Conformity was never really my color. There was always something about conformity that bothered me. Maybe it was the fact that I had to live up to other people’s standards, which repelled me since I would inevitably fail (I can’t even live up to my own standards). Or maybe it was the fact that I didn’t want to look like every other girl since “Asians all look alike.”
While living in Seoul for a year, I noticed that the beauty culture highly revolved around girls who looked cute but pretty, sexy yet modest, and above everything else, flawless. Perfectly combed hair, perfect skin, perfect everything. So like the girl that I am, I was everything but perfect. My friends called my style “hobo chic” and having bedhead all the time was kind of my thing.
What’s interesting though is that Americans are so quick to judge East Asian culture and say, “Oh the gender roles, the misogyny, the sexism, the patriarchy, objectification, double standard, etc.” But really, men are just as held up to these standards as well. Men are also pressured to have perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect height, perfect income, and be perfectly charismatic. There is no double standard. It’s a uniform gender obligation.
I don’t think their culture is better or worse than ours. It’s just different. And makes me re-evaluate our own American culture.
Two years ago, I moved back to the States and went to NY for grad school. What I loved about New York was the diversity of people, style, and clothes. However, even in NYC there is a uniform. The leather jacket, black boots, and the ever-so-obsession with “edgy” is very prevalent. I felt lost since my entire wardrobe is black and gray, but I didn’t want to look like everyone else. To start, I vowed to never buy a leather jacket or black leather boots. Thus, the irony happened, and I found myself lurking around the corners of Korean fashion.
I no longer wore smokey eye makeup, but kept it clean and natural like Koreans usually do. I dressed more “cute” and found myself reaching for pink lipstick over neutral or red. I adapted more colors into my wardrobe, and tried to push the blacks and grays toward the back.
Now that I’m back in Chicago, I’m saddened by the lack of effort people in the Midwest put into style. I’m not saying you have to spend a bazzillion dollars on clothes (and you shouldn’t), but it would be nice to see something other than UGGs and North Face jackets.
Now that it’s October, my birthday is just a month away and it dawned on me that I’m no longer a kid, I’m no longer a student either, which means I should probably start wearing some “adult shoes” instead of my Keds and flip flops. So I went to the store and bought myself some black leather booties..
Moral of the story? Fight conformity by conforming to another culture’s standards.