STYLE CONVENTION? F*CK IT

April 16, 2018

You know that feeling when you put on an outfit that makes everything else in your day flow perfectly?

A few days ago, I wore a cropped tie-dye t-shirt with high-waisted black jeans, topped off with a fantastic dark blue retro jacket. I felt confident in the originality of this outfit which was nevertheless coherent in its matching parts and colour pattern. In other words, it was what one (and I refer to the general societal “one” that emits a unity of opinion on the matter) considers stylish: the slightest illusion of individuality within the rules of the current fashion.

I was going along my usual business, spending time with the family and enjoying the newly-born spring sun when I came across… a tie. It was of an unremarkable dark blue colour, spotted with red and black ladybirds, and yellow and white sunflowers. Inexplicably drawn to this goofy accessory (the innocence of its natural drawings reminding me of the freedom to roam in the natural world) I began attempting to knot it around my neck. Finally, after many failed attempts, and my father’s experienced intervention (for it was, after all, his tie), I wore it successfully over my blue top, which was of a blue so slightly lighter than the tie that it clashed completely.

 

My friend laughed as I exuded pride; my fantastically tacky outfit was full of colours and shapes that would normally belong in different dimensions. Yet, as I displayed it dramatically, something in the joy of making fun of myself during a moment of ‘social energy’ produced a sense of relief as I disregarded the rules of “stylishness”; of constructed gender binaries, and overall public decency.

My dad and I went to run errands and I kept the tie on; its significant remained in my attitude. I exchanged smiles with a few amused old ladies at the bank. The conversations with my father on the drive to town veered away from small talk to politely fill the silence, and into the illusionary addiction of social media, interwoven with the intentional complexities of customer-service in French enterprise. A glimpse at the rear-view mirror reflected my unremarkable, makeup-less face (which I had gotten used to after deciding to ditch what had become an alternation routine, wanting to opt for real, exposed truth) sitting on top of an outfit which I found genuinely beautiful, not because I was oblivious to the apparently un-matching parts, but because of the various colours, patterns, and textures that, despite their seeming controversies, coexisted wholly on my person.

As a social experiment, and making sure to express the delight what I was wearing was bringing to me, I send a picture to a few friends. One of them replied

“Connie, I love you, but why are you wearing a tie?”

and another,

“pls remove the tie asap thx”.

But I didn’t.

Those with a passion for fashion profess that the beauty of style is that it enables you to externally display your inner character. In theory, this motto should encourage the acceptance of diversity and originality. And still, convention casts it dark, suppressive shadow over sunflower fields: You’re not hipster enough to pull off those glasses; This shirt is too shapeless and masculine; that one is more flattering, it accents your curves.

Why, oh why, are you, Connie Enzler, twenty-year-old blonde female, wearing a tie?

Because, dear friend, life is too short to cover my own body with what suits other people’s impression of my character.

It happens often: you come across a coat, or a scarf, that your friend immediately dismisses as ugly or weird, but to which you are inexplicably drawn. Perhaps it makes you nostalgic because it reminds you of an oversized jacket your mother used to have. Perhaps its fabric is soft, and the birds on it remind you to focus on the little things – even if it is poo coloured. Or perhaps wearing a tie over a tie-dye shirt makes you feel both free and professional, even if it is covered in sunflowers and ladybugs.

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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