PHOTO | Tara Espinoza
This past week Arkansas Tech celebrated homecoming with spirit week. Students were given daily themes to dress up for and express their school spirit. Arka Tech would like to take this opportunity to encourage compassion when you regard what other people are wearing.
With the expansion of social media, fashion and appearance have become increasingly important to our generation. While this fixation on an image has led to many good things like self-expression and creativity, it also has negative side effects. So often, we are quick to judge a person for their clothes. But what you wear does not equate to who you are. No one wants to be summed up for anything more than what they wear.
You never know what someone is going through or why they are wearing what they are. That student with ragged clothes might not be able to afford more than hand-me-downs. Your friend who rotates the same five outfits might spend all their money on tuition. Before you shame someone for wearing fast fashion, climb down from your high horse and consider that maybe Walmart is the only place they can afford clothes.
Not only may they be unable to afford the trendiest and most ethical fashion, but some people may not be able to find any that fits them. The sales share of women’s plus-size apparel in the U.S. apparel market was only 19 percent as of 2021. Plus-sized people have much fewer options when it comes to clothes. Few retailers carry plus-sized fashion that fits comfortably and meets recent and generational trends. Many ethical retail producers carry limited plus-sized options, if any at all.
Even students who own nicer clothes can’t be expected to dress up to standards every day. It takes effort to dress fashionably, and busy students do not always have the time for that. Some students may suffer from mental illnesses that prevent them from meeting fashion expectations. Depression makes it hard to find the motivation to change clothes, much less dress nicely. Anxiety can make someone feel too insecure to wear trendier clothes. People with autism, ADHD, or other mental illness may have sensory sensitivity that overwhelms certain textures.
Just because what someone is wearing may not be aesthetically pleasing to you doesn’t mean they shouldn’t wear it or that there is something bad about them. Everyone has different tastes. People should be able to express themselves however they want. Fashion is an excellent outlet for voicing gender and other forms of identity; no one should feel ashamed to do that.
You never know what someone is going through, so you should not make assumptions based on their appearance. Not only should you have an open mind to other people’s experiences, but you also should not put so much value into what other people wear. There are more important things in the world for you to focus on than what kind of shoes your classmate is wearing. What other people choose to wear has nothing to do with you and does not impact your life. It does not harm you if a man wears a skirt, if a woman goes without a bra or if your friend wears the same jacket from Walmart every day.
With this being said, Arka Tech understands that it is easier said than done to change the way you think. Judging what is in front of us is almost an instinct, and considering appearance has been deeply ingrained in our thought processes. These initial thoughts do not make you a bad person. That only makes you human. It’s the thoughts afterward that determine your character. The next time you catch yourself judgmental, remind yourself that you do not know what that person is going through and that what they wear is none of your business.
One way to change your thoughts is to practice reframing your thoughts. Practice empathy and consider why someone may be dressed the way they are. Then evaluate yourself and ask yourself why you felt the need to judge. Then remind yourself how you would want to be viewed or treated. If you find yourself judging what someone is wearing, try to find something more positive to replace that thought with.
A mental habit of thinking more positively will benefit those around you and yourself. You may even take it a step further and compliment the person you may have felt judgmental about. By doing this enough times, you can form a mental habit.
The Arka Tech encourages students to do many things, whether that is voting or fighting for a mascot change. However, above all else, Arka Tech always wants to encourage students to be kind to one another. Even the tiniest bit of kindness can go a long way. Arkansas Tech is a community; we want all students to feel welcomed and free to be themselves. Because you are all welcome, no matter what you look like or what is in your closet.