Is Fashion an Exercise in Prejudice?

The majority of my clothing budget for the last 5 years was spent on suits.  For the banking industry, it’s a uniform.  You show up in in a nice suit, well put together, and people assume you’re on top of your game.  If you show up in something less, people start to ask what happened.  It’s almost like wearing your resume.

I always liked my suits.  They were all tailored so they were among my most comfortable clothes.  They had a lot of personal detail like lining, monograms, etc.  It was also easy to come up with a bit of style, almost like the suit was a template where you just had to pick a few colors that went together.  For the first time in my life, people actually thought I had style.

So I left banking in January and now I work in the cannabis sector.  I don’t really wear my suits anymore.  I look for excuses to wear them here and there, and still suit up for big meetings with old colleagues, but the suit now carries baggage with it.  In banking, the suit was an exercise in putting your best foot forward.  In cannabis, the suit seems to represent the establishment, corporate greed, and a lack of liberal values.  Ironically, I’ve been dealing with far more prejudice in this environment than I ever did in the ‘corporate’ world.

The Cannabis industry seems to be filled with entrepreneurs and employees who hold a great deal of distrust for ‘business people’.  The suit is the uniform of such people.  If you see someone in a suit, it’s best to assume they’re a threat.  Lovely.

All good, I’m adaptable.  I started to break out the jeans, sweaters and t shirts that hadn’t seen much action over the last decade and made an effort to be a little more casual.  Casual wasn’t necessarily more comfortable, but it seemed to fit the environment and I really didn’t mind it.  Eventually, one of the founders started poking fun at my style of casual clothes (probably rightfully so), and suggested that we do a shopping trip in the near future where she would introduce me to some modern fashion.

That was last week.  I basically let her lead the way through the shopping district and tried on everything that she put in front of me.  For her, the focus was on making me appear ‘softer’.  I don’t mind soft.. Lions, tigers and bears are plenty soft.

Pretty quick, I was told no V-neck shirts.  I didn’t bother asking why because I’ve heard that V-necks are for douche bags at least a few times.  I didn’t know that douche bags were so geometrically inclined but was annoyed that they apparently ruined the 6 V-neck t-shirts I had at home.  Personally, I don’t understand why the V-neck or U-neck would hold any relevance, so I decided it was best to go with the flow.

Next came pants.  I grew up wearing baggy jeans, and it was awesome.  There was plenty of room to move around, they were comfortable, room to put stuff in your pockets, and they would still fit if you grew a bit.  Around 2010, I remember going shopping at the local hip hop store for another pair and finding out that they were now only selling skinny jeans.  I was told this was the new style, and ended up buying a pair.  I literally wore those jeans less than 5 times until I dropped them off at the salvation army 5 years later.  The tapered leg looked a bit silly with my shoes at the time, but it was mostly an issue with comfort and function.  I have a big bum and big thighs to begin with, but squeezing into these made me look and feel like a sausage.  Things wouldn’t fit in my pockets and everything got super-tight in all the wrong places when I sat down.  As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to pants shopping in 2017.

Most of what I tried on looked like spandex and was not comfortable.  For me being able to move around and sit down without discomfort seems like a reasonable prerequisite for buying clothes.  If they fit well when you’re standing like a manikin but start to burst at the seems when you sit down – they don’t fit.  I had some resistance on this claim from the fashionista, but I stood my ground.  One of my comments was that the pants were so tight than I wouldn’t be able to put anything in my pockets (keys, wallet, cellphone).  She said that’s why I needed to start carrying a man purse.

Let me get this straight… I’m supposed to sacrifice functionality, comfort, range of motion, and money, to buy clothing which is more in-line with today’s expectations of how people should be expressing themselves through fashion.

Isn’t fashion supposed to be self-expression?  If my brand of self expression was classic, timeless, functional, and comfortable, shouldn’t I be steering clear of skinny jeans?  Or do I start wearing the uniform of the socially acceptable?  As a kid, I remember seeing everyone wearing wide-leg jeans and casting prejudice on people who wanted to wear skinny jeans.  With the cyclical nature of fashion, now the dynamic is apparently reversed.  With that knowledge, there’s no way I can buy into the dynamic of one being right and one being wrong.

By the end the trip, I bought 3 pairs of pants.  2 will have to be altered to fit my over-sized legs and bum.  The other may never see the light of day, although I’ll concede that they’re quite comfortable.

Whether you’re wearing a suit or dress, khakis or ripped jeans, wing-tips or flip flops, we all need to get better at judging people on who they are.  There is absolutely creativity, artistry, and personal expression in deciding how you dress, but replacing your clothes on a frequent and ongoing basis to conform to fashion standards set by others is downright silly.  Almost as silly as assuming that someone who wears a suit is a corporate douche bag, or assuming that someone who rocking dreadlocks is a lazy stoner.

If I were to redesign the fashion industry, everything would be done to custom measurements.  We all come in different shapes and sizes, most people do not fit ‘off-the-rack’.  Then we would have fabric designers.  People who create the different prints and fabrics of the world because that’s what they love to do. Then we have the clothing architects who build the blueprints of the clothes we want to wear.  Then we would have the option for custom details that make those items truly unique.  Finally, manufacturing would take place where ever it made economic sense.  We should be closing in on the fully automated manufacturing of clothing within the next decade so picking up a few items of clothing at your local shop should be a non-issue sooner than later.

If we could decentralize the design and manufacturing of clothing, then it would no longer be major designers and retails looking to set fashion trends and rotate them for the sake of new inventory.  It would be the designers  of the world, and the people who identify with their designs.  With greater decentralization comes a more transparent view of what the world’s fashion really looks like.  With a clearer perspective, comes a greater understanding and with a greater understanding, there’s less room for prejudice.

Once we get there, I may invest in a clothing line.  I’ll call it something pragmatic… like Function.  These clothes would be designed by an algorithm that considered:

  1. Custom measurements for sizing
  2. range of motion for the cut
  3. climate and intended use for fabric
  4. Personal requests around functionality for things like zippers and pocket

The algorithm would take all these details into consideration, and then produce a piece of clothing with all the required specifications, with the least amount of fabric, at the lowest cost.  Each piece would theoretically come with a perfect fit, unrivaled comfort, made with the most strategic fabric, and designed with the functionality of the wearer in mind.  The clothing would also be made for the lowest cost possible, with the least amount of fabric possible – leading to great value and an efficient sense of style.

Pretty sure it’s all going to look like spandex eventually.

Author: Author

In an age of promotion before substance, let's try substance before promotion. I'm hoping anonymity will help keep a focus on the ideas but I do understand wanting to connect to the person behind them. Let's split the difference with some fun facts: I have a professional crush on Harvey Specter, Bruce Wayne is my favourite superhero, and I share a personality type with the likes of Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, and Lex Luthor.

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