Band members at Mayne High School were expected to wear a Mayne Mustangs Band shirt on gameday or before they were about to leave for a tournament or something like that. It was a pretty simple shirt with the Mustang logo on the left breast and the words Mustang Band written in a circle. For the most part the band members hated it. It singled them out as band people. A quarter of the school would be wearing the same damn shirt. Almost nobody was caught dead in one unless they had to wear it.
I can’t remember how I got a hold of one, but somehow I did. I had it in my regular shirt rotation and wore it quite frequently. People would periodically ask why I wore it or express surprise that I was in band because they’d never seen me before. When I explained that I wasn’t in band but that I liked navy blue and red and breast-logos shirts, I’d usually get a “cool”. The fact that I wasn’t in band made my wearing the shirt okay. Kinda cool, even. In the end I probably got more compliments on that shirt than any other shirt that I wore.
A while back, in response to something that I wrote a while back, Bob said:
You can put the Trumwill in Skidz, but you can’t take the slacks off of the Trumwill. Those things that identify us as losers aren’t the same things that cause us to be losers. Unfortunately, we don’t always appreciate this difference though. Pick-up guides focus on how to *display* high social value. They list attributes and tell you to do those things. Identify those people; watch them; do what they do. Fake it till you make it. (I’m sure there are some exceptions to this, but this seems to be a dominant theme.)
That is of course true. Often true, though is that context matters a great deal. For a mohawk to make a statement, it needs to be rare. My brother has a freckle on his ear where a piercing would be and when he was young he got a lot of looks because it appeared that his ear was pierced. Today, of course, a pierced ear is nothing. Doing the same thing carries a different meaning in a different context. It’s all contextual.
That’s one reason why it’s different when a popular kid wears something dorky than when a dorky kid does the same. For the former, it is adding an element of unpredictability or irony, whereas for the latter it’s simply reinforcing the existing negative perception. A cool kid wearing cool things reinforces positive perceptions about him whereas a dorky kid doing the same is adding an element of desperation and it just totally reeks of effort, which is (or was when I was young) a huge no-no.
This of course boxes the lower high school social classes into their station. Though it’s a risk to liken the man that won the popular vote to become the President of the United States as an outcast, I nonetheless have come to call this The Second Al Gore Dilemma. In 2000, Al Gore was in the position that he could either accept the perception of him being a square with edges made entirely of dull or he could try to change that and then most odiously reeking of effort. According to many in person Gore is a very warm and personable guy but he was effectively prevented from conveying that by popular perceptions.
The second aspect that makes it extremely difficult for lower people to become upper people simply by dressing the part is that there are all sorts of minutiae (if it’s even small, sometimes it’s huge) that someone that is not more intimately familiar with fashion does not know and that will frequently reveal him or her to be someone on the outside desperately looking in, which is about the only thing worse than someone simply slumming it on the outside.
As I was gradually making my way through school baseball caps and football jerseys were going the cycle from Cool to Standard to Banned. What’s to know about wearing a baseball cap? Well, for starters you have to get one of those expensive $20 official MLB caps instead of one of those with the weaved backs. I didn’t realize this and instead wore a Cane Buddies junior cap for the local Colosse Canes if I was wearing an MLB cap at all (and of course I wore it straight rather than cocked to the side). Likewise, my “jersey” wasn’t a jersey so much as it was a simple cotton fake jersey thing (and for the wrong team, to boot) and lo and behold it got me know headway on the popularity front. When I was in college, blue collar gas station shirts with foreign names on them like Habib or Ernesto were all the rage… but it was a no-no to tuck in your shirt as I always did. Being in college I was too old to care and I liked the shirts for a different reason (3 for $1! Relentlessly casual!), but had I been in junior high at the time it was devastating.
As a general principle, if the rules don’t sufficiently favor the haves over the have-nots new rules will be devised to close any loopholes. By the time people like me get caught up on a fashion it’s already on its way out. By the time lower class people can afford to move into a neighborhood the wealthier people are moving out. When a fat girl can look good in something the fashionistas will go out of their way to find something that only the thinnest 1/2 of 1% look good in and it will be the next big thing.