From my own experience, frequently and unfortunately, the classic small town mentality is that different (in any context) is wrong. However, to say that everyone in a small town thinks this would be very much untrue, and to say that everyone living in a big city is as accepting as we would like them to be is also untrue.
But in the context of fashion, stepping outside that monotonous barrier in a small town is constantly creating fear rather than empowerment. Anything bold, bright or “”out there”” is shot down by fear of judgement, or fear of being shouted at by the old men stood outside the pub that have never seen leopard print on a human before, or even long hair on a man.
It’s important to be yourself, but sometimes we’re made to feel like we can’t because of who we’re surrounded by.
I spoke to Sam Thompson about this. 22 and from Darlington, he studied at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh for 3 years. Now residing back home with a full-time job, Sam’s seen and lived the difference between big cities and small towns:
Big City/Small Town clothing divide. What do you think?
I absolutely think there’s a divide when it comes to clothes and fashion, I think this comes across in many aspects as well – with trends not spreading as fast or far, and choices and options being more limited with regards to shopping in a town. Having lived in a town for the majority of my life I feel puts me in a relatively good position to see any contrast between the two. I feel that people in towns, generally, dress far more “safe” (for want of a better word) and take less risks clothing wise. I don’t think this is something that I particularly noticed until I spent time in a big city and saw the contrast. I noticed a far wider range of styles that I’d see nowhere near as often just being at home.
Has there ever been a time where you’ve decided against wearing an outfit/item of clothing in fear of a disapproval that you might not have received in a big city?
Definitely. I remember a few years ago now, I bought a pair of dungarees, my first pair and I loved them. I didn’t think twice about wearing them while I was there and packed them the next time I was due to visit home. However, when I was back I just couldn’t bring myself to wear them for some reason. I remember feeling a bit ridiculous at the time telling myself that they were literally just a pair of trousers with straps instead of a belt and not even that “out there”, but I still left them in my bag.
When at home or in other small towns, have you ever been shouted at on the street about something you’re wearing?
I have, not extremely often thankfully and I usually can’t help but laugh at it, but it was something that I was definitely conscious of in the past. It hasn’t necessarily always been about clothes that are particularly different as well, just something like a pair of cropped trousers have made people ask me if my trousers have fallen out with my shoes.
I think it comes down to exposure really. I think that the reason it happens is because people haven’t had much exposure to different styles of clothing and for that reason it stands out more in that environment. Whereas in a bigger city it’s more common place and not as new. Not to say that it doesn’t occur in both environments that is.
Have you noticed chain stores selling different stock in relation to where you are?
Absolutely, stock is usually much more limited with regards to smaller towns than it is in cities. I’m not sure that this directly correlates to the size of the store being bigger either, with many stores of a similar size to those that I’ve visited in cities having a smaller range of stock. And instead focusing more on certain styles of clothing and perhaps neglecting others. I think ultimately this comes down to the demand of the place and if there isn’t so much of a market for certain products in a place, then the store space is better used with something that will sell, in the eyes of the business.
Do you think there could potentially be a North/South clothing divide?
I’m not too sure, it’s not something I’ve particularly noticed and if there was it’s definitely something that’s getting more and more blurred. I suppose that in the past it may have been much more noticeable with different subcultures being much more localised to specific areas.
I think that it’s due to the rate that media can and is being spread at, this is faster than it’s ever been, and I think as a result there’s a lot more blending of influences and ideas these days. Not just in clothing but in several other aspects of life.
What do you think would close this gap created by the big city/small town clothing divide?
I certainly think it would be a hard gap to close, just purely due to the rate that fashion and clothing moves and changes, with boundaries being examined all the time, and new directions being taken often. This combined with the amount of time it takes people to adapt to new things and change their opinions, in my eyes would make this a long process. And it’s not to say that everyone should dress in a riskier way for the sake of it, or that I myself even have a massively avant-garde sense of style, because I don’t. However not being afraid to wear something because of fear you might be judged for it, will help change perceptions. The more people wear what they want, the more accepted and ordinary that will become and the narrower that gap will be as a result. It’s easy to say, but if you think something looks good and you feel good wearing it, you absolutely should.
Clothing worn in photographs:
Shoes: Nike Air Force 1 Utility Pack (Edinburgh) – Bought from Size? On a recent trip back up to Edinburgh, really like the exposed label detailing and nice refresh of a classic shoe in my opinion
Dungarees – River Island (Edinburgh) – Was looking for a pair for ages and settled on these as they were a good price and the right wash of denim I was looking for.
Jumper – Hideout BMX Ride Fast Hoodie (Online) – One of my favourite BMX brands with a really good team of riders behind it, bought it years ago but it’s still very sentimental to me as BMX was a much bigger part of my life as a teenager. Very versatile and gets a lot of wear.