Are Clothes Necessary To A Decent Life?

Artwork: Bonnie Burns

Over the course of your existence you will spend 287 days dressing yourself. This is ironic given our less than fashionable entrance into the living world; covered in blood, with all our bits out for everyone to see. Clothing is about our physical bodies. It implies protection, safety and health. Article 25 of the Unit- ed Nations Declaration of Human Rights argues that, alongside food and housing, clothes are necessary to a ‘decent life’.

On some levels it really is that simple. After all, it’s not just smelly backpackers who’ll claim that all you need is an outfit’s worth of stuff. Steve Jobs famously wore the same black jumper, jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. From these perspectives, deliberating our clothing choices distracts from more important thoughts. Ergo the criticism of fashion is inconsequential at best and narcissistic at worst.

Even a cursory glance at the industry’s history will show you that this is anything but true. It is no co- incidence that Coco Chanel’s adaptation of the suit to the female body aligned with first-wave feminist movements. It is also no coincidence that the shoulders on American jackets are wider and boxier than other continental designs. If your mind is the director and your body is the stage, then the clothes you wear are the actors.

Fashion is a quotidian form of art. By analysing the symbols, we momentarily understand the composer. In my mid-teens, my outfits predominantly consisted of shapeless t-shirts and sportswear. After a series of humiliating catcalling incidents, I’d grown wary of my body and the unwanted attention it brought me. In some ways I was hiding, but in other ways I was taking the power back. If sexualisation was an inevitability, then at the very least I wanted to set the terms of when and where. The next time you see a girl wearing a short skirt, remember this – Mary Quant invented them so women could dance more freely.

But it’s not just about women. Men, too, can take the power back. The most handsome guy I know wears women’s jewellery. A limited realm of social accept- ability makes the task slightly more challenging, but nevertheless worthwhile. Another man I know wears mostly all black, a hardness which juxtaposes against his shoulder length hair and form-fitting tops. When I asked him if he chooses these clothes deliberately, he said “it shows people that I don’t fuck with all of this” and by this I knew exactly what he meant. I don’t fuck with it either. The abstract dress codes and unintelligible washing labels we are supposed to understand, despite never being taught how to dress for our bodies, not against.

My lecturers like to tell me that what separates humans from other animals is consciousness, but I think it’s more complex than that. After all, no ordinary cat, dog or bird could look at their own body, then decide to cover it in squeaky latex a la Kim Kardashian. It takes a certain kind of ingenuity to know how a body should look and then proceed to do the opposite. Use this glitch to your advantage – and don’t be afraid to post an #ootd.