Monday 23 July 2012

Clothes make the Man, but frailty thy name is Woman

Mark Twain is attributed with “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” We judge a lot about people by the way they dress and their ‘style’. We can often tell where people live by the way they dress, the stories of modern day tribes are true. With that information at first glance, we often then throw in a great deal of judgement for good measure.
We have some friends from university days who live literally 5km away in the next suburb, but the growing gulf between us is widening daily. We are definitely inner city, a very eclectic mix of people of all different races and backgrounds and all different styles of dress. Our friends down the road are fast becoming very conservative, middle class suburbanites. The force of keeping up with the Jones’s is strong in this one.
One day at lunch, I mentioned our recent trip to Melbourne on Tiger and the wife exclaimed “Tiger? I don’t know how you can fly with them. The people!!” at which point she screwed up her face. I had to point out that we were those “people” – people with three children that still wanted to have weekends away interstate, but needed the cheapest airfares possible for the ONE HOUR flight. I’m not sure which carrier they fly with, as I’ve not noticed a ‘better class’ of passenger on any plane, economy here and economy there are very much the same. I was a little taken aback at the snobbish attitude, but more so by the fact she didn’t actually think there was anything wrong with expressing it.
We ventured off to the Roller Derby together, which I adore not just for the sport but the subculture and anything goes attire of both the skaters and the audience. In my mind very cool – but the first thing the husband said was “There are a lot of weird people here” and they left soon after.  We all laughed as it was basically our neighbourhood, relocated to another venue. The gulf, I realised then, was quite a chasm. Five kilometres requiring a mental passport.
The very wonderful M. T. Anderson wrote in his giggle inducing children’s book, Whales on Stilts,  “Lily looked at her two friends. She felt proud to be with them – especially Jasper because he wasn’t afraid to dress stupidly in public. Lily never wanted to have the kind of friends who refused to eat fries in a sparkly brown jumpsuit.” I always saw myself as a kind of Lily, as I love those who dress against the norm, follow my own style and think of myself as easy going but I had a wake up call coming and learnt that my tribe is equally judgmental.
I went to look at a private school, and was one of three women not wearing the unspoken uniform of chinos and a crisp white shirt at the Open Day. I smirked to myself at how ridiculous they all looked, rolled my eyes when one of the students said to his friend as I walked in “You can tell she lives around here” and basically felt far superior to these pathetic sheep. The only people that spoke to me were the other two colourful dressers…we automatically ruled all those other women out. Was it fair? No. Was it snobbish and judgmental? Definitely. Was it something Lily would be proud of? I think not.
We are quick to judge those different from ourselves, and yet we don’t get to know them before we judge, we take one look and assess. More importantly, the snobbish, superficial judgement runs both ways. We spend a lot of time teaching our children values and ideals that we don’t follow ourselves. We travel the globe to open ourselves to new ideas and cultures, but we don’t open our mind to the tribe down the street. If I really want to be like Lily, I have to see beyond the sparkly brown jumpsuit, I need to remember that it’s only what’s on the outside…As Alexander Theroux said “Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging".


  1. I completely get this. I was just thinking this week that I needed to write something about how I try to teach my kids not to judge others and how I try to get others not to judge them, yet, I unconsciously judge others all the time. It might be considered human nature but it's not how I want to be or how I want my children to be. Thanks a heap for linking up Lydia!

  2. Great post. I completely get this too. I have a draft blog posts on tribes which I must revisit soon.

  3. I'm not sure I ever wrote that post...but my original comment still stands. I still mentally judge others but I hope I'm not verbalising that or setting my kids a poor example.

  4. Great post! It's interesting that we never quite realise how different we are to some people until we spend time with them.
    I live in the ghetto...think cars with stereo systems worth more than the car, unkempt yards and if you dare say something you'll be told to fuck off. Sometimes I hate the 'feral' side of it and others I absolutely love that I can sit in my front yard on a camp chair with a stubby and no one bats and eyelid.