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“I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Gilda Radner

The world is not allowed to stereotype any more. ‘Political Correctness’ in its most positive form is the title produced to prevent the hideous ‘isms’ that exist(ed) in society, but in its slightly over-reaching form its over-interpretation prevents human beings doing what human beings naturally do when presented with an image – make an assessment.

And fashion is a source of judgment, like it or not. I refer mainly to dress-fashion when I write that. The one thing fashion does is identify a person’s life choices, bank balance, chosen peer group, occasionally even their sexuality. Admittedly, in a ‘cats breathe, I breathe, therefore I am a cat’ sense, how a person dresses is not automatically proof of any of those things, but just like sharp teeth used to make Neanderthal Man think twice about an approach from in front, how you dress does send a message. And it is often a stereotype – suits for professionals (except on telly, tie off or else!), linen suits for academics, weird scarves for social worker ladies (and badly stuffed A5 diaries), shirt tails out on Friday night pub visits, pointy shoes for young sales reps, and lately some extremely odd haircuts for men (some too old for them) that MY dad would have thought old-fashioned.

The question I ask of you, dear reader, is – do you follow fashion? Do you in any way follow a ‘trend’ instead of conforming to a ‘norm’? Do you follow 1Direction because of their musical talent or ‘cos everyone else does? Do you watch Strictly because YOU dance, or so that you can talk about it in work tomorrow? Do you drive one-armed, wrist on the steering wheel because it looks ‘cool’? Do you watch Big Brother and then wear a tiny pork-pie hat to work because the winner did?

Do you say, ‘Like’ as a gap-word in conversation? Do you swear because Lee Evans did at the O2?

If so, you are a follower, not a leader.

In his book ‘Thinking Big’, author David Schwartz wrote a small piece about such things, which I quote here. He said,

“In theory, it’s pleasant to hear that people should look at a man’s intellect, not his clothes. But don’t be misled. People do evaluate you on the basis of your appearance. Your appearance is the first basis for evaluation other people have. And first impressions last.”

Another quote was directed specifically at young people, where Scwartz quoted someone else who stated, “You can usually spot a wrong kid just by the way he looks. Sure it’s unfair, but it’s a fact; people judge young people today by their appearance. And one they’ve tabbed a boy, it’s tough to change their minds about him, their attitude towards them. Look at your boy: look at him through your neighbour’s eyes, his teacher’s eyes. Could the way he looks, the clothes he wears, give them the wrong impression? Are you making sure he looks right, dresses right, everywhere he goes?

Add speech, attitude, focus, deeds, social circle – and you start the list of what people judge you on.

You can ask society, even legislate society to speak differently, to say they must not judge. But tough – you’re making a law that people should overwrite human instincts. Some can, some can’t, many won’t. I like to think I’m at the ‘better’ end but the truth is when stereotyping there is a better than 50% chance you’re right. You know it’s true.

So choose better. You don’t have to blindly, slavishly follow anyone or anything. But me mindful that when you do, you are sending a message. Just make sure it’s the message you want to send.