cloned jeans. After all, it's not our outward appearance that's important anyway, but how we "look" on the inside, right?
As one who is participating in some of that back-to-school shopping, I just wish it didn't cost so much to buy so little to prove it.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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