Scarves, Skirts, and Shoes

Jerusalem teaching steps
Jerusalem Teaching Steps (photo by John Bryant)

I am not a person of high fashion. I never said I was, I never try to be, I never imagine that I shall be. I have my own fashion. But isn’t that what we all say, hipster millennial digital native generation that we are? We all claim to be unique… just as everyone else claims. Still, I have my own preferences for clothing, which tend to lead towards comfort and functionality at the cost of the cutting edge of… anything else really.

I learned about a year ago that my preference towards comfort in my clothes partly has to do with a hypersensitivity of my skin: I feel every single texture of every single stitch I wear, especially if one is out of place. It was odd, and then amazingly right, that a doctor asked me about my feeling about socks as a child. The verdict: utter animosity.

I still don’t like socks—though I’ve gotten to work around it in the wintertime by collecting soft knee socks—I wear my sandals at any chance I get. Not just any sandals, mind you, but my high tech, low profile, webbing strapped hiking sandals. Y’all, I love these shoes. They carry me well. They support my feet, knees, and hips through days of standing or hiking.

They are also a convenient way of identifying other kindred spirits. I look at shoes and see who is wearing what. And when I see someone I don’t know wearing these specific shoes, I can begin a conversation with them about what is on their feet. My shoes both connect me, and set me apart, partly because of the heavy price tag for these specific shoes.

I’ve worn these shoes in the blistering heat and when snow was still on the ground. They’ve carried me through deserts and rain forests, sometimes in the same week. These days, I don’t always wear them to preach, but sometimes I go with it anyway, if I am feeling rebellious or tired. They are part of my identity, however skewed that may be. They go with my favorite skirt, a hiking skirt that was designed by a fellow former Peace Corps Volunteer. And a scarf usually completes my outfit (with the necessary shirt of whatever sort).

An aside on scarves: I hate turtlenecks. I always feel like they are choking me, and I cannot stand that constant, or occasional pressure on my neck. It’s one of the reasons that I hesitate getting a clergy shirt—I am not sure that I want to get a hard band of plastic to sit against the most sensitive part of my neck. I fear I would be distracted and unable to do the work of ministry. Part of my sensitivity with my neck became more concrete when I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, and my thyroid began to swell… and I couldn’t stand to have anything, or anyone, touch my neck.

Here is where it gets a little more odd. Though I hate turtlenecks with a vengeance, and have this utter sensitivity about what touches my neck, I’ve become deeply enamored with scarves. I’ve been wearing them as an integral part of my wardrobe going on ten years now.

Whatever it is about scarves, usually the wide and soft wrap style, I love to wear them. Perhaps it is the amount of control I have on where it goes and how I wear it. I have different scarves for each of the seasons: winter, fall, spring and summer. I now have too many to count, but I never turn one down.

I suspect that I like to wear them because they are a part of the protection that I put on when I go out. If the temperature is just a little too cool in an air-conditioned building, the scarf goes on tighter. Or it loosely drapes somewhere. Or it gets stuffed in my purse and pulled out at the next time I need it. I need one when I am driving to protect my neck from being rubbed raw by the seatbelt, and to keep my neck warm when the AC is on full blast. My scarves protect me, add modesty to my neckline, and help add a layer to my style.

My style may not ever be featured on the runway, and I may get flack from my family who doesn’t quite understand why I like to wear what I do, but it’s my style and I like it.

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