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May I Have Your Attention


After a plethora of direct comments, overheard remarks, and the occasional "well you should expect it with that strange hair" lines, I felt inspired to write this post around the idea that: attention receiving is not the same as attention seeking. In fact, this could also be rephrased as "attractive to you doesn't mean attempting to attract you;" a sentence I certainly wish street harassers would memorize and take to heart. In the States we often like to believe we're free thinking and open-minded, a society of rebels from the Boston Tea Party to James Dean; all of us on motorcycles with leather jackets and without a cause. Similarly, nearly every Hollywood movie I've seen featuring snippets of Japan are quick to throw in the Japanese adage of "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down." But how are we really so different from our idea of this country we use as an example of conformity when nearly every magazine or fashion show we create criticizes anyone who might buck the norm with "worst dressed columns" and detailed articles on what's trendy and how to wear it. I mean, it really is not enough to be told the trend is neon, we are also given guidance on how neon is properly worn--don't look like someone from the 80s, take these tips and inject a little neon into your wardrobe while still appearing societally acceptable. Yet, we aren't a country of conformity, right...?

My point isn't to criticize how-to guides on style or even devolving this discussion into my own annoyance with random comments. People enjoy tips on how to wear more difficult trends; they given them practical ideas and help them figure out wear to shop. The point rather is that this idea of "proper attire" means that those who don't follow the rules stand out. Perhaps they don't follow the trends at all; they're the only one in their small town that choose daily to don vintage dresses or the only girl at their high school who discovered punk rock and convinced their parents to let them dye her hair or shave her head, or it can even be the tomboy in a group of more outwardly feminine friends who keep trying to force makeup on her. They stand out. However, they probably aren't standing out for the purpose of receiving attention. For one thing let's acknowledge that we can't know someone's motivations merely from seeing them on the street; not their reasons for putting on those clothes that morning nor anything else.

As a shy person myself I can attest that I didn't dye my hair blue to receive more random attention on the street. I knew that in making this decision I would be labeled as the "one with blue hair" whenever described to strangers by my friends, although I didn't know strangers would suddenly have a desire to touch my hair to ascertain if it was a "real" or not...Yet, a response I often receive to my hair is "well, you must like attention." Which isn't the case. I stare at my feet when walking through crowded spaces, turn positively red when I feel as if a lot of people are staring at me, and have even on occasion become tongue-tied when approached. However, blue hair was something I always wanted since I was little, so I decided to ignore my more self-conscious tendencies and just dye it.

I only use my personal experience as an example to illustrate the broader point I stated earlier: attention receiving is not the same as attention seeking. Certainly there are attention-seeking fashion choices or outfits chosen for shock-value--any street fashion photography site will eventually confirm that. However, often the people we see walking around who appear outside of the cultural norm for the region aren't dressing with the intent of turning heads or being photographed. I'd happily live in a city filled with blue-haired girls in white dresses; that would be quite fun and would probably alleviate some of my shyness when leaving my house. I am of course quite capable of leaving my house alone and fielding comments from strangers on my hair (despite how red my cheeks might get), but what is perhaps the most frustrating is the assumption that my decision (or another's) was based on a desire for attention. Let's stop assuming we understand people's motivations after a brief visual assessment and reducing someone's decisions to anything so simplistic as a desire to be stared at...

*photographs of Ulyana Sergeenko who has turned her eye-catching street style into a couture line

28 comments:

Marie @ Lemondrop Vintage said...

Agreed! Sometimes I don't wear what I would like to because I don't want attention drawn at that time or place, which is unfortunate because I should be able to express myself almost any time I'd like through my fashion choices.

Jennifer L said...

2nd the agreement! The older I get *shakes crochety fist* the more irritated/annoyed I get with complete strangers feeling as though they can touch me/my belongings. Your hair looks great, and it would look great even if you spent all your evenings at home away from prying eyes.

Anonymous said...

thank you!!! i get this all the time because of my tattoos - people assume that i want to talk about them and that i'm inviting their comments about them just by showing them. i was actually told once that i shouldn't get tattoos if i'm not willing to talk about them. i've had people accuse me of getting them just for the attention. but like you, i hate attention and really hate talking about my tattoos. i got them for me, because i like them and think they're pretty.

Laura said...

Love this! The quote that you used, "attention receiving isn't the same as attention seeking" is so accurate! I have been told that I'm full of myself just for having a blog many of times. Or even worse, you are just doing it for the free stuff, a plethora of times. So. Annoying.

