The Politics of Getting Dressed

It’s 1:04 A.M. in the dead of dead week. My roommates are hard at work memorizing formulas or balancing chemical equations. And what am I doing? Planning an outfit.

No, I’m not a fashion major or even a fashionista. Some people stress-eat, some people stress-nap...I stress-plan outfits.

Generally, despite the fact that my stress-planning tends to get in the way of my academic productivity, I at least end up with a satisfying outfit for the next day.

But recently, in the midst of one of my nightly stress-planning sessions, I felt an overwhelming sense of pure exasperation. I finally understood what Cher Horowitz meant when she said “I have, like, nothing to wear” (although my epiphany was admittedly a tad bit more complex).

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See, a big part of why I was so dissatisfied with many of my outfits was entirely unrelated to their aesthetic value; I just didn’t want to look like a Hypebeast. Or, more accurately, I didn’t want others to see me as a Hypebeast.

A Hypebeast, according to Urban Dictionary, is “someone who is a beast (obsessed) about the hype (in fashion), and will do whatever it takes to obtain that desired hype.”

And as an Asian and proud owner of AF1’s and Fila Disruptors, slipping on a Champion hoodie or anything even remotely reminiscent of streetwear automatically puts you in danger of being called the h-word.

But don’t get me wrong; ‘Hypebeasts’ are really just people who enjoy dressing a certain way. So as someone who obsessively tries on 5+ outfits in the dead of night, I can’t really judge anyone for their fashion idiosyncrasies (not that anyone should ever be judged, but more on that later).

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It wasn’t just avoiding the Hypebeast category either though; I didn’t want to fall into any of the many stereotypes--some of which are outlined in this handy dandy Fung Bros video--and beyond.

Think of it this way: if a non-Asian individual wore a Champion hoodie and a pair of Nike slides would they also be in danger of earning the ‘Hypebeast’ title?

I’m currently taking an Introduction to Asian American Studies course. As I sat on the ambiguously colored carpet in my dorm room that fateful night, my professor’s words echoed in my mind: as Asians, and POC in general, we walk into situations knowing what others expect from us, all the way down to how we dress.

It’s not just our supposed innate predisposition for math or our inability to live a day without rice. It’s the way we talk, the way we present ourselves, and in my case, my decision to wear Birkenstocks instead of Nike slides to avoid being mistaken for a Hypebeast on my grocery run.

And I’ve finally realized that even though ‘it really do be like that,’ it shouldn’t be like that. To quote one of the most punk-rock women in fashion history, Vivienne Westwood, fashion is “life-enhancing and, like everything that gives pleasure, it is worth doing well.”

Because at the end of the day, I can’t change the fact that people still think I’m a Hypbeast, a yappie, an ABG, or whatever other stereotype I somehow resemble. What really matters is whether I enjoy what I’m wearing.

So yes, this is a reminder to not categorize people based off of whether the way they dress matches their racial stereotype. But also remember that even though we can’t change other people's' perception of us, we can at least stop forcing ourselves to abide by those restrictions.

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