My earliest memory of making a fashion assertion came at age 9.
I was on my first overnight school trip and was rooming with three girls, all of whom had their ears pierced. I, being the product of a conservative American father and pragmatic Greek mother —who to this day does not understand why anyone over 170cm wears high heels—, did not. I wasn’t allowed to. Ear piercings were the gateway drug to eyeshadow and watching The Simpsons.
But… this girl in my grade named Anna had pierced ears. And since I am nothing if not debilitatingly stubborn, I was going to have earrings as well if it was the last thing I did. Rules be damned! I was a fashion force to be reckoned with at the tender age of 9 and my probably well-meaning parents just did not understand my creative vision.
So what did I do? Inventive fashion ICON that I am, I broke off the tips of two coloured pencils and glued them to my earlobes as spiky little symbols of resistance against the parental regime that I was sure stood in the way of my fourth grade fashionista image.
Yes, you read that right. I spent the last few years of elementary school circulating with lead tips stuck to my ears. I thought it was punk and cool. My mother thought I had gone off the deep end and probably thanked all the Greek gods that she had two other children who were still relatively normal.
This pattern of my being denied my sartorial dreams and therefore having to covertly find a way around the barriers continued well into high school.
When all the other girls my age were walking around in denim mini skirts and cool sequined tops from Benetton, I was relegated to an existence of turtlenecks and bootcut jeans (oh how the tables have turned).
When we moved to the U.S. and I discovered that everyone worshipped at the church of Abercrombie & Fitch, I begged my parents for anything bearing the telling status symbol of the Abercrombie moose. I was denied because a) it was inappropriate b) it was expensive and c) the store itself was a safety hazard as it was kept dark and overpowered with clashing perfumes, an ambience I found to be cool and modern but my parents thought was a headache-inducing deathtrap. I discovered that the more family-friendly Old Navy sold shirts featuring the logo of a reindeer (a beast in the same family as the elite moose!), which I bought in an effort to trick my peers.
Later, when jeggings became The Thing To Wear, I tried in vain to persuade my mom to get me a pair. She refused, telling me that jeggings would make me look like a καλικαντζαρο (which, by the way, means “goblin” in Greek; an extraordinarily bizarre comparison I casually brushed off at the time). In defiance, I would wrap the flared bit of my jean leg around my ankle, secure it with a rubber band, and tuck into a sock so as to create my own version of skinny jeans. I was Pinterest-hacking before Pinterest was even around.
For the record, I’m now aware how ridiculous it was to be so preoccupied with trying to convince an acne-ridden class of hormonal teenagers who thought Soulja Boy was art that I was trendy. But in the spirit of reflection, trying to maneuver fashion with stricter parents did teach me a couple of things.
Firstly, if needed I can be the kind of resourceful sneak who would probably do well on Man vs. Wild, just saying.
Secondly, in a weird way I inadvertently have my parents to thank for the lack of pictures from my awkward years showing me in the worst trends to grace our culture. I am now proud to say I never fell victim to the side bang epidemic of 2006 or the Juicy Couture tracksuit virus of the early-mid 2000s.
Thirdly/lastly, I think that my early styling habits of dressing like an Amish schoolboy have paid off in the long run, informing my current wardrobe choices in the best way. I now have an entire drawer dedicated solely to turtlenecks… and I didn’t even have to buy any of them! How pretentious is it to call myself an unintended trailblazer?
Very, but I’m going to do it anyways. I owe it to my 14 year old self who silently suffered in cardigans instead of midriff-baring tops. Your time has come, kid.