In my first class of the morning, there was a girl wearing a Beatles shirt because it looked cool.
She knew that one of them was named John Lennon and thought they were all dead.
Another girl was “wearing a tie-dye shirt with cool little teddy bears”. I didn’t bother to ask if she had eaten any Cherry Garcia ice cream.
But this prompted me to do a quick scan of the shirts in the room- three football jerseys, an argyle sweater, two obscure(ish) fringe band album covers, something way too low cut, a geek-chic button-up, and the word SWAG mixed in with a handful of basic “it’s cold outside” hoodies or sweatshirts.
My brain raced to the immediate juxtaposition between “This Beatles shirt looks cool” and “Oh, you’ve never heard of Black Veil Brides?” What does each of these clothing choices say about the wearer? What message is each portraying through dress? I immediate thought back to when I was in high school.
My freshman and sophomore years I bounced between looks. Corduroys, bowling shirts, and vans briefly replaced baggy jeans and bright tees, only to finally be overtaken by indoor soccer shoes, Adidas soccer tees or jerseys, and jeans or warmup pants (depending on weather). My junior year I even played an entire rec. season of basketball in Sambas and long socks, just to prove I was a soccer player. That was me. That is who I was. I was the soccer guy.
It is surprising that I felt the need to be so easily and clearly pigeonholed by my dress considering I was not only a captain of the soccer team, but also a lawyer on the mock trial team, a performer in all the school plays, a member of a social action educational theatre troupe, a member of National Honor Society, a basketball player, and a bit of a hippy.
Maybe it was because soccer was a slightly fringe sport at my high school– Not as many participants, fewer good players, fewer people who actually understood the sport. Perhaps this scarcity made me more special. More of a standout. I was good at that thing you sucked at during PE because you hadn’t played since you were about six.
I remember during my student teaching taking note of what students had written on their binders. Gymnastics rules! I ❤ tumbling. Nike (swoosh), I love so-and-so, Bandname that is no longer relevant 10 years later. I even recall quite a few that were just a one-word title of an activity – Basketball! Lacrosse! Cooking! (seriously). Each one a billboard proclaiming, “This is me! This is me! This is me! Validate me!”
My dress has changed a bit since high school. I am more likely to be seen suited up, or at least wearing a shirt and tie. My socks usually match the tie. I often get mistaken for an employee at stores after work (which is odd, because Target employees wear red polos, not ties). While I now suit because, well, I like suiting up I can tell you the look started when I was a 22 year old student teacher who looked 17 even if I didn’t shave. I got tired of being asked for a hall pass during my passing period and decided I’d “over-dress” as compared to students and a majority of the other teachers. Putting on professional clothes was my way of saying, “look at me, I’m an adult.”
We often use non-verbal communication to take the place or our words or make words unnecessary. We often carry invisible billboards with unwritten meaning.
How do you dress (most often or “typically”, as I’m sure most of our Sunday lounge wear or football Saturday -college, not pro, duh- may not send the same message) and what does it say about you? What is your billboard?
QOTD – What does the way you dress say about you?