On Being a Scruffy Urchin

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.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “On Being a Scruffy Urchin

  • Aurora J Stone

    To live realistically and authentically within our personal situations and allowing ourselves to be confident and comfortable there is the most important thing, really. All the rest is frippery and fluff, which is not only a bother it wastes money and resources. What one chooses to wear to either simply cover one’s nakedness or wear for the joy of it on special and not so special occasions speaks volumes about what one values. It is hard of course if one is on a position where there are particular dressing expectations, but on one’s own time and in one’s the place there is always the opportunity to let the inner being shine through.

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Gee I am sure my work boots, jeans and orange tee shirt, with red suspenders won’t get me noticed for fashion however it is very practical for my life in the desert and requires very little care. I have a very scruffy Aussie style canvas hat that should have been replaces years about except that I cannot find another one. Not may hats stand up to vein blown off my head and chased through the desert by a wind.My work boots are over a decade old once a year I sent them in for resoling.

    I do put on fresh socks and tee shirt each day, but I can easily get a week or two weeks out of my jeans as I don’t do a lot of physical work at my age. Socks and tee shirts last for years on end. This year I took the plunge and bought 24 pair of tee shirts in orange rather the the white ones I have always worn. Sort of my idea of radical change. If it gets colder I put on a levi work shirt then a jacket and perhaps a hoody and mittens in the winter. The levi jacket is very worn with holes in it, but I have not found anything that I like to replace it. Those coats with nylon and padding insulation just don’t wear as long, not out here where plants can have three inch thorns on them.

  • Becks

    Scruffy urchin? That’s not the impression I get from reading your posts, Nimue . I get the impression of a wise, earth-loving and truly authentic woman. Authenticity, in particular, is a quality much lacking from a lot of the people I’ve come across thus far, so it is always a pleasure (and a relief) when I do come across such a person. You are right to be unashamed – absolutely right!

  • angharadlois

    From one urchin to another – yes! 🙂
    I generally project an image of enough “togetherness” to keep my (currently rather corporate) workplace happy, but I make no apologies for dressing like someone who walks everywhere and does quite physical work in sometimes dusty conditions.

    My mother treated me to a pedicure once. It was awful. I mean, it was quite enjoyable having pretty feet – but pretty feet can’t walk very far without blisters. I was very glad to get my old callouses back!

  • witchinsuburbia

    I’m the same way. I’ll wear a pair of shoes or clothing, or use something until it wears out then recycle it in some way. I’d rather spend the money on my children (or books when I want something for myself, but I get most of those secondhand too).

  • locksley2010

    “… and not ashamed at all…” Quite right too!

  • Druid camp faerie tales | Druid Life

    […] I more normally wear. I tried it on, and it was an uncannily good fit. I tend to self identify as  scruffy urchin, but this dress managed to both look rather fancy, and look like me – I did not appear to be […]

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