I had an existential crisis recently concerning my winter jacket. It was a cold, Sunday morning and I was going for breakfast. Reaching into the void of hangers, I pulled out a faded denim jacket with fur around the collar, you’ve probably seen them around. While walking on Willoughby, I noticed another guy wearing the same jacket. I didn’t think much of it, at first. Leaving the bagel shop, I noticed another guy walking down Myrtle with the same trucker on— he was even wearing the same beanie. What a coincidence? I thought, smiling to myself. Then, walking down Classon I saw another one, then another and another. Everywhere I looked, there was a guy with the same build as me, walking the same walk and wearing the same jacket. I broke into a dizzy sweat. Trying to find shelter from the barrage of imposters, I stumbled into the doorway of a vacant shop and attempted to light a cig. My fingers felt heavy and useless trying to grasp the filter, and I dropped the cigarette in the wet snow. I began hyperventilating and collapsed on the stoop. Feet sped by: the same Yeezy’s, Converse, and Chelsea’s, on repeat. Finally, a hipster-looking guy stopped to help me up.
“You okay, buddy?”
“Hey, that’s a nice jacket. I got the same one.”
Trends are supposed to be inescapable. Some say not to judge a book by its cover, but a lot of your identity is wrapped up in the clothes you choose to wear. We want to stand out from the pack, and self-expression is easily cultivated through fashion. But what is self-expression? And what is the self for that matter? Identity is formed through one’s interaction with the physical world and defined by a personal experience. When I saw the barrage of guys walking around wearing the same jacket as me, my whole concept of individualism shattered. Each one of us had seen that jacket somewhere and thought, Hey, that’s a cool jacket. I bet I’d look pretty good in that. We all reached the same conclusion that wearing this jacket would allow us some sort of brief satisfaction, or happiness, an opportunity to be different. But, when everyone looks the same as you, how different can you really be?
Walking around campus, I face the same cycle of puffy coats, Carhartt apparel, and dyed hair. It can be comforting to fit in, but it’s not comforting to know you’re as replaceable as the logo on your t-shirt.
The real blow happens when the new trend begins. We’ve all seen that old picture of ourselves, where the only discernible trait is in the face. Everything else— the hair, the clothes, the people— they belong to a different time. When the current trend dies, does that version of ourselves fade into oblivion as well? I ponder this question a lot since that fateful Sunday morning when my entire existence was called into question. Someday, maybe technology will allow us to be something other than a simulation of ourselves. All I know is that I certainly won’t be wearing that jacket anytime soon.
Illustration by Lila Meyer