Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Uniforms

For some reason, I let my husband's big, brown eyes and dimples convince me to go to a car show Sunday. Over the years, I have developed an appreciation for some exotic vehicles. I appreciate the craftmanship of Bentleys, and their hertiage. I absolutely lust after the Lotus Elise, which is no longer being made, and I get the drive Lamborghini has to maintain it's speed records. I've never been able to wrap my head around American hotrods and custom cars, and I think car culture in the U.S. needs to die back a bit.  But as many outings do, this one turned into a post here.

While at the car show, my husband and I noticed that among the car nuts, there is a uniform. A shirt with cars on it- either a tee or a Hawaiian type button up- beard (preferably blond or gray), sunglasses, potbelly, and a ball cap or beanie.  My poor honey was out of uniform.  He thinks dragging a wife and/or children along is part of the uniform; I choked on my ice cream cone when he told me that. Then I looked around, and noticed that he was right.  A wife and kids were the perfect accessory at the car show (Many of the guys who forget theres were busy calling them to ask their opinions).

After I had my giggle, I got to thinking that lots of groups of people seem to have an unspoken uniform.  The stay-at-home moms at school have their uniforms- capris or yoga pants, tee shirt from Gap, flip flops or sneakers, and designer sunglasses.  The Emo kids (who look an awful to like neon versions of the Goth kids I knew in high school) around town can be spotted by their rainbow hair and thrift store clothing.  The upper middle class middle aged white guy uniform is khaki shorts, a polo, a ball cap and expensive leather sandals.  Even us spiritual types have a stereotypical, yet strangely common, uniform of flowing tops in bright colors, skirts or wide leg pants, and Birkenstocks- laugh all you want, I saw a bunch of them walking into the local metaphysical store Saturday and another bunch come out when I drove past later that day.

It occurs to me that wearing these unofficial uniforms is like wearing a sign that declares who we are and where we belong.  My jeans, hiking boots, and muted color palette lets me slide around watching people, it's like my sign reads "Ignore me. I'm just looking" (I'm easy to ignore, which generally suits me well, since it makes people watching less awkward). I must acknowledge that my uniform also acts as a shield.  If I wear greys, blacks, muted blues and greens, nobody remembers. I draw no attention, which is both a coping strategy for someone who can be painfully shy and bitingly hostile, as the moment demands.  So if this is true, what sign do you think you wear, and what sign do you actually wear?



Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. -Mark Twain

What a strange power there is in clothing.  ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

4 comments:

  1. I think you're completely correct. Clothes are a defining part of a culture and how people express where they below. I know that though I have my own defining style it shifts depending on the situation. I'm a lazy goth/punk at the core but if I'm at a pagan gathering I tend to wear more flowy clothing but it tends to be a lot of black. In work situations its generally black slacks with jewel tone shirts.

    What that says about me I'm not exactly sure other than I love the dark but I'm adaptable. Though I always try to show who I am I also compromise to fit into the situation.

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    1. Velody, my black and grey clothing is a sign of my laziness. I don't like having to make sure things match in the morning, so I stuck to all black. Now, its habit.

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  2. I definitely dress to hide--very plain jeans and t-shirts. The invisibility is great, I can get around without being noticed. But it does lead to judgments about me being "mousy" and "timid." My response is, I want to observe people and situations first to see if they're worth getting to know or if I should leave. Mice are smart that way.

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    1. I agree, Butterfly. Being able to observe, without interruption, is important to me too.

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