Image Description: A person in a bucket hat and another in a leopard print jacket sat on stone steps staring earnestly at each other.
Lockdown has thrown up questions of individuality versus consumerist hegemony. Has our fixation with constantly being on top of trends been the instrument of our liberation, or is breaking free of the matrix of fashion cycles just another reincarnation of being ‘edgy’? As the months rolled on in lockdown after painful lockdown and my online shopping addiction began to spiral out of control, I found myself asking this question with increasing urgency.
Having exhausted that season’s ‘hottest items’ of furry bags, sage green, brown and faux leather, I began to buy things that I genuinely liked and would make me feel good. Don’t get me wrong, I lived in my pyjamas, but something about trying on anything new in the mirror took me back to playing dress up as a child, wearing my bright pink princess dress over a pirate costume absolutely everywhere. I remembered what it felt like to find something that fit me, that made me smile, and not just because it would gain the approval of my peers. I’d finally liberated myself from the need to be ‘trendy’ and I’d never been more confident.
Going on my weekly shop was suddenly a catwalk- I decided that yes, I would wear my cowboy boots with my pyjamas and furry jacket because a) who would see me, and b) who would care? Taking away the embarrassment of wearing something ridiculous outside meant that I simply no longer cared if someone thought I looked odd when I wore something I really liked.
I remembered what it felt like to find something that fit me, that made me smile, and not just because it would gain the approval of my peers.
Then, like many others, with nothing else to do, I went down the rabbit hole of social media. I found a new means of fashion-marketing playing itself out right in front of me. Just as my crippling comparisons of myself to others began to melt away with a new set of daily rituals, I suddenly saw video after video of people who, like me, were beginning to dress for themselves instead of for an audience. If I saw something in a video I resonated with, all I had to do was check the comments and someone would know where it was from. One click later and I had another package to structure my days around waiting for. As humans do, we bounced off each other, and before I knew it, what I had thought of as a movement of mass liberation from trends was simply the creation of new ones in a hyper-consumptive system.
Frankly, this revelation left me nearing despair. Had all my efforts in self-growth and confidence been in vain? Were they worthless without the stamp of ‘individuality’? And then I thought: So what if I ended up looking like the new incarnation of ‘basic’? I remembered the cardinal rule of lockdown confidence: nobody would see me anyway, nobody, that is, except for myself. It didn’t really matter if I stuck out like a sore thumb or participated in the hive-mind of ‘trendiness’ if I felt as good as I had with my pirate-princess childhood uniform. The only person I had to impress was myself.
As England reaches two months since the beginning of its third national lockdown, it seems the perfect moment to reflect on January fashion endeavours from home – whether abandoned, valiant or perhaps even visionary.
For most of Oxford’s some 25,000 students, a new year, but same old lockdown, augurs new fashion challenges, raising the question of whether self-expression is freer than ever without the gaze of others, or far away from the dreaming spires and its students, more difficult.
With only the odyssey from bed to desk (or preferably to my siblings’ rooms), shoes have become a thing of the past.
Whilst I’m still experiencing an existential crisis over that particular question, for my own part, I can report a shift towards comfort. An everyday outfit at Uni would probably consist of my beloved blue Adidas Continental 80’s, jeans, a long-sleeved turtleneck, an oversized jumper, and the staple of the humanities student – the canvas tote bag. Without a doubt, the greatest fashion casualty of lockdown has unsurprisingly been my Adidas trainers. With only the odyssey from bed to desk (or preferably to my siblings’ rooms), shoes have become a thing of the past.
2021 remains the year of the slipper. However, personally, I’ve been a sliders enthusiast since I first discovered them to be the footwear equivalent to the ATV. For a bolder fashion statement, I recommend the dad sandal. Yes, apparently it’s back, with Birkenstocks dominating recently, not to mention luxury versions by Chanel, Gucci and Prada. An investment now in a dad sandal, would not only tide you through lockdown in comfort but also return you in style for any Trinity Tesco trips you might undertake.
It seems I’m not alone in forsaking shoes in search of comfort. Lyst, a website that calculates the world’s most popular products through a formula including volume of social media mentions, searches, and sales, found in the last quarter of 2020 slippers and clogs were a “breakout category”, with searches up 242% compared to the equivalent period in 2019. On the Lyst Index, the North Face 1996 Retro Nuptse jacket is the number 1 “hottest product” for both men and women – the first time ever the same product has topped both lists. If you want to tap into the puffer jacket’s meteoric rise for your lockdown looks, the college puffer jacket is surely the equally flashy alternative for your daily walk.
In the end, wherever you’re strutting this lockdown out, I hope it’s a good one.
Image credit: Original artwork by Khadijah Ali