Thanks for this post, you have written it so well!

xoxo,
Laura
http://lauraisthriftingthroughlife.blogspot.com/

Daphne said...

You've put into words a simple truth that many people miss when they judge or assess others. Perhaps these days someone who dresses/presents themselves in a certain way because that is what they happen to like, rather than because that looks good on them or flows with the fashion of the time, is a rarity and draws attention for better or worse. I think you have a lot of great insight on these types of topics, thanks for sharing!

ZZ said...

When I am walking around during the day, I cannot see myself. Therefore the way I dress has almost no impact on my consciousness from moment to moment. It only affects me when I look in the mirror, or when I think about how others might perceive me. So the ONLY reason to dress a certain way is to admire myself in the mirror or to impress others.

THIS IS NOT WRONG. We live in a society, we are not lone hunter-gatherers. Our interactions with others are one of the most important things in our lives, and it's OK to put some effort and pride into making an impression.

Rebecca, The Clothes Horse said...

@ZZ that's a false dilemma. More possibilities exist than what you present.

Hannah said...

*slow clap* I wholeheartedly agree! As someone who also makes unusual style choices, it's completely a choice I make and a creative expression. It's not to attract comments or gawking from strangers. I would give them the same courtesy! (although, I'm pretty shy so it's not like I even comment on people when I really do love something they're doing!)

Sarah said...

Yes! What a great point to bring up. I definitely agree on all fronts.

MarieBayArea said...

Truth

Tara said...

Thanks for writing this! I went through a phase of black/red hair when I was younger and that was when I was at my most shy! I was never doing it for attention, I just felt it was my personality, just me! I knew once I had done it that everybody had an opinion (people don't hold back) but I'm still glad I did it. It was the start of experimenting, It's all about finding out who you are and what you like. I think your hair does say a lot about your personality, just have fun with it!


Sky High Style

Love your blog! x

MintJulep said...

And this is why I had to include u on the list of fave bloggers I posted on my blog. Couldn't agree more with your words, could never say it THAT well.
http://fashionfauxpas-mintjulep.blogspot.pt/

daria said...

this is, of course, so true and well put. I find it frustrating that people always have some comment to speak out loud when something is even the slightest bit out of the ordinary. as a teen, I was into metal & dressed accordingly, to the disapproval of everyone in my small hometown. years later, being all feminine and cute in a big city, they still have something to comment.

Natasha said...

I really want to dye my hair a bright colour, but I haven't done it yet because I don't want to be stared at. This post has made me think that I should just do it and not care about the other stuff. And yes I'd definitely not be doing because I want attention. I'd be doing it despite the fact that I don't really want extra attention.

Caitlin Schanaker said...

I've been a near-daily follower of your blog for a few months now, and was thrilled when you dyed your hair. I find it beautiful and interesting and very personal.
I once was at a tea room with a good friend, and observed two women at another table - one with vibrant pink hair, short and clipped to the side. I watched her for a little while, and all I wanted to say to her was, "you're beautiful!".
She's the kind of person I would have loved to know.

said...

I live in the deep south and grew up in a very conservative type of church. I used to dye my hair every color of the rainbow + I had a nose piercing, but I would still go to church. The looks/attention I got on the street were one thing, but inside church, it was extremely magnified. Some people acted as if I were slapping God in the face by having colorful hair. But they got over it after time. I certainly didn't want the attention I got for my hair when I was there-- it was the worst kind of attention possible-- but I loved changing up my hair, so I kept doing it. Keep doing what you do. Others will eventually get over it! Who knows; maybe one day your whole city WILL be full of girls with blue hair and white dresses, and the people in jeans with "natural" hair will be the freaks. :)

My Hideaway said...

So true. I'm also an introvert and uncomfortable when I receive attention so I am NEVER seeking it. However, I realized pretty early on that I received attention on the street no matter whether I tried my best to look "normal" and fit in or not so I decided a long time ago I might as well wear whatever I want. Also, with regard to guys staring, whistling, making comments, etc., they always seem incredulous that I'm not thrilled with their attention, like I should be flattered that they think I'm "worthy" of being checked out, and my response is "why should I care what you think? I don't even know you!" Oh thank heavens, this dude thinks I'm hot so all of my life goals have been reached! What more could a girl want? Also, it's rude to stare, and you look like a pedo creeper. This happens to me even in jeans or what I think are decidedly "unsexy" clothes too. The attitude that I'm somehow ungrateful for their attention (when I should be thanking them) is really too much sometimes.

