Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Clothes Make the Person, Whether We Like It Or Not

I’ve come to realize that I have an alternating love/hate relationship with clothes. Not that I mean I don’t like to wear them, I do (it certainly beats the alternative where I live; were I in Tahiti year round we may be having another discussion), but honestly, I go through cycles where I either care a lot about what I wear or I don’t care at all about what I wear.

The reason this topic has been center stage for me over the past few months is two-fold. The first is that my kids are growing up and they are expressing their individuality in ways I’m honestly not that crazy about. Yes, I know this coming from the former glam performer who walked around in pseudo-drag for close to ten years… I get it, I’m a hypocrite (LOL!). Still, try as hard as I might, there is absolutely no denying that you look at people and you react to people based on what they choose to show the world through what they wear. The second is that, I’m actually having to give very focused attention as to what I’m going to wear for something for a change (more on that later ;) ).

This is not to say that I don’t understand the desire to be unique or be one that fits in, or at the very least doesn’t stand out like a sore thumb. Believe me, I lived through a bit of that when I was younger, and I grew to see things on lots of different sides. Case in point; my parents had kids later than many of their generation by comparison (not *lots* later, mind you, but in general, the average American family in the 1960’s had their eldest kid around age 23… my parents, because of just the nature of their chosen careers and how they met, didn’t get married until they were nearly 27 and I was born about two months before my mom’s 28th birthday. Thus, my parents were not part of the baby boom generation as so many of my friends parents were, and their mores and attitudes about style and dress reflected a slightly earlier time and ethos. That came into effect when we were growing up. Long hair was strictly discouraged on boys, and they weren’t too dialed into the whole “California” vibe or look, either (not surprising since my Dad was from Detroit, and my Mom’s reality was steeped in the Italian areas of San Francisco, so again, different reality). Thus, I tended to look odd or out of place when I was younger as compared to many of my friends. Not to say I lived in rags, not at all; my family was pretty well to do, all things considered, but they just had a different attitude about it all.

During my teenage years, when I could have a little more autonomy on how I looked, I definitely strove to find my own style and identity, much of it being cobbled together from different styles as preppy, slash-punk, new wave and some B-Boy thrown in for good measure (Chess King was the “great equalizer” in the 80’s  ). Later on in life, modeling, music, and snowboarding all contributed tremendously to variations in my look, and sometimes extreme variations. The point is, everyone dresses to validate themselves, until the day comes when clothes are no longer relevant to validation.

Somehow, I think I finally stepped into this category sometime around my 35th birthday. Maybe it was the enormity of going back to school, maybe it was just the nature of having three kids get old enough where the focus on them was more important than any focus on me, you name it, but roughly around that time, I came to the realization that I had little time or energy to impress anyone else, and frankly, most people really didn’t care anyway. I think this was also the time I realized that a lot of money went into “keeping up appearances” and that, with being a single wage earner in a family of five (our choice, mind you, not talking badly about that at all), I really needed to evaluate what mattered and what was appropriate for various things and events. Thus, my identity really no longer revolves around what I wear and where I wear it, so long as it’s clean, neat and appropriate attire for the situation.

I admit it, I’m struggling a bit watching my kids care so much about the clothes that they wear and what “image” they project. Maybe it’s just that we finally see things differently when we transcend something; we want others to transcend it, too. While I must admit that some of my son’s clothing choices annoy me a little, none of them fall outside of the standards of the church, and he even makes an effort to not let his hair be a distraction. I’m a bit less hardcore about hair; I figure you really only have your youth to enjoy it, since circumstances surrounding work or genetics will make the choices later in life. I have some very simple rules; no multi-color hair unless nature gives it to you (calico highlights from the sun, fine; colored streaks or fake color, not fine). Hair must be above the collar, and out of his eyes when he’s at church and doing anything church related. That was a request from his Young Men’s President and I make sure he honors it. I leave it up to him to determine how to honor it, otherwise, I don’t mind the bangs in his face look (heck, I had the same haircut in the early 80’s :) ).

My tougher challenge is with my older daughter, Karina. I find it both sad and frustrating that the only clothes she can wear are found in the women’s juniors departments (she’s *ten* for cryin’ out loud) and that the clothing that is offered is mostly borderline scandalous; am I the only dad that does not want to have his daughter looked at as though she’s a streetwalker?! At the same time, I have to be a realist, and work with her (as does her Mom) to fins things that are appropriate and modest enough to wear (this is compounded by the fact that Karina frequently gets confused for being a 16 year old by people, or at least in High School; they tend to do a big double-take when I tell them she’s ten and just completed the 4th grade!). Again, it’s a challenge, but it’s one I realize I have to keep working on, cause Heaven help me, there’s *lots* of people willing to help out in the opposite direction.

This whole post is somewhat ironic in the sense that, over the next several weeks, I will actually be in the process of very targeted clothes shopping… I’ll be appearing on stage for the first time in 17 years! And as such, do you think I’ve given a lot of thought as to what I’ll be wearing? You better believe it (LOL!). See, in this case, I get a pass. I’m not dressing for the everyday, I’m dressing to be an entertainer, and as such, I’m constructing a stage outfit that will be, let’s just say, a bit unique ;). For those who have already seen it… SHHHHHHH!!!!!


Larsen's said...

Interesting post, honey! Ummmm, does that mean you will be coming shopping with us? :0

Michael Larsen said...

Well, I'm certainly available if you want me to (LOL!).

Anonymous said...

The last paragraph reminds me of Arthur Kane's outfit when he performed at that music festival--he put some thought into what he wore, too.

Wish I could be there to see and hear you guys in August. All I'm saying is, You Better Post Pics!

And no, you are not the only one who wants your daughter to look her age. I am already horrified at some of the fashions for my almost seven-year-old, and know there will be times I'll have to brace for a fight.

Lisa ")