Boldly stitched and studded jeans, a miniscule crocodile stitched into a polo, a dangling “J” zipper off of a velour jacket. Maybe it’s just a girl thing, but I recognize the subtle signs of designers immediately, almost like a sixth sense. East’s hallways are filled with different designers and brands. Some people wear them to fit in, some people wear them simply because they can afford it. My reason was different: for me, it was a necessity.
During my first few weeks as a freshman, I learned very quickly that East’s culture was one partially based on fashion. Particularly designer fashion. Sure, Uggs and North Face jackets were a common sight to see at Mission Valley, but East was a whole new level of designer, and about twice as expensive. The plain Aeropostale jeans worn at Mission Valley were upgraded to True Religion. Now, instead of carrying notebooks and folders around in a simple zippered binder, girls carry the contents of their lockers around in metallic Coach totes. And although Sperrys were a fairly common thing for girls to wear last year, now it seems as though all the preppy guys have at least one pair. It’s no longer just the girls wearing designers: now, it seems to be everyone.
I panicked at first, seeing how I owned almost nothing designer. Last year it seemed to be enough to have a couple of Juicy jackets, but this year I felt pressured to wear designer head-to-toe. Jewelry, shirts, jeans, shoes–I didn’t think the generic brands would cut it anymore. If people at East wore preppy designer labels, then why shouldn’t I? Being at a new school and meeting new people, I felt like I had to wear the right clothes if I wanted to make the right first impressions. Sure, you’re supposed to make friends based on their personalities, but I figured clothes could count for something, too. I know I’m guilty of sometimes judging people based on their appearance, so I always assumed others judged me in the same way.
Little by little, I tried to make changes to my wardrobe. I bought what I could off the sales racks of Nordstrom and Halls, and surprisingly found some great deals. It especially helped that my mom’s job at Hallmark gets her major discounts at Halls. Unfortunately, well-paying babysitting jobs are rare for me, so I couldn’t afford to spend hundreds of dollars overhauling my closet. Begging my parents for money wasn’t an option either, since they‘re opposed to spending their money on clothes that are double the price they should be just because of their label. I’d always try to reason the price with them, defensively saying it’s the price you pay for quality, but they never budged. Although a few new pieces were added to my closet, overall everything stayed the same.
To me, it seemed like there was some unspoken quota of designer brands that must be met if you are to be at least halfway socially acceptable. No one will openly criticize someone because their boots don’t have an Ugg label stitched onto the back, but people at least take some notice. I notice. I had become so obsessed with having the right clothes that I had come under the impression that people criticize me as harshly as I criticize myself. I’m always judging myself if my jeans don’t have adorned pockets, or if my jacket doesn’t have a North Face symbol on the side, and I only assumed that people judged me in that way too. After a couple months’ effort, due to my lack of money and perseverance, I decided to accept what I have already and not be so concerned with the names I wore. I found that people still treated me the same, and I still made new friends. They couldn’t care less about what I wore, so I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t care either.
On the days where I wake up 10 minutes before school or the days where I don’t particularly feel like trying, I roll out of bed and put on a pair of sweats with some tennis shoes. When I first started doing this, I felt uncomfortable, like I should be trying harder. It didn’t feel right to not put effort into my morning routine. Once I started to relax and realized that no one cared that I wasn’t dressed to the nines, it became more of a regular routine. In the wise words of my dad, “You don’t need two hours to get ready in the morning. You aren’t going to a fashion show.”
In the back of my head I know people don’t care as much about clothes as much as I do, but for some reason I put so much thought into it. I spend most of my money shopping, going through sales racks with a fine toothed comb. It’s become almost obsessive, and now I’m finally beginning to learn that clothes aren’t everything.
The person who cares the most about what I’m wearing is me; I’m my own toughest critic.