We are what we wear.

Posted: June 3, 2010 in Random Ramblings

Have you ever noticed how important our first impressions are of a person? Our first impressions depend largely on the appearance of a person. If they “appear” like yourself you are far more likely, I think, to have a positive attitude towards them.

Of course by appearance we generally mean the clothes one wears. It is quite a strange trait of the human psyche, that we tend to judge someone by what they are wearing, to stereotype them and to place them in a general social group.

Allow me to paint a stereotypical image for you. You see a teenage boy walking towards you, he’s wearing a wrinkled t-shirt, shorts, runners, his baseball cap is turned backwards, his long unkempt hair protruding from underneath. Now I ask you what you would imagine he is shouldering under one arm? You may think a skateboard. What kind of person is he in your mind? Is he lazy and without ambition? Is he happy to spend his days terrorizing every pedestrian as he cruises along aboard his chosen method of transport?

Shame on you! On closer inspection, as the man walks by, you realise he is considerably older, he wears a rucksack, as you watch him go by you realise he is a college student. This man could be a doctor, or a teacher of the future but it is instinctive of humanity to generalise because “we are what we wear”… apparently.

It is a sad fact that as we grow older in life we have to conform more and more to the generic shirt and tie uniform of society. Our ability to express ourselves artistically via our garments diminishes. How many doctors have you been examined by with nose-rings and green hair? You are what you wear. A doctor will always wear a bland shirt and a simple tie, a priest will always wear a distinctive white-collar and the likelihood of your chosen profession’s standard authorised uniform being nose-rings and green hair is slim. As for the white shirt, green jumper, tie, black shoes and grey pants that I have worn for the last six years, school uniforms are also designed to make us conform. We are students, therefore we wear uniforms. You are what you wear.

I have a passion for interesting t-shirts. As an example one sports the well-known image of Che Guevara, in contrast the caption of the picture is “Shéa, alive and well and living in Ireland”. Another shirt is adorned with the image of a hand making the universal middle fingered gesture. The caption reads “have a nice day!” I have always thought I had a good sense of humour, so perhaps my supposedly funny t-shirts reflect that.

Although several groups may say that they are non-conformist, from punks to emos, goths to jocks, they all have uniforms, distinctive from each other and always recognisable. It is therefore clear that one’s clothes speak volumes about one’s personality, what one is interested in and what group one associates oneself with. In many ways the only true non-conformist is the man who  wears nothing at all. No, now that I think of it I’m mistaken, he would probably be a naturist. You are what you wear!

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