Human beings are amazing creatures. Faced with difficult conditions, we completely refuse to bow to the pressure to become nothing. In the most extraordinary places and times, the voice of Attire makes itself heard with an irrepressible delight and inventiveness; and an indefatigable spirit. We as a species seem hard wired to find delight in our darkest hours, and in the most deprived of states. Sure, when we express under such conditions, we may not do so with perfect taste, or sublime construction, or deep artistic goals. What we do, is give out our hearts. We place them literally on our sleeves. In fact our sleeves become part of the canvas on which we paint our truth.
This extraordinary way in which we face our world, cannot be sundered from us or beaten away from us for long. We grow back together and rise from that beating, showing our new inner strength with what we clap on our backs.
At times that strength has made itself seen with a simple armband, a badge or a set of colors. We have time and again fought against those who oppress and demean us, often first with the subtle language of Attire. Or, when faced with a long period of deprivation, we burst forth to new expressive life with abandonment and a delicious playfulness.
One of the many things that draws me to Attire as a language, and makes it such an important part of my day, and too, why I must share it with you all, is this thing about us that will not be squashed, trampled or broken. Our essential spirit, the thing that makes us "US" is something that will not bow down for long. Despots may reign. Fascists may seize power. Oligarchs might shove down on the majority, but in time, like a small seedling, the nature of Humans springs forth again. And it does so first in this quiet, hard to codify language I call Attire.
During the reign of Henry the Eighth, the Catholic multitudes who decried the closure of abbeys and seizure of properties donned red during the Pilgrimage of Grace. The people who fought for the French Revolution wore cockades of the French flag's colors, sabot shoes and pantalons. In the 30s the popularity of Surrealism signaled more than just a fashion; it was also a method of throwing off the strictures of the Depression.
During the Second World War, women took whatever they had to hand and made the wildest, most inventive hats ever, to fight against the darkness and fear of their time. The Beats of the 50's wore unrelieved black to show their disapproval of the cultural norm, and their desire to change our way of thinking. The counter-culture folk of the 60's and 70's showed their disdain for the old ways; and their need for a new way of living, in their rejection of popular culture and mass market clothing, adorning themselves in the clothes of by gone eras, or modifying clothes beyond recognition. And the gaining momentum of the black civil rights movement saw people wearing the clothing of their native heritage, picking their hair out into afros, and braiding their hair in the manner of their forebears, and all to say, I am ME, and cannot be denied. I will not be you, no matter what you want.
So, among the many ways that Attire expresses in our world, there is a way of speaking this language that is about social change, dissidence, and a kind of stubbornness, born of our innate unwillingness to be denied for long.
Just now, we seem to be going through a phase where these manifestations are quieted. But who knows where and how they will spring forth again?