independent

Friday 17 August 2018

There is more to us than the clothes we wear

Opinion

Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

I was reminded of that line in Shakespeare's Hamlet 'the apparel oft proclaims the man' when I was walking behind a middle-aged man in the first week of May.

There was a hint of some good weather after our long cold wet winter, people were beginning to shed their winter woollies. We were both in a public building. He was wearing a pair of shorts and was dressed for the great outdoors. Maybe it was because he was dressed differently from everyone else around us that I was made conscious of the role fashion plays in our lives.

The clothes we wear play a part in expressing who we are. When we wear clothes that we like it gives us a feeling of wellbeing. Doesn't everyone like to be told that they are looking well? It adds to the general feel-good of our surroundings when people look well.

The clothes we wear originate firstly in the mind of a designer. And most of us want to portray ourselves as best we can. It's an interesting balance between wanting to express our uniqueness and at the same time be part of the fashion of the day. Someone who dresses out of sync with the culture or fashion will always manage to turn heads.

In varying degrees, we all like to make an impression. Some people are more forthright in doing so, others more reticent. We wear clothes to influence. Isn't that part of the explanation of uniforms? When we see a garda on the street we at once recognise her or him by the uniform. That uniform immediately sets up a relationship between the person and the garda. Uniforms give people a title, they tell us who they are.

Somewhat more extreme: it's understandable why shops and public buildings do not allow entry to people wearing motorbike helmets with the visors pulled down. The same applies to people wearing hoodies. It always makes more sense when we are identifiable. There is nothing good about being anonymous

Our clothes say something about our identity, our individuality. They give people some idea about who we are. But they never tell the full story.

There is nothing about our lives that tells the complete story as to who we are. And it is also true that there is always the danger that we become slaves to fashion. The fashion industry is big business and like all businesses it always has to keep its shareholders and investors happy.

On a personal note I am lost to understand why so many people have gone for overall body tattoos. Is the genesis of body art to be found in football fashion? No, it goes back much further than that. What happens when tattoos go out of fashion? It's easy to change a coat or a jacket. Not so a tattoo.

There is more to us than the clothes we wear. And just as fashions change so too are our ideas on life and how we manage our affairs. There is something whimsical, accidental about our lives. What we wear can easily mirror all that is accidental and whimsical about our lives.

While fashions change style always catches the eye. There is something nuanced about our lives and reality, so too with style.

Wexford People

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