Column: The alternative to ‘the alternative’

Halloween has always been my least favorite holiday merely for the reason that on Halloween, outrageous fashion has no impact. In fact, it is the one recognized time of year primarily concerned with encouraging conformity to non-conformity. Trying to stand out on a day where everyone has the same intention leaves an undesirable option for people interested in avoiding convention. While dressing up would surely mark you as common, not dressing up is usually regarded as not only ordinary, but painfully dull as well-two labels consistently avoided by the fashionably aware.

Newly drunk on the ripe spring sun and breezy beach weather, you may be wondering why, in April, we should be concerned with this bleak day for fall fashion. However, although it has little to do with trick-or-treating, the Halloween dilemma seems to be infiltrating our spring wardrobe. As it gets warmer, and our city school remembers the perks of having a quad, high school-like cliques regroup, and everyone seems to be dressing the part. Lately, the GW spring fashion show on Kogan is less ‘see and be seen’ as ‘see and be scene.’

I have come to accept that the ‘collar-pops’ and ‘Uggs n’ minis’ are a constant at GW-having seen plenty of students still wearing these ever-criticized clich?s. Perhaps they consider their unabashed denial to relinquish their stale attempt at conformity a way to live up to the borrowed meaning behind their ‘Livestrong’ bracelets. This criticism, however, is hardly original, and the people that notice these things have noticed and reacted accordingly. This spring, fashion is all about rebellion, and it’s each clique for themselves.

Style, however, is undeniably cyclical. There is no chicken-egg dilemma surrounding the collar-pop-we know at least one of its derivatives was simply a 1980’s rebellion from the ‘Man’s’ collared shirt. However, if rebellious fashion is inevitable is it really rebellious? As you strut through a sea of sun-burnt students in ripped jeans and anti-establishment police aviators, are you really making a statement when another person is right behind you with the same ‘alternative’ look?

One response to this dilemma has spawned something being called “The Grey Sweat Suit Revolution” (www.thegreysweatsuitrevolution.com), defining itself as “a voluntary experiment in personal and social expression.” It asks its followers to don a plain grey sweat suit at all times in order to stop the fashion machine that they find tediously cyclical. They describe their motivation as being sparked by the realization that they “cannot simply dress weirder than the mainstream in an attempt to dull [their] sense of complicity with western consumer society. Dissent through conscious differentiation simply feeds the fashion system by providing it with fresh expression to appropriate.”

While the idea behind this ‘revolution’ seems like a good one, I don’t believe communistic style is necessarily an effective response to the fashion fascism they seem to be critiquing. Conforming to fight conformity is illogical and anyways, what’s fun about a grey sweat suit? This movement is based on the notion that individualized self expression through fashion is now an impossibility. However, I think it is merely part of the indefinable paradox of consumerist individualism.

So, I put it to you, cliques of GW, to regroup and ask yourselves these proverbial, base questions. What is the sound of one over-sized earring dangling? If someone rebels and no one is around to glare, is it rebellion? There will always be the Ashlee Simpsons to the Jessica Simpsons, The Killers to The Backstreet Boys and the Urban Outfitters to the Abercrombies, but why not advocate for a third party? It may not be original forever, but, you know, there is always the possibility that one time you’ll get it right and be the only one in the room wearing the hippopotamus ballerina costume.

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