This past Wednesday, I went on a night out with my work colleagues. We don’t all get to see each other very often, since most people work in different parts of the country, and fairly typically it ended out as a drunken, raucous gathering of 30-odd bloody lovely people having a bloody lovely evening.
However – both in the corporate environment that I work in, and the town centre on a Wednesday night – I don’t really blend in very well.
What happened throughout that evening (and has been happening since I was in charge of picking my own clothes if I’m honest), is that I had series of conversations with different people all about why I don’t dress up more – because I’d look really nice in XYZ outfit, because I have such a nice figure, etc. etc.
And I totally get it; I am a scruffy mess and that is not what the majority of people aim for. Any clothes that I put on immediately look like I have slept in them. You know what? I kinda like that.
I have a gleeful pride in how little time it takes me to get ready to leave the house, how small my wardrobe is, how few pairs of shoes I own, and how long it’s been since I last ironed anything. I think it would be fair to say that a significant part of that is a joyous rejection of gender-based expectations of how I am going to present myself – which in turn has it’s roots in the fact that I really struggle to care.
The last time I was interested in a fashionable item of clothing, it was a layered denim and black lace skirt. It was 1987. I was 9 and I was in love with Jon Bon Jovi, incidentally. On top of not really seeing anything which I am supposed to like that has appealed for the best part of 30 years, my natural inclination in everything is to expend as little energy as possible – which includes my appearance. When I was maybe 14, possibly 13, I had my hair cut short. It used to take me ages to manhandle it into shape in the mornings – because I didn’t understand that my hair was in fact curly. As soon as I realised that was the problem, I just let it run free and do whatever the hell it was inclined to do. That was the last time I made any concerted effort in my appearance, and I have never looked back.
There was a period of time after I left my horrible mistake of a marriage where I rushed back to the loving embrace of my metal roots, to get back in touch with who I was. I adopted a goth uniform of sorts, which was pretty much all I wore for about 3 years; black skirt, stripey socks, black mesh long-sleeved shirt with a slogan t-shirt over the top, black New Rock boots.
It was simple, lightweight, easy to pack, and quick to put on. I wore that until I bought my first pair of Criminal Damage baggy black jeans (or, my goat-smuggling trousers, as dubbed by my best mate) and then that became my new uniform. That tends to be my pattern; find something I like, then wear it for years until it falls apart or I find something of superior awesomeness. Rinse and repeat.
During the last relationship-I-should-never-have-been-in, I was constantly getting disparaged and sneered at for not dressing up nicely like the Eastern European women you see pushing strollers through town, or making a proper effort like the trendy women that you see strutting around Camden and Brick Lane. “Go fuck yourself, I’m outta here.” should have been what I said. I didn’t say that. I ended out wearing different clothes – skinny jeans, branded tops, women’s boots – to try and regain some modicum of respect, regard and interest from my partner. Because THAT always works, huh people? All that happened was that I further lost myself and got even more crushed under his boot heels by trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what I should be like.
I am never, ever doing that again. I don’t like skinny jeans, or having my hair in a bun, or dresses, or painful women’s shoes, or whatever bullshit some nutjob clothes designer has decided is suddenly the thing to wear this season. Sorry pal, I’m not playing.
There are a few things that I have always gravitated towards; black, red, black AND red, black and red STRIPES…
…otherwise muted colours, big shoes, baggy jeans. My ‘style’, if you can call it that, is comfortable, low maintenance, and cheap. I would like to say that it’s practical because of my over-fondness of massive pockets, but if you’d ever seen me hopping about in the rain to avoid absorbing my own body-weight in puddle water into my trousers, you’d understand why I avoid that claim.
One thing my style is NOT, however, is flattering. I have become less and less interested in putting myself on display as the years have gone past. I feel no obligation to wear anything that shows off my lady-parts, or even wear ‘women’s’ clothes at all. Like everything in my life these days, I know how to play the game, I just choose not to. As I go about my business, thousands of people might look at me and turn their nose up, or not even register me at all…
They are not the people that I am interested in. I am interested in the folks that see the scruffy, baggy jeans that haven’t been ‘on trend’ for a decade or two, who see the unkempt hair that I obviously haven’t done anything with since I got out of bed, and don’t care. I am interested in the people who look at my t-shirt and think, “She likes Brand New! Awesome!”
It’s taken me many, many years to properly get on board with the idea that I am fucking brilliant, precisely the way I am. I am aware that it means I will probably spend the rest of my life batting back questions about my choices, but that’s totally cool. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t?
[Brand New really are excellent, by the way.]