I don’t know if your mid-twenties should classify you as “old,” but I like to think I’m a hodgepodge of obsolesence and idiosyncrasy in fashion. Black shirts weren’t as cool as they were when I was younger. Nobody wears jackets in the oppressive heat of Manila. Button-down jeans are so last century. High-topped Chucks and boots are pretty much passé. Long hair is a vestige of a bygone era: these days, it’s no longer fashionable because it’s perfectly acceptable. Heck, I needed to ask a friend if the frames of my new glasses are more… well, “cosmo.”
Yet colorful trucker hats that are carefully balanced on top of your head aren’t. Every offensive class-related slur can cross your mind, until you realize that almost every young man is wearing one of these hats. It’s the “in” thing, so much so that I don’t know if it’s “gangstah” or “Rastah.”
Like everything involving fashion and the latest trends in headwear, I don’t get it. Maybe I don’t even have to get it.
Fashion – and in many ways, style – can define one’s position in society; not of fashionability, but the utility of these items in contrast to where and who we are. At the risk of using an offensive slur, a skwater kid wearing the hat doesn’t wear it for the sake of protecting himself from the elements, but the attempt to be noticed. He belongs in the same circle as hat-wearing kids, he is more visible in a crowd, and he identifies himself with whatever that hat stands for.
Among poor families, I’ve observed that style is a simple caprice. The inclination of wearing something that looks expensive, or a dress sense that gets one noticed, can reduce the psychological strains of poverty. Whatever can be saved or earned is usually not spent on food, but on pecuniary canons of conspicuous consumption: a frappé at Starbucks, simple gadgets like MP3 players and cellphones, and clothes. One acknowledges poverty, but one disavows it; if you can’t eat good or if you don’t get paid good or if you don’t have good grades, you compensate with something that’s within your means: clothes.
I won’t romanticize the poverty, though. I hate them hats, as much as colored-trucker-hat-wearing kids in my neighborhood hate me for wearing what I wear. Hats are never worn for covering hair follicles, but for protecting the head. It exhibits the same utility and sensibility as those mechanical toy butterflies/dragonflies which, once upon a time, were used as hair accessories. I don’t know why, for all the time spent by a guy bleaching his hair with hydrogen peroxide, he would bother to wear a hat that looks like the vein and blood color of:
(eviscerated) Teletubbies, or…
(disemboweled) Power Rangers, or…
(exenterated) Jem and the Holograms.
Heck, even Rainbow Brite (emasculated and trampled by Starlite).
Although yeah, don’t make me go there.