When on the subway or walking through the city, you are exposed to people from many socioeconomic backgrounds and cultures. This can often be reflected in the clothing one chooses to wear. Looking around, it's apparent that the "bohemian" look of casual, comfortable clothes is at the height of fashion. Many college students wear worn-in t-shirts, jeans and shoes to make a point of looking as scrubby as possible, and you're probably thinking they're growdy street people, until they pull an iPod out of their pockets.
For the most part, the "preppie" look is out, and vintage accessories and shirts are in this season. The bulky jewelry of 60s housewives has made a comeback by being juxtaposed with some of the grunginess of the early 90s and the dreaminess and intricacy of the hippies and Eastern cultures. All the looks I have seen are also spiked with some of the attitude of original punk attire. What used to be an underground minority based upon a "do-it-yourself" philosophy with an emphasis on shock value has been accepted and diluted into an easily consumed form by stores such as Hot Topic. It seems that styles from decades before have been shuffled and recycled into an unusual, though unoriginal, collage.
This year, I've found it extremely challenging to buy clothes. The variety is vast but most items are as gorgeous as they are impractical-sequined ballet slippers would be impossible in the Boston winter.
Few stores sell plain old jeans anymore. Instead, they are now frayed, ripped, embroidered, rhinestone embellished, paint spotted and processed into various "washes." The more "worn" the jeans are, the more they cost. Stores like Abercrombie & Fitch call it "casual luxury," which translates into "we are going to charge you a ridiculous sum for this torn garment that has been stitched by someone in Bangladesh."
I especially enjoy seeing racks of jeans that have all been stained and shredded in identical places, on an assembly line of hangers about as original as a Donald Trump catch phrase. Turn it up a few notches and pretty soon you'll have the scene from Zoolander where Mugatu is promoting his new line "Derelicte"-trash bags fashioned into clothing.
There is an undeniable sense of absurdity in the notion that you can buy a highly elaborate outfit intended to make you stand out only to wind up in a pair of pants that has a hundred replicas on the rack. It seems that in our quest for expression, comfort and uniqueness we have bought into the chain stores' embrace and exploitation of the look-the mystery and defiance of what used to be sub-cultural movements. Ironically, those best fitting the physical description of punks or gypsies these days probably pay the most to look that way.
Yet, I believe there is a better way for us to express ourselves and to set ourselves apart: do it yourself. Rip your own jeans, dig through real vintage and thrift stores and iron on letters to announce your own messages.
You'll probably save a lot of money too. Most importantly, there will be sincerity to the image you portray rather then undeniable "posing" which comes with shopping at chain stores that rely on sweatshops and consumer mindlessness to make immeasurably indecent profits.
No matter who you are, it is probably a lie to say you are apathetic to how you and others dress. I believe most people in our country rarely see clothes as a necessity, but rather as an extension of themselves to which they give a lot of thought.
At Emerson, many of us are privileged enough to choose what we want to wear and thereby convey messages through our choices to those around us about who we are and what we stand for. Let's not buy into everything the fashion world tells us is "cool" and instead decide for ourselves.