Today, I will take a flyer on this blog and talk about clothing and mental health. I ride BMX, and to support the culture; I’ll wear clothing by brands I identify with. Sometimes, I feel that this raises expectations of my abilities. I know this is in my head, and in reality, nobody cares. It still, though, brings anxiety. Today I went to a local park and looked like I was going to a funeral. I felt zero expectations and had the best session I’ve had in a while.
Clothes and liberating mental health
It was an epiphany. I had never thought about clothes and that I might subconsciously make myself more anxious. It is also something I might never have thought about it if I hadn’t experienced today’s session. I would have said, “You are not what you own.”
When I looked into this idea, I saw that most people talked about clothing and body types. How different body types look better with particular designs and styles, and how picking the wrong style and looking in a mirror can be a negative choice.
I can empathise with these dilemmas as, over the summer, I shot a few clips. I never released them into the world as I felt uncomfortable about how I looked in my clothes. Today though, I will focus on why I created anxiety thanks to brands.
When we are involved in a hobby, we can get into brand tribalism. If you become a member of a brand tribe, you are above an average consumer and effectively become an advert for that brand by looking like a billboard for them.
With many BMX brands offering similar products, we will pick the brand whose marketing most aligns with our aesthetic. There is nothing wrong with this. If you look at skateboarding and how brand X has an 8.5″ deck, people will swear it is better than brand Y’s, even if they have identical specs and are made in the same woodshop, and the only difference is the graphic on the bottom. It is a well worn path.
I am probably a brand tribe member for brands that I deal with through work. I then have bikes built by their parts. Have their apparel and possibly even their stickers on my helmet. It also helps me to feel like a member of the larger BMX tribe.
The flip on clothing
Now, I’ve described the sort of positive reasons I dress the way I dress. Last week, though, I changed how I dressed and received a pretty positive reception. I hadn’t, though, gone BMXing, and everyone expected me to dress like the BMXer I felt I was when I went to the skatepark.
Today I didn’t.
Crazily, I felt more at home than I had in years. I felt more in tune with myself and thought I was riding better than I had in a while. People mentioned I was riding better, which helped my self-esteem. The big turning point was that I felt free and that no one was judging me negatively for having all the gear and no idea.
This is weird because I have the idea; it is my day job. It was strange to realise that I was putting expectations and anxiety on myself because of how I dressed. It was also freeing to go, “Fuck this; I’ll dress how I like.” I no longer felt I needed to be a tribe member, I could be me, and you could like that or not. It doesn’t matter.
Which is pretty freeing.
I am still amazed that I managed to pile a load of anxiety on myself because of how I dressed.