Advice in Clothing
Peer Pressure exists in all walks and stages of life, but it is particularly prevalent with teens. Rather, they are more conscious of it and more susceptible to it than at any other stage of life.
As a teenager, this is a time when you are finding your niche, moving towards greater independence and trying to get a sense of your individuality. Hence, this is the time when you will find peer pressure at its maximum. It is natural to be worried about peer acceptance and the resultant pressure over what you do and what you don’t in clothing to career choices to sports, drugs, how you spend your time and more.
Clothing – Fundamentals of Peer Pressure
Clothing is the most visible element that defines you. Hence, it becomes one of the first elements in which peer pressure is felt the greatest. You wonder constantly whether this or that clothing is right for you to fit in with the group.
Should you wear that neat pair of jeans that fits you just right or the pair of low slung jeans with the line of innerwear showing up? Should you wear this pair of sports shoes or those pair of scuffed slip-ons? Should you have your shirt in or out or just half out? Should you wear a shirt at all?
As much as you want to fit in, it is important to remember one thing – fitting in doesn’t equate to caving in.
Fitting in is about knowing yourself, having your own set of guidelines and decision process and making subtle changes to fit in with the group. Caving in is about discarding your thought process entirely to be part of the group. With that, the whole purpose of finding your independence and asserting your individuality is lost.
Your peers wouldn’t respect you for caving in. You may find that you are included temporarily within the most happening circle which you crave, but it would be short-lived. You gain their respect when you understand the peer culture but strike your own path.
Before you strike your own path, there are certain facts to understand about teenage and peer pressure.
Firstly, teen age is a time when you are trying to make decisions for yourself and finding your independence. But independence is about exercising your choice with responsibility. Replacing parents’ choice with that of peers doesn’t build your independence. If you do that, you have simply transferred the power over your life, what you do and how you dress into different hands. You have passed up the chance to take it into your hands.
Secondly, many times, the amount of peer pressure you think exists doesn’t really exist. There was this boy at high school who managed to get to school most of the year in his slippers and not the school uniform of shoes. He might have thought that flouting school rules looked cool, but his peers actually had a good laugh about it. So, if you have to flout norms, know what you flout and the effect it can have.
In this incident, the important thing is that, the boy didn’t become an outcast for doing this uncool thing. In fact, his peers chose to see the comic side of it and when it was time for the farewell party, they created a special title, Paragon of the Year – a word play on the Paragon brand of slippers and the meaning of the word – a model of excellence. Things aren’t as bad as you think they are and being able to laugh at yourself for your error helps.
Thirdly, peer culture isn’t a generic, one-model-fits-all culture. There are many groups among teens, each with their own set of clothing style and care. You can easily find a group that most suits you. Trouble comes when you want to get into a group most unlike you. Be sure of your reasons for wanting to be part of that group. It is better to be part of a group you are comfortable with than one where your natural self doesn’t fit in.
Among teen groups of a particular class, say Grade 12, you will find a range of groups, from the casual, I-shall-flout-all-rules to the middle ground of I-shall-flout-rules-selectively to the other extreme of I-shall-follow-all-rules. Between these choices, there exist many variations, giving you scope to fit in with the right group. Choosing the right group eases half the pressure.
Asserting Yourself with Clothing
There is a reason why you should find your path in what you wear. Clothing is the big visual element of the image you project to your peers. It is also one of the fundamental elements through which we define ourselves. Whether you want to define yourself as a grungy, wrinkled person, or as a hip, happening person, a studious, intelligent kind, or a music lover, art lover, the sports buff, it is up to you. There are plenty of choices and variations out there. Know your choices and see whether they are the real you.
The more closely your clothing comes to express the real you, the more effectively you have exerted your independence with responsibility. Doing so brings you respect from your peers, at the same time you are comfortable with your choices. Hence, what you are trying to achieve is two-fold – Peer Respect and Comfort with Self.
Clothing is the test ground and the safest place from where you learn to exercise your choices. Another reason to begin with clothing in managing pressure is that it is visible to all. With this big visible element in place, you would have established yourself with peers and this will set the course for other matters where peer pressure exists.
Do it right and you have shown that you are part of the crowd, yet you display your individuality. The trick is to find the balance, when to follow the crowd and when to follow your inner voice.
How do you find this balance in clothing? Read our next post in this series – Managing Peer Pressure-2 – Clothing with Style.