I hadn’t seen my friend Brit in over a year. I was living in Brooklyn at the time and completely invested in my life downtown and the same was true of her and her life uptown. I saw her walking towards me when I got off the subway at 116th. It wasn’t clear whether she recognized me with my beard fully sprouted. After a quick wave and an, “Oh my God, I’ve missed you so much, bitch,” she got over it.
The first words out of her mouth, however, were, “Why are your pant legs rolled up? Are they dirty or something?”
“Are you serious? God, I need to educate you,” I replied.
In the confines of my own mind, I take credit for being the first one to roll up my pant legs. I remember cuffing them back when I was 10 or 12 to keep them from dragging along the ground. My parents used to chastise me, saying that they looked strange. Of course, now, it’s become a popular trend, especially for the spring and summer, but now I can’t justify why I do it other than for the visual appeal.
On a related note, I wore my Timex military watch to NYU’s production of Die Fledermaus, of which my roommate was playing in the pit orchestra. I met her on the street outside when the performance was finished and she asked me what time it was. Without hesitation, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my Blackberry. “It’s 11:15,” I said.
What’s the point of wearing a watch if you won’t use it to tell time? What’s the point of cuffing your pants if they don’t drag on the ground in the first place? Is it all just for the effect of the visual? These questions are prompted in more ways than one, not just from watches and pant cuffs, but from jackets, bags and boots — North Face, Patagonia, St. Marshall, Filson, and the like — which are designed for the most rugged and outdoorsy activities, but instead are worn by up-scale urbanites.
The functionality of clothing does not matter anymore. It speaks to both my generation and the generation before mine. We are the children of Facebook, of blogs, of Twitter, of the Internet, of claiming what is not ours and draining it of its meaning while simultaneously recreating it into a reflection of us. My pants are unnecessarily cuffed because I cuffed them. My Timex is not a watch because I made it an accessory. North Face is no longer a statement of active lifestyles, but is now a symbol of campus life.
It’s not necessarily an awful change. In fact, it might be a blessing of sorts. If we choose to accept the reality of clothing in the now, we become more free to experiment with dressing up. On the other hand, it leaves plenty of room for error in knowing which ensembles are approriate for which occassions.