Columns, Opinion

RODRIGUE: Great minds dress alike

I went out on a date a few Wednesdays ago with a fashion-savvy friend of mine. He’s a card-carrying member of a rare breed of fashion-savvy straight men, one that manages to get away with wearing bowties and sportscoats and Technicolor Nike high-tops all at once without ever being negatively judged by closed-minded jerks for doing it. He’s the kind of guy whose style I envy ‘-‘- it’s markedly effortless, or at least, as effortless as it could get, considering the mystifying nature of ascots.
We were walking home from Croma when we realized ‘-‘- I think it hit us both simultaneously at one particularly well-lit intersection ‘-‘- that we were dressed identically. No, really, our outfits were legitimately the same, save for the few gender-correct nippings in the waist here and tuckings of the collar there. Black skinny jeans, white dress shirts with navy pinstriping (his was an Oxford; mine, more of a tunic), and khaki toppers (his, a coat; mine, a cardigan). Our leather shoes were of the exact same camel coloring. It was a little bit funny ‘-‘- just another night in the life of a couple of hipsters ‘-‘- the two of us, trying to impress one another with our unique fashion eccentricities, wearing the same H&M-vintage-skinny-layered concoctions. Funny in the kind of way that you sigh for a long time after laughing. Funny like the kind that emanates inevitable irony.
It got me thinking about the strange conundrum of the millennial fashionistas. We go to great lengths to stand out and one-up one another, yet we end up always looking the same. The more unique we are, the more we look like we walked out of an Urban Outfitters catalog. It’s a painful realization that just when you think your high-waisted jeans are higher than anyone else’s, one-third of your Monday morning lecture is wearing waistbands up to their ribcages. Even that one-of-a-kind glamour of shopping vintage is waning on us ‘-‘- everyone and their 13-year-old little sister has a plaid flannel button-down with the same awkwardly shaped shoulder seams and kneecap-skimming hemlines.
‘Damn it all,’ we say, and we cut our high-waisted jeans into shorts, and then find that everyone’s detached fraying denim threads are coalescing in our dorm dryer filters.
But this is just the nature of trends, right? And people have been analyzing this stuff for years. But what of the anti-trend? What of the truly meta phenomenon of trying so hard to evade trends that you end up inspiring them? What of kaffiyehs being sold at Walmart?
It’s nothing new to assert that our generation is one of gratuitous rebellion ‘-‘- we’re just a bunch of pushers. Anything slightly mainstream or conventional is boring ‘-‘- for if it already has a universally accepted place, we have no way of claiming it for ourselves. But all things ‘weird’ are open for manipulation ‘-‘- we are, for example, the first group of people in history willing to spend extra money on destroyed denim. And we thrift shop because we like to take previously conventional castaways and reinvent them. Bored and with not much cause for revolution, we take solace in re-upholstering an Ikea chair with the fabric from a Goodwill tapestry.
So will all of that effort being put into thriftiness, craftiness and uniqueness, how is it possible that there’s still so much fashion assimilation? The answer to that question is probably the same answer to the question of how American Apparel can manage to actually profit enough from their gold lam’eacute; leggings to keep making them season after season. Whatever the reason, it makes us work hard to try to maintain our fashion individualities. We dig through the massive piles of rejected sale items at Urban Outfitters because we think no one else has the energy to, and we think we’ll find something one-of-a-kind. We humiliate ourselves with those ridiculous American Apparel neon finds because we think no one else has the gall to try and pull it off. But then we go home defeated, because we are always wrong.
The irony of it ‘-‘- and maybe we realize this and like it, maybe we think it makes us that much more subversive ‘- is that while so many generations of young people before us have worked so hard to come together for a common rebellion, we work so hard to isolate ourselves. And over clothing, of all things. Can’t we all just accept that we’re a fermenting generation? That we only care so much about separating ourselves physically because we have nothing to unite over socially? Can’t we just stop lying to each other when someone asks us where we got our leather boots and we say, ‘They were my mom’s in the 80s’?
And if it’s this impossible to stand out with your fashion ‘-‘- and this is painful for me to admit ‘-‘- that just means it’s time to pick a different way to be unique. And in the meantime, when you’re walking to class and someone walks past you wearing the same hoodie-leggings-Obama T-shirt combo you’re wearing, just relax. At least you’re in good company.

Lauren Rodrigue, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, is a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at

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