The True Fashion Faux Pas
Like nearly everyone, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get fit, to find my inner Adonis you might say. I made this resolution on 31st December but it took until mid February for me to actually take the plunge and sign up to a local gym. I hate gyms, the harsh lighting and abundance of toned flesh (and the realisation that what you thought was toned flesh is actually just less wobbly fat) does not make for a positive experience, but I suppose that’s the point – you are meant to feel inferior, you are meant to want to ‘improve’ yourself because a more toned, slimmer you is meant to be a happier, more content you. We are constantly bombarded by images of beautiful people, those who the media and fashion designers deem to be attractive, people we are meant to want to emulate.
Is it any wonder that some men and women feel insecure when they are constantly looking at pictures of perceived perfection, when fashion magazines use air brushed images that are so perfect they go beyond the biologically possible – I mean, the women on the front of the likes of Vogue don’t even look real, nobody has skin which is that luminous, no amount of yoga is going to give you that complexion nor is slathering on an entire pot of Olay. I understand why fashion houses and shops use attractive people but do they need to be so attractive that they appear alien? It’s basically the economics of self hatred: make your potential customer base feel so bad and inferior that they buy your product in the vague hope that it will make them more attractive, and ergo closer to the ideal. It’s a vicious cycle and one which many of us are aware of and thankfully can take with a pinch of salt. Owning a Burberry trench coat isn’t going to turn me into Brad Pitt, anymore than anti-ageing cream is going to stop the inevitable wrinkles around my eyes.
But adults are not the ones most vulnerable to this type of advertising, or not all adults at least. How are young teenagers going through that awkward phase of life we call puberty meant to deal with these messages when they realise that they don’t have Beyoncé’s figure or David Beckham’s abs, when they realise that for most of us genetics has given us just an average body which is functional rather than beautiful (and that’s if we are lucky). It’s time that we looked at our society and the messages we want to give to our young, do we want young women and men to believe that the only way to be successful is to be beautiful, that their sense of self worth should be linked to how sexually attractive they are judged to be? I hope not, but then again I suppose self hatred and insecurity are lucrative.
I don’t have the answers to these questions, it’s a difficult topic and one which is full of contradictions and complexities. I mean in part this post is an expression of the inner argument I have every day as to why I shouldn’t go to the gym, but it’s more than that. It’s about confidence, self esteem and people being able to feel good about themselves regardless of the fact that they don’t resemble something from the pages of an Agent Provocateur catalogue. I am not a woman, but I do have many close female friends and it angers me that they sometimes feel ‘not good enough’ because they don’t look a certain way, because they have a slight tummy or have gone up a dress size. When fashion magazines feel the need to digitally alter some of the most beautiful people in the world, when not even humanity’s supposed ‘best specimens’ are deemed attractive enough to grace our front covers without alterations, something has gone seriously wrong.
February is Eating Disorders Awareness Month. Head over to the National Eating Disorders Association to read more on positive self esteem and how to get support.
By Josh Wharton, North West and North Lincs Development Officer