Last night, I had an epiphany. I don’t like my glasses.
Then I had to figure out why. What was it that made me not like them? What my mind kept coming back to was hearing the echo of what people said when they saw me wearing them. “Hipster glasses.”
No offense to Hipsters. And almost everyone in my class who wears glasses wears a similar style. That’s all fine. But it’s not me.
When I tried to think about what I didn’t like about Hipster, my first thought was that is seems to me that whoever is following trends is not much of a critical thinker. I dismissed that. No, I’m sure there are plenty of critically thinking, intelligent individuals who like the aesthetics of the Hipster vibe.
I came around to thinking this: Hipster styles are almost always worn ironically, with an implied smirk. Even if they dress like a hobo, it’s with a smirk. That was actually what got all this started – I had the heat down low (’cause I’m cheap that way) and kept layering on clothes, and I caught myself in the mirror and thought, “My Gosh, I look like a hobo!” with some level of delight. And then I saw my glasses, and my face fell. My Hipster glasses. My ironic glasses. But I’m not an ironic hobo, I am an honest to goodness, enthusiastic hobo. Hobo dressing makes me feel close to my poor, rural roots, and my poor, rural ancestors. It reminds me of who I really am, and who I really am is anything but urbane or sophisticated, no matter how many letters I’m in the process of putting after my name.
Curiously, this whole discovery process made me happy. You see, I went out on a limb to try these glasses, because I said to myself, “Self, you are always playing it safe, always afraid someone is going to comment on your style, and you aren’t really experimenting to find out what you like or looks good on you or you want. Be daring. Try.” And I tried. And for the first several months, I thought I liked them. I thought, “For once, a change is good. No one told me to get these. I just dared, and I did, and I look good in them!” But what I like even better about deciding I don’t like them is that maybe, possibly, perhaps, I’m starting to grow a backbone for myself.
Not leaning in to make as few ripples as possible. Just trying to be me. And as hard as they may be to find nowadays in the ocean of acrylic frames, I like gold wire spectacles. Either that, or steampunk googles, but I’m told they’re not very practical nor professional.
It’s just a drop in the bucket. There are other drops. Walking down the bike path with my cape swirling in the wind and thinking, “I enjoy this. I want to be more weird like me.” Wondering why I have so many clothes that I don’t like to wear, and realizing I got what I did because it was “acceptable” and “affordable” and not because it was “me.” I just told my Mom to keep her eye out for polo shirts on sale, and felt sad while doing so. I wear them because they are cheap, count as professional, and fit me passably well. But they do entirely nothing to reflect who I am.
I used to think jeans and t-shirts were my uniform, but I’m dissatisfied with that, too. In part because “jeans” doesn’t mean what it used to me. They used to be durable and rugged; not any more. T-shirts used to mean no fuss, no muss. Now if I’m wearing women’s, I’m trying to find ones where the sleeves aren’t too short and the neck isn’t too deep, and the fabric is actually comfortable. Or else I try to find men’s, but then it strains across the bust and I have to slit the sides to make room for my hips. None of any of those things reflects who I am.
Most things don’t. Sometimes I complain that it’s hard to dress as one would like when one has no money, but even that’s not really true. I mean, it is true, but even if I had a much bigger budget for clothes, what’s on the racks just makes me sad.
Title Nine and such have some really nice things, but they all say, “hip, comfortable lifestyle, I’ve got money.” Athletic wear is really “in,” and my classmates wear it to class all the time. I’d blush to go out in public with nothing on my bottom half besides tights, but it’s the new normal for them.
I’m not a polished professional, though. I see those jackets and skirts and professional pumps, and I just think, “ugh.” For me, it wouldn’t feel like I was dressing sharp. It would just feel disingenuous.
I’m really tired of wearing shapeless, unflattering clothing. But I’ve yet to find, for affordable or out of my price range, clothes that look like me.
I’m learning. A little bit, here and there.
It doesn’t always come together into a cohesive picture, though. I loathe carpeting. I like dresses and comfortable leggings make me brave enough to wear them. I miss the linen pants someone gave me once. I think that probably vests would be flattering on me. I like flat and flexible shoes. Sometimes I practice putting my hair up, and I like the old-fashioned vibe it gives me. But then I have to wear a hat, because it’s in the teens outside, and when I get to class, my hair just looks messy and knotted.
I know that even though I like delicate things – like gauzy linen, and lace, and gathers and ruffles, and piles of fine layers – I’m not delicate, and delicate things don’t look good on me. I know I love the mystery and adventure of steampunk, but I’m actually just not dark enough to wear it. When interacting with people, I tend to be all smiles and bubbly and laughing. That doesn’t really mesh with a bronze octopus around your neck.
I know a properly fitted jacket makes me feel pretty awesome, especially if it’s double-breasted. I know I’ve yet to find pair of boots that speak my language, although I really want such a pair. I know I’m not modern. I wish I could find hats that fit my small, tiny head.
You know, I don’t know much. I just feel like it’s time to get more serious about trying. Because I’ve been thinking about Hipsters and irony. Sometimes I’m not sure that they really like the way things looks. Sometimes I think it’s a self-protective irony. If you aren’t trying to look sophisticated, then it can’t sting when someone says you don’t look sophisticated.
I’m saying that because I can see myself in it. I fought my body so hard when it decided to grow up. Unable to stop it, I dressed in loose-fitting over-sized t-shirts. Back then it was defensive to the idea my body was changing. Now I think it is defensive to not feeling pretty or beautiful. If I were threatened with not looking pretty, I would say, “I know. I dress practically. I dress for comfort. I dress affordable. I’m not trying to be pretty.”
But all that really means is that I want to be, and I’m afraid I can’t attain. Better to deliberately step out of the race than to compete and fail miserably. The cowardice in me sits on the sidelines, and so my clothes are almost all things that don’t look much like me at all.
So daring to try wildly different glasses frames is a step in the right direction. Daring to reject them is better still. But it’s not enough.
I want to become more unabashedly myself. But it’s hard work and it’s uncharted territory, and it’s hard to know what to invest (time, money, space) in. It’s hard to know if it’s worth it, or if it’s one of those things were it’s nice, but it’s really not important in life. But part of me says I have to try. Going along is slow death.
The theory is good, but I’m just really not sure what it means in real life.