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Sense of Belonging in Our Society
Fashion is one of those things that people can claim they don't care about. They can defend again and again that it doesn't matter what one wears, it's the person who wears it. But in all likelihood they will continue to be judged, as we all are, for the clothes on our body, the shoes on our feet and the hairstyle we are sporting.
In one journal entry I wrote, I brought to light that the popular group is something that every one of us, for some reason feels as though we need to be a part of. This is from my own experience and things I have observed throughout my four-year career in high school. I think it was perhaps worse in junior high, however. When you are in seventh and eighth grade you are not sure of who you are and are desperately searching around for something to belong to, to be a part of. Why is this, why are we a society that are most often drawn to the most popular, "cool" and "beautiful" that high school has to offer? Why is acceptance the most important thing to us, is belonging really as important as losing your own sense of self? Who you hang out with, who your closest friends are as an adolescent without a doubt help to shape who you are. And it's funny that you seem to end up being friends with the ones who are the same type of people as you. Same fashion sense, taste in music or cars and movies. When searching for an identity in high school, it is hard not to just attempt to pick up the one that seems the most socially acceptable. I know that my personal experiences include these conforming characteristics. Still as a freshman in college I am constantly looking at the fashion of my peers, wondering to myself "do they think I fit in"? This was especially true the first few weeks of college when I wasn't sure who my good friends were going to be; I made sure that I dressed as well as I could everyday, in all the new clothes I had bought specifically for college.
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And it's not all about fashion either; these people have the same morals and values as me for the most part, which is even more interesting. Is it our family upbringing? I was raised in a very Irish, Catholic household, as a few of these girls were, maybe that's one factor. Another factor I guess could be social class. We are all basically from middle, working class families; we all have chores and part-time jobs and have to pay for our own car insurance or little things like that.
To further my interest on this subject, I thought it was best to take a little survey of a few girls that I have become friends with since I got here, and compare them to myself. My results shocked me more then I thought they would.
I asked eight girls a series of four questions. All these girls are 18 years old and live on my floor, excluding my RA who is older, but also answered the questions. I chose these certain girls for a reason, I have grown comfortable around them, and they are people who I would call my friends. My hypothesis was that girls my age are drawn to people who have the same types of fashion as them. It turns out I was correct for the most part.
Question one was, "Do you feel you are stereotyped or judged by what you wear"? The responses were six yes's, one somewhat and one definite no. The I asked the yes's to explain why they had answered this way, they all answered basically the same, they felt that people were more likely to talk to them if they were dressed nicely and on the other hand if they were dressed comfortably they were looked at like they were slobs. One girl said, "I believe that clothes are a way that people first view each other for example if you see someone walking down the street in something nice, I would feel more comfortable approaching them than someone who was dressed like a thug". One girl brought up the fact that she is Puerto Rican and dark skinned, therefore when she is all dressed up in her thug clothes people tend to be a little frightened and that bothers her, because sometimes its just what she likes to wear. Another interesting answer I got from question was the fact that this girl felt you "have to" wear what's in fashion, even if you don't really like it, or you will be considered an outcast.
The next question I posed to the girls was, " What would you describe as your style"? Basically everyone, in one form or another said that they enjoy comfortable clothes, if they had a choice. Every girl but one used the word casual to describe their self
Question three was this, "Think about your close friends, do they have the same style as you or are they different, if so are they drastically different"? Most agreed that since they have come to college, they are friends with people who have a little more variety in their fashion. The girls often said that their friends at home tend to dress the same as they do, sharing clothes and shopping at the same stores.
Then my final question to the girls was, "What is your favorite store"? This question generated a majority; five people answered American Eagle, which happens to be my favorite store. Other answers included other stores I always shop in, such as, Old Navy, H & M, Deb and Express.
My guess what right! I am drawn to people who share the same fashion sense as I do. Eight of my closest friends at college picked the same store as me as their favorite. I am still being drawn to the people who have the same fashion sense as me, and it will probably continue for the rest of my life.
I wish I would have been more secure with myself in high school because then it probably would have been much easier to build friendships with people instead of just putting them in a clique that you would not put yourself in. The hot jock boys, the pretty cheerleaders, the smart people, the skaters, there are so many groups. It is rare to find a well-rounded person in high school that fits into all of these or at least accepts them or is accepted by them. One of my close friends ended up being homecoming king. I think mostly it was because he was a solid mixture of all the cliques stated above. He was a soccer player, very smart, dated cheerleaders and was good friends with the skater/snowboarder boys. Never being mean to any of them and just putting on whatever tee shirt was clean in the morning, I think that was what made him so appealing to my entire grade. So maybe it's more girls than guys that focus on this whole fashion thing. Many girls I have talked to seem totally mean the first time I meet them. This is because girls see each other as competition for a guy, which is something that my friends and I discuss all the time. Why do we do that? We are automatically put on the defensive; we do not look at the person on the inside, but concentrate very deeply on comparing this girl to ourselves. Is she prettier, does she have more expensive clothes on than me, better make up; is she more attractive to guys? Guys, I think, could care less about comparing them selves to other guys regarding attracting women. All they really want to know is if this guy could beat them in a game of basketball.
Now that I am comfortable with my new found college friends, I wonder if I will continue to act the same way I did in high school, I, especially before I found my true friends and was comfortable with who I was, would be the first one to go out and find the newest and best fashions so everyone would think I was cool and up to date. I never really felt like an outsider because I have never worn anything that could be seen as out of the mainstream. I never felt confident enough with myself to attempt a new fashion that was not already socially accepted. In college I feel more confident with myself and my sense of fashion. I think people here are not judging people so much on looks, not consciously, well not as much as in high school anyway; looking at personalities than fashion sense forms new friendships.