Thursday, July 17, 2008

The dress code of rebellion

The Dress Code for rebellion

I once worked with this artsy bar-back guy with whom I had a conversation that went sort of like this:

Him: “I like your shirt. Is it real?”
Me: “It’s a real shirt, yes.”
Him: “I mean is it a real Rolling Stones concert shirt? Or is it like, from Urban Outfitters?”
Me: “It’s real, my friend’s mom found it at a thrift shop in New Paltz.”
Him: “Good. I hate everyone who buys their shit at Urban Outfitters. They sell shirts that look like that, you know? And ones that look like this. With holes in them made to look vintage. But this is really vintage. It was my dads.”
Me: “That black t-shirt?”
Him: “Yeah.”
Me: “Oh. Neat.”
Him: “What are you doing on Friday?”

Clearly I walked away from this conversation mumbling “Good god, this kid is so friggin lame,” but it did get me thinking.
If I had said that it was, in fact, one of the many shirts that Urban Outfitters spews forth from their Soho location then, what? Would my co-worker have taken back the compliment? Would that have meant that I was any less of a Rolling Stones fan and therefore less cool? Less music savvy? Less date worthy? Probably.
Now I know that I have the annoying tendency to play devil’s advocate. I am certainly aware of how much cooler it is to have a shirt from the actual concert than one from a chain store that also sells Happy Bunny books. So I am not arguing that point.
My argument (or debate or point or meandering thought) is: why is there a dress code for rebellion?

Our sense of style is pretty much our best form of expression and by far the most useful tool in:
a- stating who we are
b- Judging others

How you dress makes a declarative statement so no wonder rebellion has its own dress code. Clothing makes the man, and therefore it is also our best form of evaluation. Some of the biggest generalizations come from our everyday wardrobe:
“I am not attracted to guys in suits” (A clear oversimplification that means that men in suits go to bars in midtown and chug beers and can’t possibly be interesting.)
“You are such a hippie. But you dress too well to be a real hippie.” (Oversimplification of a girl sitting on the ground while in line for a Phil Lesh concert, but also wearing seven jeans)
“I can’t wear that.” (Stated by a fellow who will wear pants with no button, underwear with holes, and a shirt covered in BBQ sauce, but wouldn’t step outside in anything he finds to be too hipster oriented)
These sorts of statements show us just how important it is that our outside reflects what is inside so that there is no confusion to the outside world. There is a uniform for everything that we do, for every person that we become.
In my mind there is a longstanding notion of rebellion and what one should wear in order to properly display that agenda. I remember the rebels of my Junior High School; they were the kids who wore band t-shirts and had green hair. There were lots of them, mostly thin guys or chicks with bad acne. And if you wanted to be one, well, you had to dress like that too. I could certainly not be called a Goth while wearing everyman clothes, even if my attitude, music choices, and lifestyle clearly displayed my gothic attitude.
You ever see a film where a preppy guy walks into a biker bar? Who says that that guy isn’t the most badass biker around? His clothes do. He needs the uniform.
It is certainly an interesting thought that even being rebellious invites a certain level of judgment and consideration from the other rebels. There is no place that you are truly free from this societal norm.

1 comment:

Marc said...

i was such a freakin bad ass rebel