The role of fashion in self-expression

Looking around the sea of jogging pants, athletic wear and other “student-uniform” ensembles, you’re bound to see something that’s come to define our demographic: labels.

This is not meant in the capacity of “jock”, “hipster”, “skater” or any other subculture (though I’m sure you see much of those as well), but in the way of name brands, logos and trademarks.

We support them, we “love” them, we shell out hundreds of dollars – but do we know why? We have all been attracted to something based on what it represents or who we’ve seen wearing it.

Even the most independent and free-spirited thinkers have found themselves dabbling in label-speak, gravitating toward various companies as a result of their spokespeople, or even a person in passing to whom you’ve given mental kudos.
But to be inspired is one thing, and to be a sheep is another. Are we wearing what we wear because it’s “cool”? Or are we wearing what we wear because it’s an extension of our being?

Are we yoga pants and headbands because that’s who we relate to, or are we skinny jeans and high tops because that’s what’s in?

It’s easy for us to roll our eyes at such sentiments and declare, “Whatever – I wear what I want,” but is that still a phrase that’s entirely relevant? Are we actually wearing what we want or are we wearing what companies tell us we want?

Sure, we can claim to be free thinkers (and most of us are), but to be independent is to question, and if you can’t defend your decision to wear Lululemon over Guess, perhaps our decisions and investments need to be re-evaluated.

Are you thinking when reaching for your vintage vest or TNA hoodie first thing in the morning?

Now, this isn’t to say that brand names are necessarily bad, or that vintage is necessarily better – currently, hipster-inspired fashion is in full force as attributed by the deluge of fashion kids infiltrating Queen West – but when choosing the $100 sweatshirt over the $20 alternative, is there a reason? And if so, what is it?

It’s hard to believe we’re all die-hard yoga aficionados or truly believe in American Apparel’s “Free L.A.” campaign.

It seems more likely that some of us have bought into the mottos middle-aged men in suits have orchestrated in their Madison Avenue high rises. Regardless, the seeds of self-reflection need to be planted: what are we really trying to say?

And it’s important to stress that our vintage-wearing, non-label committing personalities are not to remain unscathed.

As thrift finds and indie brands become more prevalent, they’ve undoubtedly aligned themselves with a specific “scene”, leaving the question: is it the clothes we’re drawn to or the status they bring?

Or does vintage continue to be an extension of art, with various pieces working to build a tapestry of originality?

It looks like there are more questions to ponder when waking up for that early class. Regardless of how we justify it, fashion is an extension of ourselves, and it speaks volumes about who we are.

Don’t deny it – even those who opt for comfort over style are still saying something.

But the important thing is that instead of simply embracing a logo, a brand or a lack thereof, we question why we’re embracing it and why it’s so important to align ourselves with a specific subculture.

And if you can get dressed, go out and truly defend your choices – whether it’s your UGG boots, your DC sweater or Value Village granny blouse – flaunt them with pride, nod in agreement with this article and continue keeping it real.

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