Personal style, much like the journey of life, must be developed only after a long set of multiple failures. I am a wonderful example of that. Throughout Middle school, I was like the Thomas Edison of style: failing often and succeeding rarely. But instead of tungsten filaments, I experimented with terrible fashion. It is this experimental time in an adolescence’s life where good friends serve a very important purpose. They act as a harsh filter to any drastic changes in your appearance or attitude. I remember when I tried to dress like a skateboarder one day. My friends unleashed a justified hurricane of criticism on the new duds. Huge baggy corduroy pants (sagged, of course), a large hoodie that could I needed a GPS to navigate the armholes with, and a Toys R’ Us skateboard. I walked through the door, my friends laughed, called me a dork, and I reverted to my normal self.
People don’t like change (except those who voted Obama). That’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, alter something small about your appearance tomorrow and see if people freak out. Guys: wear suspenders instead of a belt. Girls: put your hair in Princess Leia side-bagels. Watch the world burn.
I didn’t always jump into a different style with both feet, as with my X-Games phase. Sometimes I just dipped my pinkie toe into the water, only to realize that it was a piranha tank and my toe was now a grizzled nub.
I was so suburban in Middle School, so plain. I was excruciatingly ordinary. I felt trapped though, trapped in conventionalism. I became furious about it. I decided to break away from those expressionless Gap palettes and the cloned clouds of Abercrombie stitching. I needed to express this anger, express my dark side. Presently, I thought, “Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in some type of housing unit or Habit Trail apparatus.” Luckily, Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins took a much more lyrical approach and were able to put my sentiments more succinctly that year. I loved that song “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”
So I went to Sears, much like any bandwagon fan at the time, and found the infamous “Zero” shirt that the gaunt lead singer donned for the stage. “We’ll just see how the establishment likes this little nugget of garment rebellion,” I thought. No one in school had that shirt. No one was as sick of the systematic blandness as I was. And even though I wasn’t going all crazy punk-goth on everyone, the subtle statement of my shirt would surely be enough to bring the powers that be to their knees. An unassuming cog of suburbia had fallen off the machine. “This means something. This is important.”
I wore my shirt to school the next day, hoping to inspire awe in my fellow classmates. As I walked through the halls, looking for feedback on the statement, I received it in spades from an upperclassman.
It was not exactly the revolution I was looking for. But still, who cared, right? Was I so fragile that a mere insult could derail my will or curtail my sense of style?
You want to know how many times I wore that shirt after that comment?