FYI, this thread was inspired by a recent thread by Dinsdale, who asked why people dyed and pierced themselves. While I considered hijacking that thread, I thought this may be worthy of it’s own discussion.
Interesting. In my life I’ve been a SHARP, a punk, a raver, an art geek, and countless (ok, I probably could count them, but I don’t feel like it) personas. Some of them have been more unique than others.
What is non-conformity? It’s not conforming to the average, the norm, the standard. It’s being different from it, rebelling. Well, as any good rebel will tell you, it’s easier to have a revolution if more than one person is involved. When you don’t conform, and at the same time conform to a cultural subset you are doing two things. One, making a statement that you are not "normal. Two, gaining strength for your convictions, and gaining support so it’s easier to stand up to the “normality”. Humans are group creatures, we gain strength and support from others. You want to not-conform, but at the same time you want friends, you want people you can converse with and hang out with, hence the sub groupings.
To be honest, there are people who do it to look cool or get ass. But I’m trying to overlook them.
I’ve also felt the desire to be completely unique, to stand out from the others in my sub group. This has prodded me to get unique (at the time I had never heard of them, and I’ve still never met anyone who has my piercings (and I live in SF)) piercings and tattoos.
I think that a lot of people who dress differently are accused of “trying to be different” when that isn’t the way it is. For me, I wear what I like. It may be “in style” or it may not. Chances are I couldn’t even tell you. I have no idea what is in style. I wear things that are “horribly out of date” according to some people… but I just see it as “what I like”… I remember in high school I got accused left and right, both by fellow students and by patronizing adults, of being all sorts of things. A rebel. Going through a phase. A punk. “Conforming to nonconformity”… frankly it all just irritated the crap out of me. I’m just a “I wear what is comfy and I like” person.
seriousart, I am all too familiar with the phenomenon of which you speak. I always refer to it as “being different in unison.” Not that I never adopt parts of the alternateen look - I have had various colors of hair that fell well outside of the Clairol spectrum, once sported multiple holes in my ears, & have rather more than the average amount of PVC, stiletto heels, & lace-up corsets in my wardrobe. But wear that stuff because I think it looks good on me, not because I’m trying to project a certain image.
It is possible that people just think it looks good. I did not dye my hair purple to make a statement…maybe not everybody who looks weird is trying to fit in with a subculture group…
I find this non-conformist thing hard to figure, most folk I meet think I’m …er… well singular and yet I try my damnest to fit in with everyone else.
It does seem odd that people seem to get round as fashion what I’ve used for years as functional clothing, ex-armed forces clothes, cycling clothes, biker clothes, even overalls have been hijacked and ‘Beverly Hill’ modified.
What is funny is how badly these clothes are then worn, the self-conscious ‘look at me I’m really rather trendy’ attitude.
I decided to dye my hair red. Not auburn - I’m talkin’ Crayola red. I did it over Christmas so that, if people reacted adversely to it, I could make the “holiday festivity” excuse, then dye it back in January. But I really just wanted to do something edgy and different for a giggle.
It has been universally loved. Even by my boss. And more surprisingly, by my MOM. I’m keeping it.
No, it’s not old age, seriousart, I think it’s called maturity. And I don’t mean ‘maturity’ to mean getting out or being normal or any of that crap.
I have, in my day, been a punk (an original Black Flag boy from LA), a new wave, a metalhead, etc etc ad nauseum…
But I stopped around 1987. Cut my hair and dropped the leather clothes (except for the 20 lb jackets, I love those) when, one day, I realized that none of it matters one damn bit.
I dressed to show my allegiance, or my preferences, or my thoughts.
But you know what? If you have to express those thoughts with your clothes or your hair then odds are those thoughts aren’t terribly deep or meaningful.
You see, my take on it is that it’s NOT what you appear to be that makes you a punk, or a symbol of what you believe, it’s what you are.
The people I know that are most devoted to ‘the revolution’ or changing the system dress like Joe Blow. Because they’ve realized that appearances don’t matter a bit. It’s what you’re committed to and doing that actually gets you there.
So here I am, mid-thirties and a business guy. I’m still a punk in attitude (if not in dress or hair) and that means I will, when opportunity presents, call people on their hypocrisy and do my part to make the world a more honest place.
And, on the amusing side, it’s kinda fun to shock people with anarchist politics out of a business suit or dockers or something.
