Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nice Hat.

Honestly, who cares if people make sarcastic comments about my hat.
My mother knitted that hat, and it's ace, so I'm damn well wearing it.
Like he does.
Yeah, I care, actually. I care about those few people who every now and then speak up and say:
Not just to me, it's the kind of thing you overhear every day, because IT'S ALL IN CAPS. And I do remember how grating and upsetting it can be at times.

Everyone has opinions about other people's dress sense. Most of us privately tease our friends about this stuff, or sometimes check that they are sending the right signals. Parents feel a need to make sure their offspring come across well, it's part of the whole parent thing.
But only a few of us feel they have to publicly critique strangers.

Some people understand the concept of wearing clothes that you like, while others think clothes are what you wear to BE liked - or disliked, respected, feared - by others, and that's the exclusive reason to wear clothes (besides decency and weather and maybe useful pockets).
The second lot of people cannot fathom that someone might not have calibrated their outfit to appeal to a particular group of people, and so if they find that they do not like said outfit they believe that this can only mean that it's meant to offend and outrage them.
To those people, clothing is nothing but a means of communication, always on, aimed at them personally.
An unusual outfit is confusing. I'm not talking offensive slogans or public nudity, but something on the oddness scale of unexpected knitwear. It gets their attention, therefore that was the intention. It is a signal to THEM, as surely as it would be if someone had shouted LOOK AT ME! DO YOU LIKE ME? DO YOU?
Therefore they must reply!
They must reply aggressively, to match the aggression of this outfit that courts their disapproval.
They must reply loudly, because they are speaking for everyone around who has to look at this loud outfit.

What do they say, then, loudly, aggressively and publicly?
I find it hard to decode their message, which is unsurprising since we disagree so profoundly about communication. It seems to be something like: "Hey complete stranger, you have succeeded in repelling me! This is a bad loss! I would help you out with constructive criticism about every aspect of your life ALL THE TIME!"
I don't aim to repel those people, but honestly, I don't mind it. It's a pleasant side effect of wearing exactly what I like.
There is a school of thought saying it's a great idea when looking for love to pay special attention to attractive strangers who tell you what to wear because it's a sign that they care.
Try putting a bit of fluff on your shoulder and see who picks it off discreetly = someone is either paying attention to you, or really hates fluff on shoulders.
Try wearing something you really like and see who tells you loudly at a party that you look bad in that = HOORAY you eliminated one from the list right there. Unless you love fighting, or get off on being told what to wear (it's an option).

There aren't many people like that left in my life, and I don't feel the lack of them. I've managed to build  a life that's happy without trying hard for social status. My status comes from things I make, not interaction with other people. No one is going to not buy my books because they hate my shoes. No one is going to decide against commissioning me to sit in my own home and draw stuff just because they hate my hat. I realise this is a fortunate position. I aimed for it, and getting to be myself is an important part of my plans and ambitions.

But sometimes I come across those unwanted commenters outside my happy filter bubble, and then I feel sorry for them.
Surely statistically there must be at least one major thing in their life that they feel really tortured about liking even though it's deviant from their perceived norm. Or maybe their sense of satisfaction in life comes from the approval of others to the extent that they wouldn't even try anything that's not been pre-approved. Both seems sad.
I also feel sad for those who would like to wear what the heck they like but their circumstances forbid it. Sometimes I guess they do the shouting at funny hats of strangers.

I think we'd all be happier if everyone would at least understand that it's not all about attention of others, no matter how striking someone looks.
Yeah, of course some people court attention. But there is more to this. - Every time I see someone with green hair or a beautiful tattoo or even just a bright red coat on a grey day I am that little bit happier, because I believe that most of us don't look different from the norm to be in some club of fellow deviants, or to annoy anyone. We look the way we do because we like to remind ourselves what makes us happy in the easiest way we can: by carrying it with us wherever we go.

If you are someone who hasn't considered this before, give it a think.

Maybe this baggy jumper isn't to hide anything from you, it's just really comfortable? Maybe it's so big because it's borrowed from someone?
Maybe the blue hair simply means they really like blue, they feel it suits them, and they don't work a job that disallows blue hair so they are doing this while they can?
Maybe those tight trousers are great to run and climb and dance in, not to show off?
Maybe that tattoo is to commemorate something important and not intended as a sexy sex signal at all?

Or maybe that particular baggy jumper is indeed a portable hideout, or it signals that someone has a boyfriend (or at least wants people to think so), and maybe that particular bunch of blue hair is to annoy people exactly like you, and those tight trousers are to attract a mate, and the tattoo makes that person feel very sexy. It's a tattoo of a stick insect and a hammer, and carefully designed to be irresistibly erotic to a very small number of specially initiated people. Yeah. Who knows? You don't, that's who. They do. And although it may well be an attempt to communicate something, it's never a request for a critique by strangers.

And even if you are 100% right and someone is actually trying to annoy the heck out of you with the way they choose to look: why take the bait? If someone goes and installs antlers or shaves off half their beard diagonally with the exclusive and pre-meditated intention to make you angry - think how annoyed they'll be if you just ignore it!
Come on, do it. Ignore them. Chances you'll be happy imagining that they are unhappy, and then we can all be happy in the world OUTSIDE your head (except those fools actually just trying to provoke others, they'll be frustrated, haha). - Yeah, it's confusing. Makes you want to shout at silly hats. Well, take a breath, count to ten, the silly hat may pass, carried away on the warm and happy head of a total stranger.

And lastly, consider this:
Maybe, just maybe, if you suddenly were a respected and loved global celebrity millionaire with a bunch of stylists to advise you, and you would absolutely know they are right - maybe you would still want to keep that favourite pair of trousers, because they are comfortable, and dang it when you look at yourself in the mirror you like the way you look, and then someone would say "WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL US BY WEARING THOSE SILLY OLD TROUSERS" and you'd say "Nothing, they are just my trousers"...

Is that so unlikely?


Matthew Robins said...

hooray! this is brilliant, so perfectly written, I feel like going out and taking some sort of action now

Viviane Schwarz said...

:) Hah. I think we are taking some sort of action just by going out.

mrkite said...

I wear a silly hat; it's the warmest hat I own, and it keeps smelly people from sitting with me on the bus.

Viviane Schwarz said...

My silly hat doesn't stop them... I hear the way to do that most reliably is to dangle a short piece of string from your lip.

Rebecca Ashdown said...

Your rant just made my day! I think your hat may also contain thought enhancing powers. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I understand what you are saying, and you should be able to wear what you want. I would like to argue that people looked nicer when they dressed up all the time in previous decades. Now we are an ugly sweatpants nation with instant dinners, little to no poetry, and the shrill voice of Adam Levine floods the radio.

Viviane Schwarz said...

I agree that fashion has become throw-away... but I think that the main reason we get the impression that people all dressed up in the olden days is that they dressed up for photographs, and maybe also that even the clothes they found scruffy back then are elevated aesthetically because they look unusual and hand-made to us now. And why would anyone have kept the ugly stuff? It's filtered already.

I have noticed that I am attracted to 70s style clothes, but I hate 80s style because I remember the 80s and how itchy and everything was, and restrictive and complicated and padded.
But younger people totally romanticise all that stuff.
I bet 70s clothes are quite annoying to people born in the 60s...

So anyway, I bet over the next few decades people are just going to let the ugly stuff fade away, keep the most hideous bits for amusement and elevate the best, and out grandchildren will think we were very stylish and cover our faded treasures...