A while back, a reader wrote to me to weigh in on an older post about outside influences on style choices. She asserted that, as a teen, she dressed as she wished and ignored the opinions of her peer group. She also felt that the generations moving through puberty and into adulthood right now are considerably more immune to peer influence … that kids these days don’t care what people think about how they look or dress. Furthermore, she stated that she felt no impact from outside opinions at all, be they negative or positive.
But in my opinion, everyone is influenced by the opinions of friends and peers and the outside world. Some women allow themselves to be overtly influenced by their peer group, and dress similarly to their friends and acquaintances. They go with the flow, fit into the mainstream, and are quite happy there. Some women dress “how they want,” which sometimes translates to dressing in unusual or outrageous clothes, or clothing associated with certain philosophies, cultural movements, or scenes. And more power to them for doing so, if it makes them feel strong and positive about themselves. But there’s often an element of rebellion in that kind of dressing, and that is outside influence at play. If you’re pushing against something, that something is influencing your behavior. Also there are generally a few other people in the peer groups of rebellious dressers who dress similarly. Again, these folks may be fitting in with a FAR smaller segment of the population, but they’re still fitting in.
As for not caring what people think, I guess I’m not sure that’s truly possible, either. Resisting negative comments is not the same as not caring. Those comments generally still hurt … or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, may reinforce behaviors and choices surrounding image and dressing. Resisting positive comments is not the same as not-caring, either. That immunity may be tied to poor self-image, often a result of hypervigilance about outside opinions. To truly not care about style and dressing, one would have to join a nudist colony. We all dress ourselves, we all make decisions about how to do so. We have taste, likes, dislikes, physical needs and preferences, and all of those things are expressed in our stylistic choices.
And none of that is BAD. It just is. Humans aren’t meant to live in isolation – physical or psychological – and accepting the influence of those around us is what makes us social creatures. We express ourselves through dressing, and that is never done in a vacuum.
Image courtesy Boden
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