If you dress a certain way for any other reason than because you like it and it’s comfortable to you, then you should probably take a step back and look at yourself inside…or something like that. I’m 19 now so I just got out of the whole High School thing a little while ago and there were people who dressed certain ways, and they can go right ahead, I don’t care. I’ll dress how I want and if you judge who I am based on what I’m wearing, then you’re probably not someone who’s opinions of me I really care about anyway.
I’ve always just worn plain boring clothes, and I’ve never been “in-style” or had brand-name clothes (mostly because I haven’t had the money and if I did I wouldn’t spend it on that…$60 for a logo on the same shirt I could pick up for $5 elsewhere? I think not), but I’ve also never cared, heh.
I don’t dye my hair weird colors, just because I don’t mind the color it is now. If you want to dye your hair, go nuts…just make sure you’re doing it because you like it and not because you’re scared people won’t like you if you don’t (if they’ll ignore you because you don’t do what they want, then why waste energy being friends with them?).
Tsugumo (always out of style and rambling too much…)
Hmm, well I’m torn on this one. I don’t belong to any group. I wear what feels comfortable, what looks good, and what I find beautiful - like vintage clothes with incredible details or beautiful embroidery. Because a lot of my wardrobe is used/vintage/whatever, some of the stuff I own is one of a kind. I’m as likely to wear a sweater and jeans or a long-sleeved t-shirt and track pants as I am an embroidered skirt from 1971. I don’t plan ahead, or put any thought into my outfits; I just dig through my closet for five minutes and come up with something.
I really don’t give a flying fuck if people like my clothes or not. Granted, when I’m going to a work meeting I dress differently from a night downtown or at a club, but it’s still whatever feels right.
Does this make me conformist? I don’t think so. I wear clothes and jewelry that I love and seldom give thought to what others think. Their opinion really doesn’t matter. I explained in the other thread why I pierced my eyebrow - in certain African tribes it was a sign of beauty and/or royalty and I thought it would look cute. It wasn’t to be trendy, like some people have commented.
Really, I don’t care if someone sees an outfit I wear and thinks I’m trendy. I buy what I like. I own tortoiseshell glasses for days when my eyes are too tired for contacts, and people thought it was wild at my old college. Yet at UMBC (which is much more diverse) I see people everywhere with them. Does it matter? Not at all. I think they look awesome.
In conclusion, label me whatever the hell you want. I’m still me.
I closed out a discussion of this very topic a while back, but there I was mostly talking about the difference between what Emerson said and how he is read. But I’d be happy to wade into the debate from a different angle:
This is commonly perceived as the ideal, but it’s an incoherent one. I suppose people think that wanting to be different taints one’s sincerity. No one has a credible claim to not caring what other people think of the way they dress. Anyone who would claim such a thing is by the act of doing so betraying a self-consciousness about the perceptions of others. To whatever extent one can be an `individual’ in the special sense of the term, it won’t be because one doesn’t try.
In terms of how others react to you, conformity is the path of least resistance. Taking a different path requires extra effort. But shall we conclude that true non-conformity' is therefore the path of most resistance, as **Fear Itself** does? Well, there is definitely a spectrum -- a range of infinite levels of non-conformity. But whether we consider non-conformity good or bad, surely we don't want to claim that it must be absolute or not at all. The norm’ is an artifical data point, and in all likelihood nobody instantiates it. We can assume everyone deviates from the norm to some degree, but when we speak of non-conformity we are speaking of a degree of deviation less than infinite, but which most people do not attain.
Furthermore, there is no single norm' for a given number of people. There are many interwoven subgroups with their own behavior norms. There is a lot of talk about a mythological dominant’ or mainstream' group, but this is a chimera, a boogeyman. It has no more reality than that which it gains from the fact that people believe in it. Yet, people all over the country conform to one group, and then declare themselves non-conformists in comparison to this fictitious mainstream.’
The reason why most everybody considers themselves non-conformists anymore is that they don’t compare themselves to the group they actually conform to. Every group has a different idea of what it is they’re rebelling against, but very few see themselves as not rebelling at all.
In regards to clothes in patecualr, I don’ think anyone ought to congradulate themselves because “I don’t care what other people think”. Clothes are a form of communication, and to not have any regard for the widely accepted meanings of that communication is as silly as saying “I just make random sounds that appeal to me all day: how dare you assume I mean the words that they happen to corrospond to.”
I really, really hate that this is true, and have spent my whole life adapting as generic a look as I can (all dull solids, jeans and slacks and t shirts and sweaters), but the fact is that refusing to express your self in your clothes is, in fact, an expression. It says “I am one of the people that dosen’t care about clothes.”