Dr. Taco’s notes

Do people hide behind clothes?

Some evenings ago, my partner and I were on the sofa watching the show “Queer Eye” (as usual after a work day), and there was this episode about a woman in Texas in her 60s, who was dressing very provocatively and what one could say very teenagy (very short skirts and shorts, deep cleavage, color and pattern explosion, and she also had the stereotypical long fake-blond hairstyle since forever). Along the show, they explore why is she dressing this way, whether it’s actually who she is now, and why she refuses to change. The result was a very low image of herself and thinking that by staying in the outfits of her 20s, she would be 20 forever.

Removing the “something more adequate for your age” line, the episode made me think about how we as humans hide behind (inside) our clothes, either for a certain event, activity or even just to avoid looks and comments. From this woman in the episode, I came to think that maybe it’s this scenario where you grow up, dress as others around you to fit in, and then forget to find yourself. Because you can get older and still have the same style as when you’re 20, but it evolves along your life. I don’t mean that the look should depend on your age, but on where you live, what you do every day, the weather, and even health conditions.

Let me give you an example: I always liked Converse shoes, but when I was a teenager, I couldn’t afford to have more than one pair every few years, so when I started to make more money, I got several pairs in different colors, and I would wear them regularly until a couple of years ago. Now, I still like them, but due to an orthopedic condition, I can’t wear them as often as I’d like (even adapted with appropriate inlays), so I had to look for alternatives that I like, that have the same conversy vibe, but are suitable for me and my circumstances. It would be a mistake on my side to keep wearing them, in spite of this, mainly because my feet and back would hate me, but above all, because I’m conscious that they aren’t for me anymore.

I have seen in people I know, these phenomena of “refusing to change”, “wearing gigantic/diminute clothing” and also “wearing all the colors of the rainbow” — it’s something that doesn’t recognize age or nationality, but I can say I have seen them more often here in Berlin (I’m not sure why, and this is just my biased view of course). I think that this is probably a reflection of hiding in clothing, like if wearing a mask to cover our identity, we cover who we are with clothes. I don’t want to look older, so I’ll wear the same kind of clothes as a teenager; I don’t like the shape of my body, so I’ll wear an oversized t-shirt to conceal the curves; I want to feel I’m going against the rules, so I’ll wear clothes in insanely bright colors that don’t match. These are all merely speculations of course.

But thinking of this, brought me to wonder if there would be a connection between our inner self, our emotions, our family and people around us, and even the community or society where we live, after all, we are very complex living beings and it’s not possible to reduce our behaviors to simple assumptions.

Some research has been made around the topic of how our emotions are altered by the clothes we wear, it is apparently a bi-directional relation, where if our clothes are “sad” we would transfer this to ourselves, in the same way if we feel “excited”, we would have a clothing choice that suits this. However, how “sad” or “excited” reflects on each of us, is as different as a snowflake.

On the other hand, there has been research also on how in the pursuit of belonging, we follow trends, styles, and looks from others (we have the Instagram generation here); and this increases the pressure when looking different or oddly while walking on the street.

I come from a culture where dressing is important, used as a means of showing status and money, as a way of showing belonging and identity, and even as a way of unity and standards. I grew up in a family of low financial resources (let’s not be so formal, poor family), yet I remember my mom would always bring our attention to look clean and neat, with matching colors, and what was her concept of “decent”. This impacted how I dressed then and even how I do it now.

I have now a lot of thoughts and not many conclusions about this, I guess this calls for more observation and reading. This means I’ll continue observing random people on the street and imagining why they decided to wear this or that, and probably making up some stories in my head.