Can Individuality and Community Co-Exist in Style in These Gnarly Times?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - Sarah G. Schmidt's home


I have been wrestling two seemingly opposed ideals in my head that I cannot shake off. In this mind-boggling time of fear tactics and hate exploitation from the mainstream media and supposed potential nation leaders; I am frightened. I’m frightened that people will make choices based on fear and not humanity. It’s top of mind.

The first idea is that the desire for individualism seems strained. It seems as if people are focused on blending in rather than being their full, true selves. Is it out of fear? Is the fear that standing out could expose them at a cost they can’t afford? Conversely, is it possible that “blending is” is simply reflective of their true style?

The other idea is that we all want to be a part of a community. The thought that together is better. There appears to be safety and comfort in numbers. Is the idea that if we focus on what we have in common we can make it work? Thus be the community. Blend in.

One could oversimplify this with a statement something like, “Can one be simultaneously unique yet welcomed within a community of equals?”

I’m looking for the answer.

For me I can relate to others desire to be individual. This could also be described as the need to stand out. Or the innate desire to feel and be seen as special. To be… a millennial? Yes. It’s totally stereotypically true for me. This is why I am so concerned with dressing for ones true self. I have admiration for putting yourself out there. The satisfaction and joy that one can hold internally to see themselves and have other see them as they truly are is. the. tits.

I have also struggled to find a place within a larger community while keeping my “uniqueness” intact. To put it plainly how do I stay “me” in a group of “we”? Do I lose some of myself by being a part of something bigger? If I enjoy a communal experience – be it a trend or event deemed basic – do I lose myself? Or am I self actualized because of that communal experience? A win-win?

What I am coming to terms with has been right in front of me. You already are. Stop fussing about it. You can, and already are, both. When someone takes or threatens to takes this away from you, they are anti-human.

Lucky for me being Canadian means I get to enjoy this right. I have the absolute privilege of pondering these choices. I get to enjoy this right more freely, maybe, than any other nation. Canada celebrates whoever you are, as you are, as a unique part of our country. We’re a colourful mosaic, not a white washed forced mixing pot of beige muck. This has been true for the most part. We have an ugly past that we are trying to reconcile. We, as a nation, are working on it every day.

When I look to our neighbours imminent election I am freaked the fuck out. How is this possible? This is just a dream, nay, nightmare, right? How can a person who has enjoyed and squandered every privilege – white, male, wealth, and second (and third and fourth) chances – be the choice of any national political party? How can that hateful, racist, bigoted, sexiest, elitist person be a elected representative? It's 2016! A person who not only wants to take away individuality and the celebration of that but make most people feel as if they don’t belong. He wants to make people small. A community built on hate is not a community; it’s a criminal act.

There is a choice. Over the past months fashion elite – like Anna Wintour, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sienna Miller, Sarah Jones – have stood up and voiced their choice. Designers including Joseph Altzurra, Tory Burch, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabul Gurung, Marc Jacobs, Public School, Georgina Chapman of Marchesa, Rag & Bone, and Elli Tahari have contributed T shirt designs to the Hillary Clinton campaign store.

This fashion community encourages the public to be big. Be bold. Be human. The Clinton camp urges American voters to show support that celebrates uniqueness as an asset. One can be part of a community that celebrates and lifts up the “other” together. 

It appears fashion is the answer. Maybe not for all but it is my answer for this conundrum. Fashion is so cool in that it can help you find a way to be yourself, absolutely unique, and together, part of a community all at once. One can have both.

The only way to get rid of a bully is to demonstrate strength. Americans, publicly show that you do not believe in fear. Live loudly out loud. Show humanity. And if you wear that humanity on a t shirt, you’re stylish in my books.