In the spirit of St. Valentine’s Day, I’ve prepared a bit of a longer entry today. One thing to get us started: I hate modern country music. And yet, last week, one of my thrifted outfits made me feel a bit like a cowgirl. Why is this important? Because it’s provided me an occasion to make amends with all my Garth-Brooks loving friends. You’re out there, and I love you. What prompted this public display of affection for dusty boots, desert skirts and denim jackets? Memories from my youth of music wars, subcultures, cliques and geeks. Here goes:
I went to a funny high school. We were a funny high school because while we had all the typical Glee/Mean Girls clique dynamics, it took on a bit of a different face. Instead of jocks & band geeks, we had hippies & punks. The male population of our little school was fiercely divided into these two very distinct groups.
The hippies were the popular kids. And the hippies adhered to a very distinct dress code comprised of plaid hunter jackets, dirty jeans, long shaggy hair, work boots, and a pack of cigarettes (think Hyde from That 70s Show meets Paul Bunyan). In addition to their uniformed attire, they all listened to one radio station – Classic Rock Q 107. Bands like Pink Floyd, Led Zepplin, The Doors and AC/DC made up the CD collection as approved by the hippies. The only other bands that made the cut without being actual classic rock where The Tragically Hip. Oh, and they all had animal nicknames for each other.
In stark contract to the hippies on the right were the punks of the left. This scrappy young group of rebels were the underdogs in the social scene (as punks usually are). They, too, had a very uniformed style: A DC/Volcom/Etnies t-shrit, Dickies shorts so low they almost broke the dress code, and Vans shoes. They wore a lot of studded belts, they skateboarded, and they listened to Punk, Ska and Pop-punk. Acceptable bands included Blink 182, Goldfinger, Rancid, and for a brief window, Simple Plan (shudder).
Now, while my particular social group leaned towards the hippie aesthetic, I had friends in both camps. For the most part, these groups stayed out of each other’s way. The hippies would play hockey and the punks would go snowboarding. But because teenagers are so full of angst, it wasn’t long before these two groups entered into an official feud. Here’s how it started:
Every Friday morning, our school would meet in the Commons for an hour or so, and students were encouraged to preform songs, skits, and magic tricks, etc. On this Friday, a rambunctious bunch of punks took to the stage for a few numbers. While I don’t remember the set list, I distinctly remember how they ended the show: In one high note, the singer sang into the mic: “Classic rock suuuuuucks”.
A flurry of grumbles and threats erupted from the hippie crowd. Teachers did their best to quell the tension, and I rolled my eyes at the hilarity of it all. The following assembly, a plaid-clad hippie and his friend played Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ended with a hurried speech on all the reasons Blink 182 was the “worst band ever”.
A few days later, one of the punks dressed up in a plaid jacket, dirty jeans, and carried around a pack of cigarettes all day. He called himself Spade- a direct take on one of the hippie’s nicknames – Ace (I can’t make this stuff up!). The hippies, of course, took direct offense to this, and made murmurs of retaliation. Luckily though, our school wasn’t Degrassi and so nothing tragic ever came from the feud, and by graduation we were all best buds. Okay not quite, but we did all go to the same prom party. Great times!
What did I take from all of this? Music + fashion are inseparable, and the way we dress is absolutely a reflection of the subculture to which we choose to identify, especially when we’re 16. In hands of adolescent males, this is a recipe for silly hatefulness and testosterone wars. I can still see this exact scenario playing out in high schools across the world. Maybe Emo kids are are feuding with Hipsters. But today, on St. Valentine’s day, let’s set an example for another way, kids!
Listen here, new country music lovers – I don’t like your music. You might even say I think it sucks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be pals. I may not like your Faith Hill or your Blake Shelton, your sparkly cowboy hats or your “sexy” tractors. But I love your boots and I love your jean jackets, I love your fine leather and I love your handsome cowboys. I even have the occasional soft spot for your Taylor Swift. So let’s not feud, and let’s not fight. Let’s celebrate our shared interests, like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton! And most of all, let’s do it in love. Because, as Dolly would say, if we’ve got real love, “we’ve got everything we need”.
Happy Valentine’s Day guys!
Outfit breakdown: Ralph Lauren Skirt, Parasuco Jean Jacket, vintage top – all, as always, thrifted.