The Goddess Speaks
Grim signs adorn styles at school
Another school year is in session, and as always, my students have declared their individuality and uniqueness by herding together in this year's cookie-cutter clothing style. One year it's exposed belly buttons, another year it's rips, tears and holes.
I'm always amused at the earnestness of adolescents declaring their individuality by wearing the same hairstyle and clothing as everyone else, but lately I have noticed a new trend that I find far from humorous.
Indeed, this year offers some disturbing twists to the old dance. I see skulls and other images of death everywhere: on T-shirts, belt buckles and even jewelry.
Since I'm congenitally inquisitive, I've been accosting kids during lunch and recess, asking them what messages these dark and disturbing images are meant to convey. I am bothered by the fact that none could explain why they were wearing death as a fashion statement.
With all due respect to high fashion and "The Devil Wears Prada," I want to know what disturbed nut case decided that children would look terrific covered in skeletal images and symbols of violence and mayhem. To be frank, it worries me that everyone seems to think that it's OK to choose death as a designer detail.
When you really think about it, perhaps this weird new trend is a kind of metaphor for life in the 21st century. We're surrounded by news of mortgage foreclosures, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ongoing political scandals, domestic violence and out-of-control rising costs. So is the skull thing a sort of testament to the demise of faith in our social systems?
Whatever the deeper cultural and social implications, I'm profoundly troubled by teenagers dressing up in death-by-design. In fact, death is an accessory these days. In my world, accessories ought to be limited to harmless stuff like flowers with sequins, and maybe some fringes or unnecessary buttons.
I'm bothered by the idea of kids going off to school sporting skulls (often several on a single shirt), knives, fires and intertwining snakes as part of their clothing identity. What does this say about our culture and our worldview? I wonder, what happened to T's adorned with brand names, statements about saving the planet and movie heroes?
I miss the scruffy Colt Brennan and SUGAH shirts that were everywhere last year, and I haven't seen a single Live Aloha walking by in months. I might be old-fashioned, but I hate to see a 14-year-old coming to class adorned with a skull and a couple of wicked-looking scythes.
Last year maybe this sweet girl would have worn something like Hanna Montana or a benign version of pink and polka dots, but here she is in ninth grade, bending earnestly over her homework, wearing symbols of darkness and violence, poisons and death. She is unaware of what her shirt is saying, but I can read the writing and I worry about what it means.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
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