There’s nothing particularly “cute” about a black fleece jacket. It’s functional, sure. It has pockets. One could understand why a hike leader would be drawn to such a sensible piece of outerwear.
Now, I was not a hike leader in high school (nor will I ever be), but if the word “literally” was as abused 11 years ago as it is now, then I literally would have died without a black North Face fleece.
Or worse — the world would have found out I wasn’t cool.
Reasoning that it was a practical wardrobe investment, my mom agreed to buy me one. Life resumed, perceived popularity was restored, and then, of course, I needed the scarf. Then the flats. The bracelet. The coffee cup, the sunglasses, and the list goes on. High school was, and I assume still is, a cesspool of insecurity-driven consumerism; a really crap version of Girl Scouts where instead of badges of honor, we collect arbitrary symbols of social status. Thank god for graduation.
Working in fashion — an industry based upon trends — has taught me the difference between wanting something because it’s beautiful and interesting and emotionally satiating (never mind how hyperbolic that sounds) versus wanting something because everyone else has it. Style versus Sheep. I’ve either become brilliant at discerning between the two or numb to my commercial desires due to cost, but it’s rare that I want an article of clothing anymore for the sake of fitting in.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
This past March, I found myself re-immersed in the world of equestrian competition. In an effort to spare you the details while providing enough context, know this: I ride horses, sometimes competitively though far less frequently than my fellow competitors. Horse shows are strange in that multiple divisions occur within the same venue. My “class,” for example, could occur in the same ring just a few hours prior to that of professional or Olympic riders.
These top riders are essentially the equestrian world’s Paris. And the trends (tall boots, breeches, coats, miscellaneous gear) trickle down from them, to my fellow riders, and last of all, to me.
I’m not around these styles every day. My visual access to the “cool kids” is limited to a few weekends each year. This means that not only am I behind the trends, the majority of my show clothes are completely outdated.
Here’s what everyone has: square toed boots. Here’s what I have: round toed boots. They wear Samshield helmets. I wear a Charles Owen.
Both of our boots step in poop. Both of our helmets protect our heads from cracking open when we hit the ground. So why couldn’t I shake the feeling of wanting what everyone else has?
Perhaps because high school, unfortunately, never leaves us. Maybe it’s because humans, like horses, are pack animals: lag behind and you become someone’s lunch. How relieved I was to return back to Manhattan, then, where my High School Trend Regression Disorder could slither back into its adolescent abyss. I know it’s there, however, and it’s haunting me.
But here’s the good news about the disorder: Everyone has it.