Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Menal malleability

One thing that I really became aware of by living for a year in Japan was just how malleable many of my likes and dislikes are. While the evidence seems to point to the fact that the major personality traits are largely innate and unchangeable,  likes and dislikes are highly influenced by culture. Take for example fashion.

Daily clothing in Japan is definitely Western, yet distinctly unique. Skirts tend to be short and pleated, lace is found on most things, and polka-dots and bows reign supreme. I see a lot of 50's influence in Japanese clothing of today, yet I repeat, it is uniquely Japanese.

Why is this relevant? When I arrived in Japan, much of the fashion seemed strange to me. I tend to be a slow adopter of fashion trends, even in Australia, yet living in Japan made me realise that despite being a slow adopter, I nevertheless adopt, and so I came to adopt many of the fashion trends of Japan. I started wearing shorts over black tights. I started wearing a lot more lace. I bought 3 pairs of pants with built in suspenders. I layered singlets under anything a little more revealing, even on non-work days, becoming self-conscious about cleavage because nobody else showed any. My style was not Japanese, the kids were quite clear on that. Nevertheless, it was not the sense of style I arrived with.

In nothing was this more obvious than in the socks. Many Japanese girls wear lace-topped socks with ankle boots or sandals. I bought myself several pairs of these socks, which I truly love. I wore them quite a lot in Japan, and resolved that I would continue to wear them when I returned. Yet I've only worn a pair once, and felt quite self-conscious about them. I love them and still want to wear them, but they're just a bit too different over here.

Fashion is, on the whole, trivial. Yet it makes me consider how (non) resistant I am to cultural conditioning in other areas.

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