I shop, therefore I am a product myself

Here’s an idea: brands should pay us to wear their clothes because we are walking advertisements: GAP across a chest, JUICY across a butt, a swish on a backpack, a puma on a foot – they are all free ads (no, not even free, they’re all endorsements: hey, this company is dressing me! this company created my look today!).

It’s true, fashion can be a form of art, and a form of expression. When I see a well-dressed person on the street, they definitely grab my attention. But that’s all. Sometimes I think “fabulous shoes/ coat” but most often I wonder how much time they spent creating that outfit and accessorizing.

Otherwise, if they are ‘memorable’, it will be by something else (a playful walk or their expression that seems like they’re having an internal argument). That is so much more interesting than whatever garment they’re parading out there.

Unless, of course, the person in question has vapid eyes – which is more common and even more sad than whatever they’re trying (lying) with that outfit.

What I also don’t understand is the people who neglect their health and physical appearance (mainly fitness) but they’re quick to buy new clothes and accessories. Here’s an amazing lifestyle advice I read from Rick Owens (a fashion designer):

Working out is modern couture. 

No outfit is going to make you look or feel as good as having a fit body. 

Buy less clothes and go the gym instead.” 

How simple, true, and motivational!

Before Rick Owens, I am sure my brother taught me that.

I think that people who express themselves with clothes, especially very exuberant clothes, are filling a void in their personality, trying to compensate for not reaching some self-imposed (or, most likely, socially-imposed) potential.

I sometimes wear brightly-coloured wigs, especially cosplay wigs after my trip to Japan. I never wear them for attention, I do it for myself because it feels more playful.



They are ridiculously vibrant (and fun) and they got me a lot of attention I didn’t always want.


Just a few weeks ago I met with a friend whom I haven’t seen in 3 years. When I came to see her she was sitting with a dozen of her friends, ladies aged older than my mother. Very cool bunch. Because it was unseasonably cold for Miami, I had to put an outfit together from bits and pieces of my scant wardrobe, and ended up with a look that all of them excessively complimented. And, I won’t lie, it felt good, if quite amusing.

We had a fun night out, and some great conversations, but after I have wondered if they going to remember me for what I wore. That would be horrid, who wants to be remembered for their dress? I have archived some people according to the way they are dressed, but only when nothing else grabbed my attention.

. . .

People are superficial. Whenever you hear someone say they disregard someone’s appearance or a questionable hygiene  and look into their soul is a load of bul### (if you’re not convinced, read Steve Jobs’ biography by Isaacson). But most likely, if you are dressed appropriately (in other words, when your clothes don’t speak for you!) and they fit you, fashion is not an issue.

Some people wear clothes that shout.

Miami Beach is, in some ways not measured in decibels, really loud. It’s neon, “look-at-me!!!” neon, everywhere.

When someone is said to have a great sense of style, what does that mean? It’s not clothes or their consumerist identities, it’s the way they carry themselves, the manner in which their physical appearance compliments their personality, not the other way around.

But, in today’s world, you are what  you wear. Cool scene from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) when Christopher Gardner gets to his very important job interview in a paint-stained wife-beater and the interviewer asks him: “What would you say if a man walked in here with no (button-down) shirt, and I hired him?”, To which he answers, “He must have had on some really nice pants”. Funny, but a totally wrong line. He should have said that he can’t afford to look like a thousand bucks (cheesy, I know!). In spite of that, the movie is great and worth watching.
 . . .

Fashion – and especially trends – are incredibly wasteful. I’ll spare you the lecture here on third-world sweatshops and the costs of making, marketing and selling cheap stuff. Not because I think it’s unimportant, but because it will sway me from the point I want to make (that third-world sweatshops are a ‘world away’ from your shopping sprees, and something that you don’t take personally. And as long as that’s the case, your actions won’t change).

Second-hand clothes are way cooler because you don’t look like you’re wearing a uniform. And they have a story (“I bought this dress at a thrift store for one dollar. It’s a bridesmaid’s dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree. So special. Then, bam, it’s on the side of the road” – Marla Singer, Fight Club (1999). Reuse and recycle!

It’s true, to become a non-consumerist, you have to fight and resist a tremendous push from marketers almost every walking minute of your life because their pull for products and services is a relentless bombardment. They spend an enormous amount of money, effort and knowledge into researching and studying your needs and wants, and believe me when I say, they know you better than you know yourself. And because their livelihood is based on your decisions, and profit is the name of the game, they will even sell you the concept of sustainable, ethical, conscious consumption before you now what’t happening.

. . .

I have a pair of pants that I need stitched and I can’t find an alterations shop anywhere – that’s because I don’t think anyone repairs clothes any more – they’re cheaper to buy new.

I am hoping the old Nicaraguan lady sitting in the back of a dry cleaner somewhere in North Beach will agree to do it.

When I was in Quito last year, the strap on my shoulder bag broke and, on the first morning there, still fighting the high altitude dehydration, we went for a walk and stumbled onto a row of old women (about 7-8 of them) on the street, under a motorway bridge, bent over sewing machines. This was their workplace. Talk about convenience! They charged me 60 cents (USD) – which was probably triple the regular price (a foreigner tax, I call it), and I tipped them, then went on my way smiling like a goon.

It starts with small things. I wish – I wish! – I was like this from the beginning. No, it’s not just guilt.. it just makes more sense to me (now).

Hopefully, it will inspire some of my readers to change their habits.

Part of a series on consumerism and identity and conscious consumption, inspired by UNEP’s World Environment Day campaign. 

In developed and developing countries, people are acquiring much more than what they actually need and therefore producing an enormous amount of waste. 

Orient your action for World Environment Day this year to an activity that promotes sustainable consumption and be the one to reshape our future!

10 thoughts on “I shop, therefore I am a product myself

  1. The wigs were cool. Extravagant, though, and when the mood (or occasion) strike. Not sure for beard.
    And we are all very much different, thanks God.
    Some people are blond, some with glasses, some prefer long hair style, some have beards (colourful or otherwise) and …..”Some people wear clothes that shout”.

  2. Been visiting your site for the anti-consumerism articles, glad to see more of it

  3. I used to tell my kids this 40 years ago! They were not inpressed, but now grownup, they understand what I meant.

  4. Pingback: I shop, therefore I am a product myself : Living Green Magazine

  5. haha I like that sentence “in fact you’re naked.. worse than naked, you are swathed in petroleum products!”

    I cycle to thrift shops and farmers’ markets, ha!

  6. It’s part of old equation: “soul -> mind -> body” relation was always extended to clothes. It’s just that today you can wear Zulu or Victorian outfit… when you’re not at work ;)
    And there come other stuff to match, like gadgets and lifestyle and ideologies and fair trade organic food.

    Guess we should keep producing something, even small bits. A vibrant wig must be hell of a fun to make ;))

  7. i call all fashion statements “emperor’s clothes” – You pay a lot so you think you are garbed oclock, and in fact, you are naked……worse than naked, you are swathed in petroleum products!

    A clarion call to only buy new socks, undergarments, and the odd pair of footwear. The rest can be procured in thrift shops galore – remember to bicycle there. And then strut your stuff with pride and a stand out sense of individuality along with a happy sense of immunity to the conditioned norms. Cottons, wools, leathers, and the five cents on the dollar silks.

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