To Self

Fashion and Life: Standing Out (Part One)

There are so many sayings regarding appearance: “First impressions last”, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, and so on. Truly, in our world, things have become so fast-paced that on the one hand, people tend to make judgments out of a lack of time (or an unwillingness to make time), from the first thing that comes into their heads. On the other hand, the more forgiving and understanding insist on looking within, preaching that the inside is exponentially more important than the outside.

I completely side with the latter, although as an imperfect human being I, too, lapse to the Dark Side of Criticism. However, I know what I want, though not necessarily always how to get it; and I know what I don’t want and how to avoid it. The way I dress is very much part of this.

Me in Butcher's House 7

Those who knew me as a child will know that I used to want to wear nothing but the first shirt I saw, the first pair of pants I could grab (they had to be long pants; I was never really a shorts person though I like the occasional showing-off of legs even until today… can’t you see I’m kidding?), and merely a pair of sandals. I was the Slippers or Sandals Kid, socks or no socks. It was an indication of how carefree, laid-back, and lax I was as a child. It was so even until the former half of my university days.

Of course, one can’t wear sandals forever, and I was gradually forced into closed shoes even outside school (they had no qualms really about my clothes). For some reason, I shunned sneakers and athletic shoes – what we here in the dear ol’ Philippines call “rubber shoes” (hey, they ARE made of rubber) – all the time and only very reluctantly wore them once my feet were forced into them – especially when they had shoelaces (I learned to tie them properly at age eight).

I still don’t wear these kinds of shoes even today; the last pair of athletic shoes I had we bought during my sixth grade well over a decade ago for physical education class. I last used them in a physical education class during the second term of my freshman year in university, and now have no idea where they are – not that I care very much.

So what did I care for in terms of how I look? Another curious characteristic of mine is that I have always been, on the other hand, attracted to leather shoes – with shoelaces. What we today commonly call oxfords, which are actually just one kind of lace-up leather shoe, but which are actually called Derbies (in UK English) or Blüchers (in US English). The first two I remember owning – and loving very much – were a black pair of Dr. Martens and a brown pair of Kickers when I was four years old. The latter, in particular, if I recall right, was a little like a boot; they were somewhat high-cut. Now if only I had the pictures…

Anyway, as I grew up, I found myself drawn more and more to leather lace-up boots, especially those my dad owned (they were usually placed along the stairs down to the powder room, as their height made it impossible to place inside his shoe rack without being lain down). I also don’t know why, but I found them very stylish and hoped to wear them. Sadly, until now I can’t, as my dad wore size 10 shoes – I fit in a size 7 but wear size 8.

Through years of observation in the malls and eventually Internet window-shopping on Zappos.com and Shoes.com, I found my  ideal sense of fashion gradually grow around me. Unfortunately, the same process made me brand-conscious, as I narrowed down the footwear I liked to just three brands: Caterpillar, Dr. Martens, and Timberland. I saved photos of the styles I liked from those three brands and even segregated them by folder. (Yes, I was already somewhat obsessive-compulsive [not the disorder!!] even at thirteen). But for some strange reason, I never told my family, except for my dad, who told me to have my brothers have a pair made for me in our factory (we sell shoes) in my size. I just felt shy to do so.

And so, my sense of style did not improve throughout my early puberty years despite my knowing what I wanted. As was my lifestyle and personality in general. I continued to throw on whatever was on hand (I actually threw a tantrum aged thirteen in a store because I had been forced to wear my brother’s running shoes – oh those were the days). I simply didn’t care… yet.

Until May 2005.

(to be continued)

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