Culture Column: The young and the tasteless

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I consider myself a pretty “in the know” person when it comes to fashion. Although I don’t always dress the part, I try to keep myself up to date on the latest trends and what is walking down the runways. Not often do I get shocked by something that someone is wearing, as I have either seen it before, or have tried something similar, but nothing prepared me for what I was going to see on this occasion. 

I attended a birthday party for a family member recently, and everything was wonderful. The food was delicious, the atmosphere was great, and everyone was having fun, until one of the newest trends waltzed its way through the doors of the Knights of Columbus. 

“I can see her nipple rings,” I muttered through my teeth to my sister, as everyone’s eyes in the joint made their way to this girl’s chest. As soon as the words left my mouth, that little voice in my head told me it wasn’t very nice. I am all for bold choices and trying something new, but I still got so shocked. Why? 

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Since over-analyzing everything on earth is a frequent pastime of mine, of course I really beat myself up over initially passing judgment on someone for simply expressing themselves. Why, that is exactly what most of the people I walk past everyday do to me. 

I picked on myself about it for days, as any good Catholic lets guilt eat them away to nothing. I even tried pinning it on my religious upbringing, which could be partly to blame, but I really wanted a better, more forgiving reason that I was flabbergasted at the sight of someone’s piercings making themselves known to the room. 

If you understand what it’s like to be an outsider to the world, you would be able to comprehend my childhood. Most kids didn’t talk to me because I only spoke about Judy Garland and quoted the musical “Anything Goes.”

Do you know who loved me though? Old women. I remember being a little boy and sitting up at my father’s barbershop, just gabbing away at the old Bettys that were getting their weekly wash and set. My eyes gleamed as they achieved their bouffant hairdos, and quite honestly complained about everything they could imagine. They helped shape my style into what it is now.

My grandmother is not like most women of her age. Maws plays bunco with her gals, and is even part of a rug hooking club called the “The Happy Hookers,” but she wouldn’t be caught dead in a cat sweater. She has continued to evolve her fashion, and strays away from fads and fashion trends of the youth. She has an amazingly trained eye for good things, and can pick out a quality piece of clothing, or antique, from a pile of crap. If there is any person’s opinion in the world that I respect and look forward to, it would be this woman’s.

While standing in an antique store in Paducah, Kentucky, on an excursion with my aunts and grandma, I noticed my grandmother’s eyebrows raise. If you know her, you know that this is her unaware, thinking face. She was staring at a woman standing at the counter of an antique store full of primitive and colonial decor, all priced at whopping numbers, wearing hot pink short shorts and a neon tank top. As I stood in what I can only describe as Little House on the Prairie, I knew what was on the docket when we got to the car. 

“That woman did not look too good,” my Maws declared while buckling her seatbelt and gesturing to the woman in the hot pink shorts who was now outside loading a literal washboard into her minivan. We all giggled in agreement and moved on. There would be nothing wrong with the outfit to some, but athleisure is not something in Maw’s vocabulary. She was right, as she usually is. I would compare her style in clothing to the incredible Martha Stewart, usually in staple pieces and neutral tones, all while donning a pair of “cloud steppers.” 

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There is a great divide between generations when it comes to anything, and the one I deal with the most would be fashion. I always find myself trying to be a median for both sides, as I can understand them. Older people complain about the clothing of the youth and its lack of taste and modesty, and the younger generation, most of the time, winces at some things that older folks get off the rack at the local Cato. They don’t understand each other, and can you blame them?

I shall not blame the older generation for having such a problem with today’s fashions and clothing. Most of them remember the days when clothes were, for the most part, sustainable and made of more quality materials.

Most older women remember either making their clothes, or having them altered to fit. Clothing that is now deemed vintage is usually made of better, long-lasting materials. People used to take care of their clothes, being careful to keep them in good shape and mending them when needed. 

I will blame them for the not so ideal beauty standards that were set for us. The small degrading remarks many of them make about weight and things that people cannot control are astounding and out of pocket, but oh so common. I blame them for capri pants and making suntanning a melanoma catastrophe.

Something important to note here is that my generation has never truly seen quality clothing on the rack in our lifetime. I am sure many could argue this, but with where we are at this stage of capitalism and with the cheapest options of anything and everything you could ever want just at our fingertips, companies have decided in the last twenty years to start producing things at a lower quality. 

There is a mighty difference between a well made antique piece of furniture that took craftsmanship and working hands to make and something produced for barely a few bucks by IKEA. People used to save for months for the nicest things, and cherish them forever. Now they would rather buy the cheapest thing, but have to replace it more often than others because of the lack of quality. 

One cannot blame the youth for having poor taste if the designers that are giving them to us and making them popular are mostly women of a certain age. If the girls are wearing not enough clothing and the boys look sloppy, that is probably because someone higher up in the fashion world has approved it, and the higher ups are not only in status, but also in age. Anna Wintour is 72 years old and manages to still keep people on their toes in the fashion world for her expert eye.

Something you can blame the youth for is continuing to feed into the capitalistic world we live in, and continuing to give money to greedy corporations. We contribute to the global crisis just as much as the older generations, as we all have wasting issues, buying clothes that are only going to last until you lift your arm too high and you pop a rip in the armpit, but with fabric so cheap it would be easier to just throw it out rather than mend it. 

There will always be a great divide between the generations, over anything! I still twiddle my thumbs in anticipation of leaving while some old folks talk my ear off. And I am quite positive that most of them roll their eyes as I talk about my views and question them. That’s just life.

I feel as if that is human instinct though, to break away from old teachings and ways. Times change, hemlines shoot up and down, but grandmothers and old folks alike will always have something to say. 

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