I’ve never really liked the word ‘alternative’ when applied to people’s music tastes, dress or lifestyle choices.
When used by those that wouldn’t consider themselves to fit into such a bracket, it automatically gives their own perception and ideals the status of being the standard and accepted ones; elevating one stance above all others. For people who don’t live in the same way to accept being labelled as ‘alternative’ only serves to reinforce and justify the default position. Inevitably we end up with the ‘alternative’ becoming in itself a faction with a dress code, rather than an acceptance of diversity.
One of the most infuriating things I remember (vividly) from when I was younger (and something which still happens to this day) is people’s response to making choices which differ from their perception of what is ‘the norm’ by asserting that you’ve made that decision “to be different”. Primarily this was usually in reaction to image, as that is clearly more immediately evident than something ideological.
The idea that you would change something about your identity purely ‘to be different’ is one of the most dismissive and condescending things I can imagine.
For me, the motivation for dyeing my hair a bright colour, or wearing a top hat or bow tie was simple: I liked how it looked. This may well be due in part to its quirkiness or eccentricity, but never through some sordid desire for isolation or attention. To assume that someone has worn a certain thing in order to gain a reaction from you is presumptious and ignorant. It’s precisely for this reason that people’s disapproval of such choices often drive people to continue to make them.
At the same time, it’s not all about how something looks.Often there’s hesitancy to wear or do something that is perceived as different, even though you might want to, because of the conditioned and defined acceptability of that. For instance, whilst I have taken a liking to braces, the fact that you have to tuck in your shirt/t-shirt in order to wear them throws me off balance slightly. After years of refusing to do such a thing at school for reasons of comfort, it’s hard to shake off the psychological resistance. This doesn’t mean that it’s not something which I choose for myself. At times like these, you push yourself to do what you want partly in order to be out of your comfort zone. To do something which you want to experiment with or try, against all your own immediate and continuing apprehensions is just as valid and important as doing it because it feels good.
I don’t mind being eccentric, but I’m not ‘alternative’.