Clothing has been a big part of youth culture, ESPECIALLY in the past decade. But I haven't been alive for half as long as most of you, so I could be wrong. Maybe clothing was a bigger deal in the 1800's, I dunno.
So, being someone who likes to let people know what kind of stuff I like (see my last blog), clothing has always helped display my ego. There are basically two things I like a LOT: video games and music. Now, if you're really self conscious like me, then you know how easy it is to find ways to let people know that you want to be known. We can blast really loud music out of our speakers that face OUTSIDE the window. We can plaster bumper stickers all over our cars so that every person we cut off will know we're either huge The Chariot fans, or Christians who are upset about the "Darwin" fish sticker. But being carless at the moment(that's being without a car to call my own), I don't yet have the opportunity to do or say much to the people that I cut off. So instead, I buy overpriced band t-shirts at Hot Topic.
Yup, I went THERE.
So by wearing a shirt with a load of skulls and hard to read letters, then everyone can know that I like really Satanic music right? Right. And so basically everyone who sees me will know that I like music, heavy music.
But what about the people who don't like music much? Teenagers, such as myself, often label people based on the clothing they wear. If they wear cutoff shorts, striped tank-tops, and TOMS shoes, they're probably a hipster who listens to music from Denmark. If they wear low cut tank tops, booty shorts, and loads of make-up, they probably like to flirt or be flirted with. If they have giant gauges, loads of tattoos, and wear shirts with Eazy-E on them, you should probably be a little scared of them.
And these are all just a few examples coming from an altogether very judgmental Christian just tasting the frosting on adulthood.
I remember knowing this person, and I would stay away from them every time they wore this certain really skimpy top. I would judge them as if they were a porn star or something. I wanted nothing to do with them because I felt that I was too good of a Christian to hang out with such a slutty person. And even today, I'll be very put off by a person who likes to show themselves off to the world. I will sometimes just label them as "slut", and that's so not cool.
If I could put teen culture into two words, they would be: music and appearance. Most of my friends used to listen to really tough, heavy music. During that time in our lives, we all wore really dirty clothing that somehow made us look more angry. Nowadays, we've been going through this indie music phase, and now some of us have pursued more casual, logo-less thrift store clothing. And all that time we were surrounded by punks who adorned their clothing with patches for literally EVERY single thing they liked, techno kids who tended to look a good deal more "fresh" than I could ever hope to look, and really tan beach kids who wore V-necks and board shorts every day of the week while listening to whatever was "chill" enough for their tastebuds. I'm really just scratching the surface.
Whether it sounds "right" or not, appearance REALLY matters to people, especially teenagers. That's why youth pastors have to be so darn "hip" all the time. Without those backwards hats and tribal tattoos, what teenager would even think about hearing the gospel from them? Some seem to think that girls are the only ones who are affected by the world's clothing and beauty expectations. But that couldn't be further from the truth. Fashion nearly defines the source of most family fights even! I'm sure most of us have gotten into family arguments over things like tattoos and exotic piercings.
I don't really think there's anyway to stop teenagers from wanting to look cool all the time. I don't think there is a right or wrong way to dress. And honestly, I don't think it's all that big of a deal. I think the real problem is: why do I want to impress everyone? What have I got to prove? Paul wrote to be in the world and yet not OF it, and so I believe that it is not truly any issue to maybe look a bit cooler than most people. I think that the problems appear when the motive behind looking a certain way gets messed up a little. For instance, I love my facial hair, or I should say "loved." I had the nastiest little teenage mustache that I thought was so hilarious, and I kept it because everyone was so appalled by it. But about a week ago, I shaved it. Not because some girl thought I should shave it or because some jerk from the meat department at work wouldn't stop giving me crap for it, but simply because I was ready to change things up a bit.
My advice to a person dealing with a lust to impress everyone with how they appear: don't take advice from anyone. If fashion is your thing, great! Pursue that hobby or even make a career out of it if you love it enough! But don't let anyone tell you that you have to look or not look a certain way to be accepted.