Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Lack of Individuality

I don't know whether it's amusing or disturbing - or both - but it seems lately that young people today, especially the guys, lack individuality. Put 100 young men under 30 in a room together and chances are that 90+% of them are going to look exactly the same.

I'll narrow my thoughts here to the South Philly - South Jersey area. I'm not ready to say the rest of the nation has gone that way. Lately it's become like some sort of B movie, maybe we'll call it, "Attack of the HipHop Clones". But maybe we should just call it "The Uniform". You know what I'm talking about. The weather's going to get warmer. Check out the guys hanging on your local street corner on a warm spring evening. What do they look like? They're probably in "The Uniform". Long white t-shirt down to their knees, baggy pants, black baseball cap turned backward or sideways. And all have the same hair style and facial hair. They go to the barber and get their scalped shorn down to as close a crop as you can, and trim the musctache and beard to the same narrow lines as the next guy. I recently had to get a family member to the ER at Methodist Hospital and literally saw no less than 8 guys in less than a few hours all looking the same. Whether it was the security guard, guys waiting for treatment, or some other guy. At least the security guard didn't have the t-shirt and baggy pants, and he did keep his cap with the bill facing forward, but the hair style was the same. It's ridiculous.

What ever happened to being yourself and dressing yourself? Growing up and heading into our early adult years, most kept to the styles of the day. At least something was different that made the guys stand out at that time. Today if a guy hooks up with a young woman, she'd better keep him isolated and away from the corner.Otherwise, she'll have the needle-in-a-haystack dillema trying to find him in the crowd.

I don't know what bothers me more though, the styles or the language. Communications skills are at an all-time low. While we've always butchered the English language here in South Philadelphia, at least we formed sentences. The "Hey, whattsup man?" of yesteryear had de-evolved into simply "Sup?" or "Yo", with voices of some of the young dudes sounding more like hip-hop wannabees than that of a person who has been getting an education. It's just pathetic sometimes what you see and hear.

Sorry about the rant in an otherwise nostalgic and/or humorous blog. I couldn't help myself. Maybe some young guy out there is going to read this and step up to the mirror and realize what he's seeing is the same thing he saw earlier in the afternoon when he looked across the lunch table in school at his classmates. If it causes him to toss that tent of a t-shirt and six sizes too big pants in the trash and go out and buy some duds that look like they didn't come out of some strange cartoon, then I've made an impact on society. And if it carries on to where more guys do it, young ladies may find that I've given them some hope. They'll find more guys out there who look like individuals than a regiment of men who have adopted "The Uniform" and have a very limited language. And maybe there's a Nobel Prize or something else to give me notoriety for what will be this post's great impact on American culture. As I pause to think about it, probably not. So what. If I see just one young guy dress in your everyday t-shirt or button-down shirt and a pair of Dockers or boot-cut jeans, and chuck the ball cap, it's reward enough for me.

Other styles from the past that were different, but at least still more individual than "The Uniform"...

...Bell Bottom pants - Especially the louder ones. I had a pair in my pre-teen years with vertical blue and yellow stripes. I wouldn't be caught dead wearing them to a snake fight these days.
...Terry cloth shirts - We were wearing our bath towels with collars and short sleeves during the Disco Era.
...Gold chains - Wait a minute, forget that. The guys wearing "The Uniform" are wearing them too. Gold chains on guys almost always give a stereotypical image.
...Leisure suits (see photo above) - I had two during my freshman year in high school. I think there's one photo that survives of me wearing one of them, a baby blue polyester number. Don't ask, there's no way that picture will ever see the light of day. What was humorous is that at Neumann, a lot of guys' parents bought them for them during the summer before school started, and the leadership decided that leisure suits were unacceptable dress. A firestorm ensued with those said parents furious that those dubious pieces of 70s fashion were to sit in the closet, never to be worn to school, or anywhere else for that matter. But the parents were able to get a meeting with the school bigs, and sure enough, the guys got to wear their leisure suits.

Right now, there's some classmate somewhere rummaging through shoe boxes and photo albums, looking for any pics of him wearing that pink or peach colored polyester wonder. Hopefully his wife or girlfriend will look over his shoulder and catch a glimpse of him before the photo makes it to the shredder or burns in a trash can. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when she cries out, "What the heck is that thing? You look like a dork wearing that" and grabs the picture and shows it to her girlfriend. Guys, if this is you, some's better to say nothing than to say "My mom bought it for me." Why make an embarrassing situation even worse?


Brian said...

Kevin K reminded me that the young ladies also have their uniform. How I missed it, I don't know.

As much as it looks silly, the girls wearing pajama bottoms are still not as uniform as the guys. I do think parents ought to be smacked for allowing young girls to wear sweat pants with things printed on their behinds. In this day and age when there are a lot of perverts out there, the last thing you want is one looking where they shouldn't.

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