Graham Reid brilliantly explores how labels can, in fact, be a very positive thing at times. So many of us want to belong; want to find people with similar interests and identities. Clothing can help mark us out, can signal to others what our lifestyle choices are, and even what we believe in. Choosing to label oneself can be empowering, and presenting accordingly can enable us to find those who share in that label.
The tightness of your jeans alludes to your tightness elsewhere and the flamboyancy of your paisley-print shirt screams homosexuality louder than the wearer in bed. Most of our readers will stand against stereotyping and labelling of individuals within society, who can express themselves as they see fit, but the same people will also support the creation of safe spaces for minority groups; expression of gender identity and strong activism for worthwhile causes. A seemingly simple fashion choice between a lowcut V-neck and a more reserved turtle-neck says a lot about your identity and I believe this is a good thing… unlike a newly emerging trend of transparent raincoats on the market.
It’s certain that humans fear being read easily. We don’t like to stand out from the crowd and be vulnerable. Being inherently rational pack animals, we stick together. Fashion is a social construct that groups people together based on common interest and taste or general sense of 'belongingness'. For example, uniforms are the only way to delineate a nurse from a police officer. Clothes tell us so much about that person’s interests, their disposition, and the kind of education they have had.
In a similar sense, the design on a jacket will blatantly show the difference between a hippie and hipster. Their choices will tell us what their political beliefs are likely to be and the kind of lifestyle they, lead. This is unavoidable and members of the LGBT+ community can use it to their advantage.
There is a sexiness in silently and implicitly alluding to your personal taste to other people. It makes you an intriguing, dimensional character about whom people want to know more. You can assign yourself to any category within the LGBT+ with a hemline and print. If you chose to adhere to the dress codes, this doesn’t mean you lose your sense of self, but rather you gain a sense of unity and friendship: a safe zone in which you can express yourself.
Wearing a football team’s top doesn’t make you a supporter. What is inside your heart and head marks you as a follower. The item of clothing simply displays your allegiance but doesn’t necessarily define it. In a similar way, you can choose to dress in a certain way to express your belonginess to certain groups but it isn’t your style which puts you in that category.
These choices aren’t a fight against heteronormativity; they are not straight shaming. They increase the visibility of certain identities, like a type of public activism and best of all, you don’t need to open your mouth to show your support. Actions do speak much louder than words… but maybe not as loud as a technicolour coat.
So however, you choose to dress and for whatever reasons (personal expression or declaration of allegiance to a certain subcategory of society), please have this message stitched into your brain:
Whilst clothes can be labelled and people cannot, you still have the free choice of which label to wear. That choice can say so much about you if you utilise it as a tool of expression. People can make assumptions about the logo you are wearing but, at the end of the day, you are the only one that knows the true label underneath.