Sora said...

I'm so glad you posted your opinion about this. I always thought that assuming what is into people's mind was not a good idea - if not, wrong at all. We can never know unless we ask, and when we state something about someone else, in my opinion it sounds plain rude.

In my case, it's always been my OTK socks. I can't count the amount of times people told me I wanted attention or, worse, that I was a prostitute and was asking for sexual attention (?).

Dangerous Imagination

Ruby Sterland said...

I know exactly what you mean! If I wear something a bit different I can sometimes feel like I get stared at, because I'm not conforming to what people typically wear. No, I'm not seeking attention, I just wanted to wear this outfit today.

So thank you for posting this, will definitely be sharing it with my friends and family! x

www.totalmodisch.blogspot.co.uk

Sarah said...

This post is great!!! too am quite shy (although the opposite when I know people!) and my hair is currently pink/red. I dye my hair for ME, because I like it and I want to....and because I get bored easily with long hair. I DO NOT do it for attention, I actually hate being stared at it make me uncomfortable. Go you and keep rocking the funky hair!xx

www.hausofsarahrachel.blogspot.com

Leeds said...

YES. on point. i dont like talking to strangers but i love my teal hair. i work in retail and i dread having to cashier because when i do cashier the unwarranted comments just roll innnnn. i assumed that living in southern california i wouldnt have to deal with much of this but apparently people aren't as open minded here as much as i had hoped.


--Leeds
at this volume

sophie said...

aha! I can not believe that there is still a debate on the impact of hair dye. For me, only reaffirms the simulacrum of a conservative society. That is, from what I understand, you present, at the end, two positions: those who speak of you and your shy person, and these positions are dissimilar (apparently). From my point of view, the person can only exist through this interpelation, to make contingent as a person through language. Now, you argue that blue dye means a self decision, something intimate. However, as I see or as my philosophical position allows me to see, the person who comes before that choice, I mean the indivudal being over which lays this "decision", don't exist but only through immersion in a culture and its interaction with it. That is, it is not a self determination, the person is influenced (built or embodied for others) under their schemes. So, to be shocked by how people look at you it is only the reflection, or simulacrum, of a conservative society that supposedly raises two conflicting views. Addressing the dialogue or discussion only reinforces their symbiotic relationship. Also, it refuses a real tradition of hair dye of other urban communities...

I've been following your blog for quite a long time. I like your artistic point of view! what about leave the permission that is given to art to invade daily life.

Vanessa* said...

Five years ago I dyed my hair vibrant raspberry. I kept it that way for a year (until I got tired of scrubbing my tub). I sometimes miss being candy colored, but every time I think about the snide comments, the removed boundaries (I also cosplay and holy crap do people screw with you when you are in costume), and banishing pink from my wardrobe to avoid being asked daily if I dyed my hair to match my shirt", I just can't bring myself to do it again. So I remain forever brunette. I actually look forward to graying out because nobody is gonna mess with a 70 year old lady with cotton candy pink hair. I really think anything you do to step out of the norm automatically makes you not human to the average person. If you are tattooed, dyed, pierced or in costume (or even dressed oddly) people don't view you as a person. They see you as a curiosity, and therefore, if not a person, then you don't deserve the same respect as someone "normal". I don't think this is necessarily always a conscious choice, but I think this truly does happen. Why else do so many "nails that stick out" experience that same treatment? The same affect can be seen with outwardly gay people, and transgender folk. Basically there needs to classes in school reminding children that all people, even those who look different and have different belifes are just like them, and deserve respect.

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Elizabeth, Delightfully Tacky said...

*drop mic, walk away*

Damn straight, lady.

Mollie said...

SO true. When I was still in college I wore a funky pair of non-prescription glasses to class one day and my professor said, "Ah, you're doing that for attention."...in front of the whole class!

I was totally taken back thinking, "Oh my gosh, am I?!" because until then the thought had never crossed my mind. Silly people. They just don't get unique self expression.

Anyways, great post, girl. Now following you on Blog Lovin!

Jyl said...

OMG...i couldn't agree more. I had blue hair for a long time and people always thought it was for attention....i just like blue!

Jyl said...

OMG i had the same problem. I had blue hair and people assumed i was attention seeking, when i actually hate being the focus of attention. I just liked blue!