Sometimes I Feel Guilty For Writing About Clothes

I recently wrote a piece for The Sunday Times Style about my anxiety. I am proud of that piece. It precipitated more correspondence than anything else I have ever written, by a country mile. That said, haters gonna hate (by dint of being a writer in the modern age) – and sure enough, I got a tweet that read: “Stick to Wardrobe Mistress [love]. Or go to Syria for a year [where you can experience real anxiety that isn’t to do with your chipped mani, LOL].” The […] are implied, obviously.

Because duhhhh. Twenty-something, silly little walking pink emoji (clad perhaps in the emoji red shoe and turquoise dress) couldn’t possibly know real mental strife when she writes about shoes. God forbid I should be literate or even lyrical on any other subject than shoes. Or manicures. Waaaait, did my mani just chip?

Sometimes I feel guilty for writing about clothes.

I feel compelled — in a way I wish I wasn’t, because I shouldn’t be — to let you that I know that clothes don’t save the world. That just because I can report on the seasonal iterations of a denim hem at length (pun intended) and have a raging Gucci habit and probably, whether or not they get uploaded onto the internet, take a photo of myself/shoes every day, doesn’t mean that I think that there is nothing in this world more important than fashion.

Did I think, when I spent hours and hours in the library, aged 20, writing my dissertation on the oscillating sense of self in the bildungsroman — that less than a decade later, I would be writing about clothes every day? That I might have dinner with people who saw my field of interest as “what is your favourite celebrity style?” (True story.) Or, “what labels are you wearing today?” (True story.) Or, in the midst of the Calais crisis, “what’s the Instagram goal, like 100K?” (You guessed it – true story.) That my intellectual ‘bandwith’ would be unable to unfurl further, in a quiz scenario, than “where was Kate Moss born?”

No, probably not. But here I am, a decade on — and I’m proud of my job. Proud to write for a national newspaper and a magazine that I have read since before I could afford to buy my own shoes. Proud to work with some of the most intelligent people I have ever met who also – deep breath – have made their chosen career field that of shoes (and its own entire accompanying industry.)

But know this: my day job does not define me, any more than yours. And whilst I feel guilty for writing about clothes, in the face of a warring world, I also feel angry. I feel angry that there are people (speaking from experience and not any kind of biased misogyny, I would say that most of these ‘people’ are men) who cannot fathom that a journalist is born equal. That one word is not more meaningful than another. And that just because I write about shoes does not mean that I only care about shoes.

Would you assume that a cleaner is only interested in detergent? Or that a cheesemonger is interested exclusively in the latest Edam? No.

In the face of the Paris Attacks; the bombings in Ankara, Baghdad and Beirut, then fashion is of course trivial. Everything is trivial in the face of terrorism. Everything. And that includes cleaning and cheese and football and carpentry – it’s all valid and vapid when confronted with something so dark and dangerous that we struggle to know how to react. It isn’t just fashion. It isn’t just me. It isn’t just you.

Sometimes I feel guilty for writing about clothes.

Post-November 13th (a date we are likely to attach with a similar weight to 11th September) Amelia Diamond wrote something interesting for Man Repeller. “Could I laugh — was I allowed to? How do we at Man Repeller open our site Monday morning with a post about clothes and shoes?” Is there a sober, serious cloak that I may assume, that allows me to comment on worthy, weighty things. What Amelia didn’t write, but is a silent suffix, is: and to whom and why do I have to justify my writings? Everyone is worthy. No-one, including me, should feel guilty.

Artwork by Natalia Bagniewska

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