2 of 5 – “Birth Through Junior High”
First, quite obviously, none of us choose our clothes when we’re babies. Some poor kids now-a-days are treated to mohawks, shirts with obscene references to how they were conceived, and many other things. I, on the other hand, lucked out…
Look at that little stud!
Even once I started to dress myself, though, not too much changed, so the beginning of this period isn’t very interesting for two reasons: my mom picked my clothes and it was the 80’s. I was usually a pretty dapper little kid, though, but just about everyone was back then. Sure I’d wear t-shirts or shorts, but my wardrobe also consisted of corduroy pants and a plethora of collared shirts and polos. Exhibit A, my first day of first grade:
Man, white tennis shoes, missing teeth, and a plastic lunch box… I was two-thirds old man. Of course, things change, and as I got older, I began to take more of an interest in being cool, as is evident by my ensemble for the first day of third grade:
When I just now confronted my mom about those socks she said, “I wouldn’t have done that, it must’ve been you. You always were a strange little boy.” I certainly was.
My goodness, things can only get better, right?
As is the case for most, I just wore what people gave me without putting much thought into it. So, while I may have followed certain trends, for the first 10 years of my life there wasn’t much of a conscious decision to do so. Things began to slowly change as the desire to be like those around me grew. When I was 11 I discovered Quicksilver t-shirts and realized, “Hmm, these are cool… because this is what I would see cool people wear on TV or at school.” I got a Chicago Bulls cap for Christmas that year (the Bulls were my attempt to dabble in having an interest in sports), and I realized that I could put it on BACKWARDS and if my hair fell through the flap in front, again, I’d look like someone cool I’d seen before.
It was all emulation… taking people who I perceived as “cool” and attempting to replicate what they wore in order to make myself “cool.” We’ve pretty much all been there, no? As odd as it may seem now, I was just like any other kid… when Reebok Pumps were in fashion, I just HAD to have my own. When that trend passed, so did my interest. This isn’t a history lesson of 80’s-90’s boys fashion, though. It’s about style.
While I was, more and more, trying to look cool in comparison to those around me, this was a time when I started to take an interest in certain outfits over others. I’m not talking about trends here, either. I had certain shirts that I really liked, or a pair of shorts that I preferred over the others. My tastes were budding, and while I couldn’t really tell you back then why I might have liked certain things, my sense of style was finally beginning to emerge as a unique identity. Again, this isn’t anything special… it’s just a part of growing up. Along with this interest in expressing myself through clothing, my personal oddities also really began to differentiate me from the group.
Having these two sides was certainly an interesting struggle. As I
started my first year in junior high, Vans were the shoe to have – and
I was proud when I finally obtained my own pair. Of course, that was
just the part of me that wanted to blend in and be like everyone else.
The other part of me, the individual eccentric, had other plans. From 6th grade into junior high I had a black sweat-jacket that I wore almost every day. By the time I retired it and moved onto a newer blue one, the black was more of a reddish gray from being so sun-bleached. I became known for those jackets – it was a staple of my new style. Just as folks from Blockbuster may know me by suspenders… I wore my jackets. I didn’t just enjoy them for looks, though. I’m a scavenger, like my grandpa, so by the end of the year my jacket pockets would be filled with odd things I had picked up – broken locks, pencils, weird rocks… whatever you can think of. As I said before, style is a combination of expression and function. For Christmas in 7th grade, I even decorated my jacket and wore it to school.
I began to put value in my being different from most people around me, and I was starting to express that in how I dressed. Obviously a jacket with ornaments on it isn’t practical day-to-day wear (though I did wear it for a week, I believe), but I realized that I could not only be odd in my personality, but in how I adorned myself, too. I started to, on occasion, be odd just to be odd. I still wore jeans and t-shirts, flannel shirts and other normal things, but I also sparked an interest in deviating from the norm on purpose. In other words, rebellion was setting in.
After junior high ended, and I was moving on to high school, I went clothes shopping with my mom. Anyone remember those collared shirts with zippers down the front instead of buttons that were all the rage? Yeah, I wanted one of those. I didn’t get one, because I was too embarrassed to say outright that I did. Why was I embarrassed? Because I knew that it was a trend. I could no longer tell my mom, as I did when I was a younger kid, “Hey, I want this because it’s cool and everyone else has it!” My tastes were still growing, and I still had plenty of interesting changes ahead (the next entry, on my high school years, will show the most dramatic difference from beginning to end), but I was growing out of my desire to follow the pack. I was starting to choose clothes and outfits that I enjoyed simply because I enjoyed them and not because I thought it might make me look like everyone else. I began wanting to try tucking my collared shirts in or trying new things I never would have cared about before. I was becoming an individual.
That was the last time I ever had a desire to follow a trend… the eccentric had won.