Walking down the street wearing my favorite faded Levi’s and vintage Jimi Hendrix t-shirt with the classic black and white Converse Chuck Taylors distinguishes me from the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd, especially when I wear my Ray-Ban sunglasses and tie-dyed bandana. My style choices fit in and complement my alternative and earth-conscious lifestyle because fashion is an important indicator of what a person’s unique values and interests are.
Living in such a saturated consumer culture means that it is impossible to avoid being branded. That being the case, I feel it is important to consciously choose what type of image to adopt. I disagree with people who claim that image is everything; however your image does mark you as an individual within a certain subculture.
In my case I identify with rock and alternative music that is socially conscious therefore I choose to wear clothes that reflect those interests. In marking myself this way I can make myself visible to the outside culture in a way that will hopefully draw the attention and acceptance of like-minded individuals, or at least it will hopefully lead to an interesting discussion with people who may not agree with my fashion sense.
I know this because it happens all the time, although many times it will be me going up to someone with an Abercrombie shirt on and asking them what they like about paying seventy-five dollars for pre-torn jeans when they could come with me to the thrift shop and get a pair of torn jeans for five dollars. They will most often tell me that they do not like the idea of wearing clothes that other people have already worn, or that they just like the way brand new jeans feel, or that they had a gift card to the store, or that their girlfriend likes that them in that brand, or that all the cool models wear that brand, or that all of their friends shop there, or etc…
On the other hand, there are people like myself who love to shop second-hand and for as many reasons as people like to shop at the mall. Personally, I like digging through old clothes trying to find the random gem, like my Jimi concert t-shirt from Woodstock that I got for three dollars and seventy-five cents. I also like the idea of second-hand shopping because it is a form of recycling that eliminates some of the demand for the creation of new clothes.
The fact that in sweatshops around the third world people (and sometimes children) are working away their lives for meager pay just so that the first world can dress themselves in brand new clothes and be at the cutting edge of fashion is appalling. I would much rather wear the rags of a generation ago than to support that practice.
Of course not all brands and companies that produce new clothes are earth-sucking evil-doers, but some are, including many that I see our consumer culture wearing all the time in the commercials, in the malls, and on the streets. And of course I have purchased new clothes, we all have, but as I have grown older and learned more about the global supply chain, my consumer habits have become much more eco-conscious. With this in mind, when I do buy new stuff I buy from companies that support environmentally safe production methods and from companies that support progressive labor rights issues. My fashion, my self, my life.