Walking through high school hallways on a daily basis, a whirlwind of brand names and styles can be seen: the preppy Polo, Lacoste and the occasional Vineyard Vines, the clean but not-so-preppy Hollister and Abercrombie; and the unique Hot Topic and H&M.
When you get up in the morning, you might throw on your favorite Nike shirt with the huge swoosh across the chest. After school you might go shopping at your favorite stores, maybe J.Crew or Forever 21. In the midst of all this shopping, have you ever asked yourself why you buy what you buy? Long gone are the days in which your mother brought you something home from the usual department stores. Now that you’re older, you have stepped into a certain type of clothing to give yourself your own style. Why do you wear what you wear?
Thomas Maggio, a senior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute, provided insight on his favorite brand.
“I like wearing Lacoste because it’s different,” he said. “Not everyone wears it.”
This particular brand provides Thomas with uniqueness, a way of setting himself apart from everyone else.
We live in an increasingly visual world, and clothing allows people to say something about themselves on a visual level. Buying clothes from obscure brands allows individuals to stick out and give themselves a certain identity.
Courtney Wilk, a senior at Williamsville East High School, proposes a slightly different idea as to why people wear what they wear.
“Sometimes people dress how they want to dress to fit in with a certain group,” Courtney said. “Sometimes it can’t be helped due to social pressures and peer influence, but society has a huge impact on how these kids choose to dress. Teenagers just want to be accepted; sometimes they question their wardrobe choices because they want to be liked for who they are, but by doing so they kind of lose themselves.”
Courtney highlights one of the underlying issues in teen clothing choices: Teens inadvertently try to send a message about who they are and what they want to be through their clothing choices. Someone’s values, ideas and personality can’t be discerned immediately, so clothes and style can provide a medium for communicating what’s inside. Sometimes, their individuality is lost in their desire to just be accepted and to identify themselves with a group, not as an individual, she said.
Melissa Patnella, a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy, agrees with the resounding notion that people wear clothes with a purpose, and use it to show who they are on the inside.
“There are so many options available,” Melissa said. “People choose what they’re comfortable in, and what they choose to wear is a personal expression of themselves. People take the time to be artsy with their clothes. Each identity has a correlating style that helps to describe them.”
But, is there more to it?
Timothy O’Shei is the founder of Live ... Starring You! (live-starringyou.com), a pop-culture media and educational organization based out of Mount St. Mary Academy. Through his work, he has been exposed to many of the trends of fashion and style of both teens and their celebrity counterparts.
O’Shei says there are several reasons why people choose to wear what they wear.
“I think, usually, it’s with a purpose beyond simply thinking that it looks good,” O’Shei said. “I think it’s in various levels. I think the first level is ‘Hey, this looks cool.’ The second level is, ‘This looks cool and brings out part of my personality.’ ”
O’Shei recalls an example in which he recently met an actor and describes how she wore an eye-popping accessory that said something about her on a deeper level.
“She was wearing a wide belt that sat on her waist; in the middle of the belt was a large lion head,” he said. “It added fierceness to her personality, an edge. It was like underneath her sweetness was a fierce motivation. The lion made that aspect of her personality tangible.”
He went on to point out that there was a third level of what forms teens’ wardrobe decisions. “What they wear not only conveys their personality, but they want everyone to see and join something about them.”
So the next time you decide to pick out an outfit for school, a date or a night out with friends, think about what you’re trying to represent, and what part of your personality you want the world to see.
O’Shei agrees with what Courtney, Melissa, Tom and many other teens believe.
“Fashion not only expresses personality, but it pushes something about you to the world,” he said.
Patrick Asamoah is a senior at St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute.