What does your outfit say?

I love places where sweat- and swim- and business suits sit side by side, and sandals and stilettos and sneakers step together in stride. Places like buses and subways, where boundaries are beautifully smudged, blending colors and borders like a smoothed chalk drawing. (Thankfully I have never had to witness the prejudice that once pervaded public transportation.)

Early this morning I had the opportunity to observe another such setting – the airport. After de-boarding my first plane, I headed toward my connection and began to notice the outfits all around. Sundress-covered swimwear, pencil skirts with oxford shirts, hole-y jeans with hoodies, ties beneath blazers, cardigans around shoulders, head-to-toe camouflage, flannels that surely had been slept in a few short hours before, and perhaps my favorite – the navy caps and perfectly pressed button-downs proudly donned by the pilots. Shoes, too, varied: way-tall wedges, brightly colored flip flops, slide-in slippers, fashionable flats, “beauty hurts” heels, and the vast assortment of styles that sometimes need shining by the shiners that line the terminals. As I looked, I marveled. So many stories were represented within such a small space.

Clothes can symbolize a common bond (sorority t-shirts, school uniforms, team jerseys), indicate a role (cowboy, clergy, military), and be an outlet of artistic expression (color, design, style, brand). Inevitably, they send messages that perhaps we each receive in different ways – your definitions of appropriate, cool, classy, and trashy may be much different than mine. Beauty may be universal, but it sure seems that we don’t all see it in the same way.

As I looked around my gate, I humorously began assigning words to people’s wear: I just woke up. I care about status. I could care less about status. I’m on my way to (hopefully) land a job. I’m a fashionista. I’m a die-hard sports fan. I’m a VIP. I love New York. I want you to notice me. I’m a punk rocker. I’m colorblind. (‘Kidding about that last one…) Then I looked down, taking note of my own apparel and wondering what my choice was communicating to my neighbor.

What does your outfit say?

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