Casting aside the cultural ‘rules’ about how a person should look and dress is incredibly liberating. Fashion is all about getting us to buy more, it’s part of a throw away mindset that isn’t viable or responsible. The idea that items of clothing can be unfashionable within a year, long before they have ended their useful life, is nuts. Then there’s the notion that women aren’t inherently beautiful enough and should be smeared with chemicals and animal products. Adverts will encourage you to rub petrochemicals into your skin, and really, we have no idea what the long term consequences of using such products might be.
Mainstream media will tell you that young looking and thin is the only way to be. It’ll sell you hair cuts and colours, tell you what to shave, how to smell (chemical, of course) and generally convince you that the natural human condition is rather disgusting and should be modified or covered up at all costs.
I think what makes people beautiful, is the wisdom, compassion in their eyes. Faces that smile, and look like they get some use rather than being poisoned into immobility with botox. Real faces. Human faces, full of life and experience. Letting go of the product-selling driven images of beauty, we might learn to see each other in wholly different ways.
Clothing, makeup, bling and so forth are in some ways expressions of material wealth, and that appeals on a basic level. Part of our brain is still living in caves, worrying about mammoths and keen to show off shiny stuff to attract a mate. If “see, I have shiny things, make babies with me!” sounds like a life philosophy to you, then you may as well stop reading now.
How we dress is a really obvious form of self expression. It conveys a great deal about who we are. Currently I have all my body hair and am experimenting with being recognisably adult in this regard. Why is pre-pubescent style hairlessness deemed preferable? I’m a mammal. I have hair. I don’t use deodorant, I do use soap. I smell reasonably healthy, so I don’t have to mask my scent. From experience, the scent of healthy people is not unpleasant. It’s stressed, ill folk who tend to smell bad, and what they need is a change of lifestyle, not more perfume to hide the damage.
Appearance is something to play with. Clothes, hair and body adornments – paint, piercing, tattoos etc afford so many ways to play, express and explore. It marks you out as different, as an individual. All those brands say ‘express your individuality through us, by looking just like everyone else’. Why not be truly different? Invent yourself, clothe your flesh and spirit in ways that make sense to you, that fit with how you live. Wear big, unsexy jumpers and turn the heating down.
Going barefoot is wild, radical, unconventional. It used to be a sign of poverty, now it’s an eccentricity for most Westerners. Bare feet put you in touch with the soil, or the tarmac, and make you far more conscious of your surroundings. If you want to be wilder and need a place to start, this is the one I recommend – it costs nothing and is intensely spiritual. Be alert because cuts to feet are nasty, and litter posses dangers, but careful barefoot walking is well worth doing.
If you’re looking to be more creative and expressive in your life, then clothes are a place to start. Don’t reinvent by maxing out a credit card in some big store though. See if you can rework an old garment, buy something vintage or second hand, save up for something hand made. Be adventurous, have fun. If other people find your lack of conformity threatening, be gentle with them, hopefully they will learn!