Why would you take pride in being a scruffy urchin? I was asked this after the Women of the Tribe post went out. Why indeed? Pride in appearance is something we understand collectively in certain ways – we should be clean, neat, tidy, ideally dressed in new looking clothe or at least clothes in a good state of repair. Elegance and beauty are things we are to aspire to. We should be fashionable, visually appealing. To clam ‘scruffy urchin’ as a thing of pride is so at odds with that as to not make much sense to some people.
It all comes down to *why* I’m a scruffy urchin, and that’s all about the relationship between my clothes and my lifestyle choices, and my politics and beliefs. Walking is my primary mode of transport, so I wear clothes I can walk in, and most usually what I have on my feet is a pair of sturdy walking boots. When I can, I go barefoot, and nothing says ‘urchin’ like bare feet.
To enable the walking I most usually wear leggings or jogging bottoms, although often I have a skirt, dress or tunic over the top. Given the English climate and the walking, there’s often a smear of mud around the ankles. I’d have to change my clothes several times a day to avoid that, with my lifestyle. I tend to wear waterproof coats, and may need waterproof trousers. It’s not an elegant look, but it does what I need it to.
A lot of what I wear looks a little bit old and shabby – because it is! Today’s tunic is twenty years old and I’ve re-sewn it twice in that time. My lacy cardigan thing is 11 years old, bought not long after my child was born. Many of my clothes are this old, and therefore totally unfashionable. I buy second hand, as well. Much of what I own was never in fashion. I hate the way fashion drives us to throw away perfectly good clothing; that seems wasteful to me. I also have choices to make about how I spend my money, I can’t have everything. Why buy new clothes when the old clothes will do the job?
My skin and hair look a certain way because I try to minimise my use of chemicals, and I walk everywhere (you may be noticing a theme) so my hair is seldom perfectly sleek and tidy. It isn’t styled, I don’t go to a hairdresser (money and chemicals again) so I never ever look like I just stepped out of a salon. My hands are a bit rough because I hand wash clothes, hand sew all sorts of things and have callouses from stringed instruments.
Most of the time I wear very little ornamentation – occasionally when going out I’ll throw on a bit of costume jewellery, and I sometimes put pretty bits of cloth in my hair, but mostly I don’t do jewellery. This is a habit that came because I had ten years where my social life revolved around being a musician. Rings are an irritation for me when playing, and all other things can bang unhelpfully or catch on the instruments or their straps. It’s not worth the hassle. I tend to carry a rucksack, not a handbag because I often need to carry stuff, because I don’t have a car to fall back to.
How I look is part of how I live and is therefore an expression of who I am. I’m colourful, eccentric, playful in my clothing, but also intrinsically shabby, repaired, worn around the edges, windswept, mud spattered. A scruffy urchin and not ashamed of it at all.