March 11, 2008

I Wear My Sunglasses at Night (No, Really)

Print More

Fashion, in its most basic form, is utilitarian. We wear clothes and use accessories to stay warm and dry, especially in brutal Ithaca winters. Many of the items we wear still maintain the same brilliant functions for which they were created years ago. Since they fulfill said purpose, we continue to buy them year after year. Further, the designs of newer goods are progressing rapidly and improving each year so that the consumer is presented with up to date and improved merchandise. Yet, despite recognized function and new innovative designs, much of our clothing has lost its original function and is used for different ends or simply for show.
Often some of the best items on the market are the simple ones, created for easy use and wear. We can all flashback to kindergarten and recall our pastel pink, deep red and fluorescent white Minnetonka thunderbirds. Minnetonka moccasins are still wearable today thanks to their simple and classic design. They are warm, comfortable, inexpensive and relatively stylish.
Chapstick brand chapstick is another throwback to our elementary school days. Before Softlips, Burt’s Bees or Lip Smackers graced our lips, Chapstick was the norm. The Original scent may smell remarkably similar to your childhood. The cherry and strawberry scents have a hint of reddish shine, provide protection from the sun and smell absolutely delicious. I may or may not consume an excessive amount of strawberry Chapstick; any chance each application counts as a serving of fruit?
Hanes white v-neck tank tops are another practical yet useful item on the market. Everyone, whether male or female, young or old, wears white t-shirts under their button downs/sweaters/ sweatshirts or whatever top they have on. The tops also make great t-shirts to wear alone for the younger crowd. They are cheap and come in five-packs, which makes the inevitable coffee or beer stain less annoying.
Other utilitarian items on the market emerge every year with improvements in design. The rapid progress of technology also applies to the fashion industry. New materials and other innovations appear every season. Patagonia down sweaters are the MacBook Air of winter coats. Warm, paper-thin and moderately expensive, they will probably be the most popular item to hit Ithaca winters since Uggs, once Patagonia makes them in a longer cut.
Athletic attire also improves as the fabrics, cuts and styles evolve. Breathable Coolmax has replaced itchy wool while Gore-Tex has pushed waxed cotton off the shelves. Elastic ankle sweatpants have given way to tights or leggings that provide muscle support. Leggings, however, are worn not only by cyclists and runners, but also by those who couldn’t point you in the direction of the gym, even if their lives depended on it.
Items created in the past for a specific function and are often used for their aesthetic, not for their original function. Men no longer need elbow patches on their jackets to prevent the elbows from wearing out. And the nubbins on the back heel of driving moccasins are a recognizable mark of Tod’s, not just a way to prevent the scuffing of supple leather.
Some people wear boots or scarves to keep warm, while others wear them in the middle of July. The same applies to sun protection; hats and sunglasses are worn regardless of sun exposure (or the time of day). There is nothing wrong with using a fashionable item in a way that is different than its intended use, as long as it doesn’t look entirely out of place or contrived.
Comfort and function should be considerations when shopping or getting dressed, as long as fashion is not neglected in the process. Take advantage of the great designs that are available in today’s market, regardless of whether you use those items for their explicit purpose. Just remember that whether you are warm and cozy in your favorite pajamas or as uncomfortable as you would be wearing a corset with your feet bound, you can look fabulous.