Style 180

Staff writer Taylor Repak changes her style for an entire week to investigate how friends and classmates will treat her when witnessing the change.

Style is unique to each and every student that walks through the halls of Rolling Meadows High School. Whether it’s jeans and a t-shirt or leggings and an oversized sweatshirt, most people have their own identifiable “look.” I, for one, usually wear a pair of skinny jeans and a t-shirt, often emblazoned with a Marvel or Harry Potter graphic. But I wondered: What would high school life be like if I dressed for a new part?

In a society that’s so vainly fixated upon outward appearance, I was apprehensive to say the least. Nonetheless, I took on the challenge and began to plan, deciding to wear dresses and heels for a combination of one gold, one purple day. The next two days, I would go for a bolder, more gothic look. Despite my aforementioned misgivings, I was determined to see the week through, and rationalized that it couldn’t be too difficult. I had faith in my peers that I would be treated the same, no matter what I looked like on the surface. Much to my dismay, I apparently had no idea what was in store for my next week.

Monday arrived, and with it, the commencement of my wardrobe challenge. I put on a dress, some light makeup and heels, dressed almost as though I were headed to a formal party, like a wedding or Easter mass. Confident, I departed for school, three inches taller. In accordance with my prediction that any reactions wouldn’t be too dramatic, the day went about as normal, with one or two more compliments than usual as the only exception, but this was expected.

Another dress and a pair of heels for Tuesday, and the day progressed as easily as the day before. At least until seventh block, when a student bluntly asked for the whole classroom to hear, “Taylor, what are you wearing? If nothing special is happening, why would you dress so nicely?” I stuttered, unsure of what to say. I hadn’t been telling anyone about my experiment, and I stumbled over my words for an answer. 

To my surprise, another student quickly came to my defense, saying “What do you mean? Taylor can wear whatever she wants. It’s her choice, so if she wants to wear a dress, she can wear a dress.” I smiled, saying nothing, glad that the student had defended me with such little hesitation, and against his friend, no less.

Thinking the worst had passed, the day ended. I knew my style was changing the next day, and didn’t think it would be difficult at all, given that many students wear this style on a daily basis. Thursday morning dawned, and I slipped into black skinny jeans, combat boots and a black tank top. Pulling my hair into a high ponytail and applying black lipstick and mascara, I left for school. 

Contrary to my obviously misguided preconceptions, I was immediately struck with how many odd looks and whispers I got from students in the hallway. People I had never talked to looked at me sideways, people I had known for nine years avoided me. I can’t count how many people came up to me to ask “what I was doing.” The mere idea of walking through the lunchroom filled me with anxiety, and I went without lunch. Dumbfounded and mildly afraid, I looked to my friends for a reprieve from the public scrutiny, but they only laughed and made fun. 

That was only my first day. I still had to recycle this style for Thursday. I pondered just ending the experiment, thinking that I’d already gathered enough data for an article. 

I told myself, no, I had made a commitment, and that I must honor it. I pulled on a very similar outfit, this time with a leather jacket, a choker necklace and I let my hair down, allowing it to cover my eyes partially. Having acquired a day’s worth of experience already, this day wasn’t as terrible in the shock factor, but the same things happened: I was stared at, approached and questioned to an inappropriate point

I realize now that I’d had no clue going into this just how deep the effects would run. Our society is built upon the idea of physical beauty, and even our own peers are hesitant to shun their own predispositions to reject those who elude the status quo. Despite how glorified it might be in movies and literature, marching to the beat of my own drum only brought me anxiety and paranoia. 

As much as I hoped to believe that our generation of all groups would welcome the atypical and exceptional, the student body did not welcome me and I was frankly disappointed. We still have strides to take in acceptance of uniqueness, and I aspire to make a change in the general mindset of my community.