Labels and respect

Oct 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

Do you think young people are under pressure to look the most beautiful, have the best figure or wear branded clothes?

The discussion that followed was lively and consumed much of the time set aside for the class.  Finally, there was a need to draw a line and move on to the next question.  “Please write down your own answer; we can return to the subject”.

There had been snide remarks in the class about people who wore things that weren’t the ‘real’ make.  A twelve year old boy spoke up with heroic individualism, “These sandals cost €12 in Dunnes Stores at the beginning of the summer; they have lasted longer than some people’s labels”.

Reading the written answers was both depressing and encouraging.  The girls’ answers were typified by:

“Yep, because otherwise they look stupid”.

“Kind of, some people like to look the best and others don’t care”

“Yes.  I think that people want to wear the stuff they see on TV”.

“For teenagers, yes, they have to wear the latest fashion”.

“Looking like the models in the magazines is what teenagers think they have to look like”

“People think that everybody loves celebrities and that if they dress like them people will like them

“To look good. Not to show up in something a bit ‘out there’ or something like ‘two weeks ago’

The last comment was presumably written in seriousness but sounded like something said by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.

A few of the girls dissented, one did so in clear terms:

I think people are under pressure to look like models and celebrities, to look too thin and fake.  People feel to be liked you have to wear what’s in, be the skinniest, most tanned, have designer labels, lots of money and throw the best parties.

Amongst the boys, there was hardly one who said they felt under pressure.  One said that because someone got a new football shirt, it didn’t make him feel that he had to have one, another said that he only cared what he looked like if he looked ‘goofy’.

Eleven and twelve year olds cannot answer the fundamental questions about a society that allows children to be bullied for what they wear, or that provides them with role models that reduce life to no more than the consumption of goods.

After seven years of education in a church school, it might have been expected that the answers would have been different.  It might have been reasonable to assume that no-one would have said young people ‘look stupid’ if they do not wear labels, but the church doesn’t tread on difficult ground.

Some subjects are taboo, they are ‘political’, asking about the power of advertising and protesting at the manipulation of young people is not something with which the bishops would become involved.  Much safer to stay on traditional ecclesiastical subjects than treat children with the respect Jesus showed them.

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  1. Brought back a memory of a long time ago when I was a teenager Ian Me and a mate wearing our Wrangler ‘flares’ poking fun at a poorer kids ‘Tesco turnup’ jeans……….Tesco branded clothes were labelled ‘Delamare’…….

  2. I wore Delamare jeans! I never realized where the name came from until today – it’s the address of the Tesco headquarters in Cheshunt

  3. Maybe they might change their minds about what is and is not desirable or fashionable after having dipped into adbusters – the website or the magazine – comes out of Seattle I think – nice and glossily subversive.

  4. Kids used to be much more subversive than they are now. There’s not the slightest sign of rebellion amongst most of them now.

  5. Ian, I have put on my best branded sportswear and trainers in honour of your birthday – have a tranquil one.

  6. I believe you, Ms Rainbow, I know in your real life you travel the West Midlands in shell suit and training shoes

  7. Children have always needed to fit in with the crowd, I think. I remember how upset I was as a child when my mother bought me new brown sandals that were a bargain, instead of the school regulation black ones. Eventually she gave in to my whingeing and died them black – but that was even worse, because the dye didn’t take and they became black-and-tan!

    But you’re right, Ian, we need to question the power of the advertising industry which is driving our culture of over consumption.

  8. There’s a need to see the difference between fitting in and being ripped off. We need a new punk generation. (It might do something about the dire state of the music as well – the stadium bands are all of mature years!)

  9. If Mum, and Dad too, are very “label” conscious in what they purchase and wear, and have dressed their
    children in and shopped only in the more exclusive stores and boutiques, what chance has a child or teenager in forming the opinion that the latest “look”, most expensive brand and designer label is a not a “must have”. Some of the influence I think comes from the parents own values and attitudes to these things.

    Like your blog’s “latest look”.

  10. I think parents are influential, but I think parental attitudes are less dominant in young people’s minds than in the past. Much of children’s lives seems now beyond parental influence.

  11. my values in terms of labels only extend to telling you I live in Worcestershire – not the West Mids – tho’ I like the image you have painted!

  12. Can you wear a shell suit if you live in a Shire?

  13. Sorry , I’m awesomely late these days. Don’t you think it odd that in the natural world, the blokes have all the plumage, manes and finery and the girls are brown and bland? What happened to humankind to make the female the preener and the male the obscure. On a serious note, and I don’t know how old these kids are. but it’s very sad that the girls feel so much pressure to conform to a model that’s largely in their own minds. My son’s girlfriend is gorgeous, fashion-conscious, make-up adorned an acessorised but he wouldn’t care if she came over for dinner wearing a bin bag . . who are they trying to impress?

  14. Very interesting. Funny you should have written this and I am reading this on my return from Cannes where every shop is a designer label shop and all the beautiful people are walking around with bags on their arms of stuff they have bought in these shops. They “must” also have a handbag with another designer name on it too. It must be very hard for them to be happy as the designs and advertising change with every whim and what was “in” last week is so passe this week. Happiness is measured in how you think someone else is admiring your labels in their minds. At a restaurant in Cannes the other evening there was a beautiful young lady. Designer label to her finger tips including large new Chanel watch. She looked wonderful but I could see she was human – she must have had a mozzy bite as she was irritated by it. Did the designer labels help with that problem – no she had to suffer like the rest of us who get bitten. When life throws “things” at you it is not how you are dressed that matters.

  15. Marie-Claire’s grand daughter?

    Of course, if she had been old money she would have been wearing something sensible that would not have been marked by her spraying on insect repellent!

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