by Beth Hammarlund
About five years ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of a dentist’s office, flipping through whatever staple-bound tabloid happened to be on top of the magazine pile on the end table. I remember exactly what I was wearing: gray high-waisted Cheap Monday skinny jeans, a My Morning Jacket tee, a secondhand black leather jacket, vintage black Ray Ban Wayfarers, and my scuzzy black and white checkered Vans. The reason I am so certain of my wardrobe choices on that particular day is that when I flipped to a page about stars being just like us, I saw a photo of Ashlee Simpson wearing the exact same outfit. Well, it was a different tee, probably My Chemical Romance or something, but nevertheless, the similarity was undeniable. I was crushed. I never considered myself some sort of hardcore rock girl or anything, but playing twinsies with the girl who married the dude from Fall Out Boy and did a little hoe-down dance on Saturday Night Live when her lip syncing track misplayed launched me into a sartorial existential crisis. Who am I? And more importantly, what do I wear?
Last week I had a similar experience. My hair is currently blonde (not bleached, just my natural color) and fairly short, just shaved in a few sections. And so when I opened my laptop to a sea of news outlets raving about Miley Cyrus’ totally edgy new haircut, I stopped short. Not only was my haircut now similar to the coif of a poorly enunciating, pop drivel-peddling Disney Princess, hers was edgier! I didn’t even know that we were in a competition, but clearly we were, and she had won. So where does that leave me? Do I text my stylist in a panic, demanding that we color my hair some wacky Rainbow Brite shade? And if so, what? Katy Perry has claimed ownership over pink, violet, green and blue. Rihanna holds the patent to Rihanna Red, and every teen bubblegum pop star has dabbled in black and platinum. Should I shave half my head? Wait, Kesha did that. Shave the whole thing? Well, that kind of lost its bite after even Britney Spears gave it a go mid-breakdown. Perhaps the logical next step is for me to follow in the footsteps of Lady Gaga and do the unthinkable: dye my hair brown. And maybe start shopping at Talbots.
It’s the way of the world, at least when it comes to style and taste. You adopt a fashion trend before it’s even off the runway or you discover a band before they have a record deal. And it’s yours for a little while and all is right with the world, but inevitably, you’ll find yourself paging through an US Weekly at a dentist’s office, flipping past the Disney Channel, or just walking down the street, and you will spy someone who stands for everything that you stand against, and you guys will totally be wearing the same outfit. So how do you deal with this? Do you ignore it? Do you rail in the opposite direction? Or do you stubbornly refuse to change your clothes or your taste in music, but reserve the right to constantly complain about those damn tweens who keep ruining everything? And while you’re at it, get off my damn lawn!
I used to opt for the latter: stick to my fashion and music guns, but constantly vocalize my contempt. But I’m kind of getting over that. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age, or more likely the lethargy that comes with age, but I’m kind of tired of complaining. The fact is, whatever you like, whether you were the first or a late-comer, people that you can’t stand will inevitably ape your shit. And here’s my personal breakthrough: it wasn’t your shit in the first place. No matter how genuinely badass you are, someone once looked you up and down and thought to him or herself, “Goddamn kids, ruining everything.”
Not that I think Ashlee Simpson is as cool as you were when you first bought that Joy Division shirt that everyone has. More than likely she had a team of “cool experts” during her pop singer years that told her that she should, like, totally start listening to Interpol, and by the way Ash, the image on that t-shirt you bought at Hot Topic is actually the logo for The Misfits. But that doesn’t make The Misfits, or the fact that you love them, any less cool. And who knows, maybe Miley Cyrus is secretly awesome. I mean, her hair is really great and she’s getting married to Thor’s brother.