Are DIY Projects Elaborate Self Flagellation?

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling Sarah G. Schmidt, Location - East Village


I’ll say it. When it comes to style I dislike fitting in, looking like everyone else, and a lot of the hurry-up-and-join-everyone-else trends for trend sake. This is not to say that I don’t love seeing a new interpretation of something and thinking to myself, “Hey that looks like it’s my jam.” Or “So-and-so would look greatttttt in that.” Fashion is fun. That’s part of the attraction. Where I struggle is the seemingly inauthentic adoption of “cool” just because it’s what everyone is doing.

Someone dear to me reminds me that, “Cool is not a thing; cool doesn’t exist,” every time I use the word. I understand what the person is saying. It’s not so much that things aren’t desirable, current, or “cool;” it’s the realization that it’s cool and it’s not cool. Cool is subjective and personal. Like flavours of ice cream and colours of crayon, it takes all different kinds to satisfy. For the record I’m no vanilla nor am I beige.

As I tackled my latest DIY clothing modification – tassel fray on straight leg jeans – I had a compelling thought. “When I do this DIY style stuff I feel like I’m taking care of my heart and closet. Yay me! But what if all these projects I do are just my <insert explicative*> need to feel unique? Is this just my need to feel special?” How millennial of me.

On the one hand, why would taking on a hobby that I enjoy doing in an effort to feel extra good in a garment be bad? How is that any different than folks who choose to train for marathons, preserve vegetables, fix their own cars, or renovate their homes themselves? It isn’t. It’s just that while I care to do none of those things, I DO care to Frankenstein clothing. Need proof?

As a kid, I made countless shorts from old jeans as I grew. At least one per summer since I was 6 (My seamstress mother trusted me with scissors at a dangerously young age). I have since moved on to distressing.

I feel like I should have a memorial service for all the T shirts that have fallen victim to my need to “spice it up” a bit. Thank you for gracing me with your cotton, polyester blend presence.

Painting a jacket and attaching leather straps as wrist details from these old shoes was a lovely afternoon activity a while back. What do you do with your Sunday’s?

A neoprene dress that was hugging my tush in all the wrong places has been transformed into a mullet-esq shirt. Take that.

I’ve even cut the ankle straps off a pair of heeled sandals to expand my near addiction level collection of mules. Dope AF.

The point being is I that I like to tweak and modify articles of clothing as much as I fancy. It makes me love the garment more and I like investing my time on the act of achieving said desired look. Win, win.

On the other hand, of course it’s loaded in my need to feel like my best, fully articulated type of self-actualization Maslow bullshit. I can admit that. I hope – and believe – we all have our ego-mind-junk that tied so firmly to a value we hold dearly. That’s what makes us human.

In an effort to get a grip, I’ve read countless articles and books that argue that we all know nothing, yet we want to feel as special as we think we are.** We’re all trying to find our thing. We take the journey <cue eye twinge here> that we’re truly special at or fill us up with that awesome-sauce feeling. Until we find it, we’re all just bumbling along looking.

If that’s too existential for you, I like to think this concept a more straightforward way. We naturally care more deeply for the things we love, AKA: give a f#ck about, than other things. When it comes to hobbies and interests, we simply like what we like and don’t like what we don’t like. Now couple that concept with the reality that there are only so many f#cks to give per person. Boom. That’s how it works. Experts say something more eloquent than this paraphrased take: Find your f#ck and nurture it. F#cking let the other stuff go.

As much as I can claim to have found my focus – or f#ck - I get how it may look. From the outside, hacking up clothes in my free time probably looks insane. My hobby may look just as insane to you as planting a Pinterest-worthy organic herb garden does to me.

What do you give a f#ck about that no one seems to get? Do share.

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*Narcissistic; bullshit; individualistic; all came easily to my mind.

**Checking my privilege, “all” being North American working class and up. I am shamed to think about my self-reflection indulgence at times as bananas as these and historical events.