Clothing for Acceptance

Clothing & Style

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Why do you wear the clothes that you do?

Not that long ago, I realized that my style came not from what I love and enjoy, nor from what made me happy or made me feel comfortable, but from my desire to be accepted.

This acceptance-focused style was not a newly developed issue, either. In fact, I can remember when I was in middle school, and how I wanted Abercrombie & Fitch clothes, because that is what the “cool kids” wore. In high school, I tried to fit in with the “cool musicians.” In college, I tried to look like I didn’t really care what I wore. And in graduate school, I started dressing more formally.

However, while I was in graduate school, I remember coming to this question: Why? In fact, it was after an interaction with one of my mentors. I talked to him about the fact that everyone at this school dressed quite professionally. He responded, “Yeah, I would never do that. I’d be the only one wearing athletic shorts and a t-shirt.”

It was at that very point when I realized I was doing this out of fear. My mentor was not intending for me to come away thinking this; he was only acknowledging his hatred for dressing up. But that is what it did. I began to realize that I was dressing a certain way because I feared that others wouldn’t accept me for who I am. I feared that I wouldn’t fit in. I feared what people would think of me. 

Dressing a certain way to make friends is something only middle schoolers do, right? No, I think this is something that many of us struggle with, even if our conscience has hidden that reality from us.

Acceptance is a human craving. I think that some of us crave it more than others, probably due to the way that we were raised, or our current lifestyle, but it seems to be a very natural desire for all people. We want to be known. We want to be loved. We want to have friends. Community is needed for flourishing, but not at the expense of becoming someone you are not. Of course becoming someone you are not is not always a terrible thing (e.g., a thief who wants to become a benefit to society), but conformity and betterment are two different reasons that one changes; thus, one needs to realize why they are seeking to change. 

With all of that said, though, I do have some friends who see clothing in a different light. They do not see clothing as a response to their desire to be accepted. Clothing and style for them truly does bring them joy and adds value to their lives. Therefore, this is not an argument against style and nice clothes; rather, it is about the reason behind wearing the clothes that you wear.

Why do you wear what you do? Are you seeking the approval of others? Do you wear certain clothes to attract attention? Do your clothes actually add value to your life? Has your style changed with your needs or because of those that are around you? Has your desire for acceptance led to conformity?

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