In my life, the importance of ‘being original’ is stressed by my parents, peers and the media. “Be Unique!” is a mantra used repeatedly by my parents when I present them with any social predicament I have. But upon further investigation, I have come to the startling conclusion that ‘being an individual’ just isn’t all that original anymore.
When I set out to write this article, I was hoping to focus on the latest fashion trend sweeping through the male population at Leesville: black socks. Every day, nearly three-quarters of the boys walking through the halls have on ankle-high black socks, with either Sperrys or Wallabees.
This ridiculous cult-like trend is a minor comparison to the “Ugg Explosion” that occurred last year. The Australian boots adorned nearly every female student’s feet. The halls of Leesville, and every other North Raleigh high school, were a billboard advertising Uggs throughout the fall of 2009.
As I began to interview students behind their reasoning for wearing black socks, I realized that their answers were all fairly similar. Nearly all of the boys claimed that the only reason they wore black socks was because their fellow male peers did.
The results led me to question the reason that girls wore Uggs, and upon further investigation, I discovered that their reasons for wearing Uggs were the same as the boy’s reasons for wearing black socks: because everyone else does it.
“You just don’t think about [following trends],” Abby Hilyer, sophomore, explained. “I [do it] to fit in. Otherwise, people think bad of you.”
According to an article in the Washington Times, this mentality is normal. “‘Fitting in,’ is very important for young teenagers… It’s just a sign of normal child development… It’s a time when kids want to separate from their parents and fit in with their peers. Dressing alike is one way.”
Melinda Ewbank, sophomore, disagrees. “Trends are so stupid. There’s no way to express yourself. [People who follow trends] care too much about what people think. They need to be their own person.”
But perhaps the most interesting discovery I made was not that nearly every high school student is a trend-follower, but that almost no one will admit to it. When interviewed, many of the students who were wearing the latest fashion trend claimed that they were ‘original’ and that they did not follow said trends.
Their beliefs, however ironic, test what ‘being original’ really means. If, as proposed by parents around the world, originality is actually ‘being an individual,” then no one is unique. By everyone airing the attitude of non-conformity, they put themselves into the same group, thus negating the entire idea behind individuality.
This leads one to question: Is individuality impossible to achieve?
Teens pull inspiration for their wardrobe, musical tastes, and other cultural ideas from hundreds of media outlets. While they may add their own personal touches, their ‘unique’ choices inevitably come from someone else’s perception of originality. Because of this, the idea of ‘being original’ is a trend all its own.
Like every other trend, originality is a spectrum. At one end, there are people who follow it blindly, dressing or acting eccentrically just to claim that they are ‘being different,’ And at the other end, there are those who put their own spin on the fad, yet are still considered ‘sane’ by their peers.
“A lot of people seem to go out of the way to be original and paradoxically end up not being themselves.” Kimberly Rees, senior, said via Facebook message.
Perhaps the idea parents have been trying to stress is not to ‘be unique,’ but to ‘be yourself’ and ‘be happy being yourself.’ If that means wearing Uggs and/or black socks, then I say go for it. Instead of attempting to stand out of the crowd, maybe they should start trying to figure out who the are.
Katie Szabo, sophomore, explains, “[People] should take time to just step away from people and figure out who they are. Life gets confusing… [but] once you figure out who you are, it all just falls into place.”