Why are we obsessed with fashion when we are young? And why do some of us never lose the obsession?
I remember the first bit of clothing that I “had to have” in my youth, the first time that my little self-image stood up and said “I need to look like that!” I don’t suppose it was a “look” I was after as much as it was the sway of advertising aimed at young people. I had to have a pair of Red Ball Jets!
For those who may be too young to remember (and for those, like I’m becoming, who are too old to remember), Red Ball Jets were a type of sneaker, or tennis shoe. I spent my formative years in the early 1960’s, and by the time I was old enough to begin forming my own version of my self-image we were fortunate enough to have a television.
This was the era of broadcast television, and where we lived there were three local network channels (ABC, CBS and NBC) and a PBS channel. And the power of Madison Avenue fell upon me in a great wave, full in its fury, and convinced me that I too could “run faster and jump higher” if I only had a pair of Red Ball Jets!
And so I begged and cajoled and pleaded, and prevailed, and I had a pair of Red Ball Jets. I don’t remember any difference in running or jumping. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t any.
But I do remember the sense of satisfaction that I felt, mixed with a little bit of pride, and a dose of vanity, when I sported my new Red Ball Jets for the very first time. I do vaguely remember that Peter, who could always run faster and jump higher than me, promptly outran and out jumped me, thus tarnishing the luster of my new acquisitions.
I believe it’s that mixture of emotions, some satisfaction, some pride, and most of all, vanity, that toxic “look at me” cocktail, that hooks us when we are young. It is a powerful drug, and later in life, when we mix in a dash of our self-image’s desire to identify with our “tribe”, it becomes the formula that hooks some of us for life.
I remember other new sensations. Converse All-Stars (they’re back, now called Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and in colors and patterns that would make old Chuck scratch his head), solid-colored, brushed denim leisure suits with loud polyester print shirts (stayin’ alive), patchwork denim bell-bottoms with platform shoes (yikes!), I tried them all.
And then, just as it had come, it went. I think I realized that, no matter how I tried, no matter how far ahead I tried to peer into the crystal ball, I was not really a member of that tribe, I was a follower. I have no idea who the leaders of that tribe were, I just remember they probably weren’t from the little Midwestern town where I lived.
But it was sure sensational while it lasted!