We just wear clothes

On Sunday this week I spent the entire day in the city. A vibrant, affluent city with a global image and perceived life style second to none. And it was pretty depressing. At the event I was attending (indeed a part of), there was a few thousand of the city’s finest walking or cycling around throughout the day. The sun was shining and the day was warm with a gentle cooling breeze – perfect weather. But something was bothering me and it was only in conversation with my lovely wife that I was able to pinpoint what the issue was.

To get to the city from our small town (which by the way is generally characterized by many of the city dwellers I know as a small hick town with a large complement of rednecks) we drove for more than an hour through a mixture of increasing urbanisation and wonderful background scenery. The city itself is a visual feast, set against a backdrop of ocean and snow capped mountains, however moving away from the countryside and into the urban environment is always something of a wrench. This is what at first I thought was bugging me through the day, but I was wrong.

It was the people. So many people trying to be something or someone identifiable as a type. Thousands of people passed before my eyes that day, and a great many of them were very obviously on show – whether as grungey hippies or stylin’ it up as smart city dwellers out taking the air with the common folk. I enjoy diversity but when I see so many people TRYING to look like part of a group (there’s a subtle obvious quality about the person who has very carefully dressed casually to go for a ride on their bike), their immaculately correct outfits matching stereotypes. Even (or especially) the young men with their depressingly clichéd tattoos and ankle – length ‘shorts’ are a boring reminder of how limited by perceptions of conforming (or non conforming) people can sometimes be.

I’ve lived and worked in a city before – another beautiful city in its own way although ancient and without the kind of dramatic topography I have become used to. And with hindsight I experienced the same thing there – a great many people going about their lives but with an under current of trying to belong to a group, to look as if they are certain type of person. And I think there is a certain sadness to that way of being.

In our small unfashionable town, we have become aware that people here are for the most part, just being themselves and not particularly caring about visual stereotypes. I think that the ‘hick’ label for the countryside towns sometimes stems from our unwillingness to be slaves to trends or fashions or to waste money on being showy. Sure we know about these things but for the most part we choose not to participate. Extremes of fashion are anathema here, and I think regarded as awaste of time (which for my money is pretty much on the mark). There is an endless debate about fashion, expression and identity and my feeling is that anyone who feels driven to express themselves through fashion is missing something in their life.

People here just wear clothes that work – today it’s raining so we will walk our dogs wearing clothes that keep us comfortable, with no thought for whether they are fashionable. And that ‘suits’ us just fine.

We just wear clothes.



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2 Comments on “We just wear clothes”

  1. I think it’s quite natural for us human being types to want to belong in groups or tribes and show some allegiance to that tribe by way of dress or body markings. And you’ve probably come up with a good definition for what a ‘Hick’ might be – “we don’t follow fashion or otherwise take any notice of the world around us, we just wear sensible clothes”.

    No offence meant – I live a “semi-hick” existence in the semi-hick of West Kirby, as you well know.

    The internet being the way it is these days, I’m bound to get some anti-semi-hick comments…

    • elsimmo Says:

      I agree that tribal allegiances are probably part of our race memory, and its an instinctive behaviour. However I think the subtleties of modern fashion/gangs/social groupings are more developed than that, and have become quite artificial. I genuinely find it rather sad that people feel a need to ‘belong’ to a group to help them feel content or happy.

      One of the most visible manifestations of that over here is the Harley crowd. Thousands of middle aged men and women dress up almost identically each weekend to ride their ridiculously loud, under-powered and hugely over-priced ugly lumps of chrome and plastic. They all dress very stereotypically (black leather gear – which is not protective, purely aesthetic – and sunglasses) to express their individuality and ‘born to be wild’ fantasies. I have had a motorbike off and on for 16 years until recently and never felt a need to dress like everyone else…

      As for ‘hick’ – I usually take that to mean someone from the country who pays no attention to those big city folks and their strange ways, which on a day to day basis makes me a hick I guess, although these days I prefer not to attach a label to myself – I doubt that I fit into anyone’s group.

      Maybe a semi-hick is someone who occasionally thinks about being fashionable?

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