Since living in the city I’ve noticed the difference between how people react when I’m dressed up versus when I’m wearing sweatpants. If I’m in a dress and pumps, people behind desks sit up a little straighter and smile more. People look at me and men tend to cat-call more frequently. Even if I’m wearing something with a popular name brand (North Face, Patagonia, etc.) I’ll notice a change in how people address me. They look at the trivial logo on your chest like it’s a nametag. If WalMart had a brand name logo, I can’t imagine the looks I’d get from some girls at my school. When I see someone decked out in designer clothes I feel a little intimidated. Why?
It’s ridiculous to spend $200 on Lululemon yoga pants so that you can show off the logo on your ass while you do downward facing dog. It’s also ridiculous to regard people differently because they have nice things. It’s not definitive of anything other than their ability to cash out on them. Jonah Lehrer at Wired explains a study that showed that our tendency to appreciate brand authenticity stems from childhood, when we first learned the sentimental value of our blankie versus another one. He compares our blankie to real brands and the other one to knockoffs. What happens, then, when we don’t have the money to afford the brand name? I’ve found there are ways to do it despite having negligible funds. The real secret is to put down some of your pride and shop at thrift shops instead of overpriced department stores. At times, though, in the midst of desperately searching for a pair of Coach boots on eBay, I consider the triviality of it. Who really gives a damn whether I’m wearing Target or Coach boots, sweatpants or slacks?
The answer? Nobody. It’s a courtesy to dress up for work or when you’re going somewhere that it’s expected. Other than that, I think a lot of people (women especially) care too much about perfecting their appearance. I’ve been trying to wean myself off wearing a full face of makeup every day, but it’s difficult. I can imagine that if I continue doing it, I’ll end up craving corrective surgery, which Splice Today’s Raymond Cummings correctly referred to as “an expensive cry for help.” Few people would notice if I went a day without concealer, foundation, eye shadow, blush, lipstick, eyeliner and mascara. I’m simply used to looking at myself with makeup on, so when I see myself without it I can’t help but cringe. Lately though, I’ve been going to the grocery store in sweatpants just because I can. Sometimes I only put on foundation and mascara. I know it seems silly but it’s the start of a big change.
—Follow Sarah Grace McCarthy on Twitter: @birdy_grace