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Happiness is the truth

by Ana Wang

March 02, 2014


“What’s with everyone wearing spikes on their..everything? Why do you need spikes on your shoulders?” My 4-years-younger sister asked one day, after picking up a t-shirt she liked, then putting it back down after discovering that there were a few discreet spikes on the shoulders. “I don’t get it. They look like sad porcupines,” she said. My sister is the sort of character who ignores things outside of her immediate bubble, so she has little interest or knowledge of fashion or trends. I told her that spikes were “in”, that they made people feel tough. But her ignorance brings up a good point, that I myself have never bothered to ask but always wanted to. Fashion as a reflection of society seems to indicate that we are dramatic, sad, moody and more interested in sending messages of “Get away from me” than “Here I am – what a wonderful world”.

I always draw parallels between the worlds of fashion and music, because they are similar in many ways. Much of the two worlds run parallel – a thread of which includes the overbearing presence of sadness, tragedy, arrogance, overt sexuality, and self esteem issues. Fashion and music are emotional, turbulent industries made up of emotional, turbulent people, it seems. And our obsession with spikes, black and skulls: is that an indication of how depressed we are as a society? A sartorial cry for help?

I hate to admit it, but it sure seems like it. Sure, there are pockets of happy things here and there, but for the most part, a lot of fashion and music just seems depressing or superficial. The “fashion girl” in media is often portrayed in one of two camps: the shallow, superficial type, or the dark, drama queen. If you’re lucky, you get the third character: a Miranda Priestley character who isn’t dark or dramatic, but downright cold. (Oh, and then there’s the gay guy.) Anyone else – anyone “normal” is labelled a misfit. Think: Andy Sachs, Ugly Betty.

(In my reality, the fashion girls I went to school with fell into neither camps. In fact, they were alarmingly normal, and the only guy in my class wasn’t gay.)

Somewhere in between superficial and depressing, happiness in fashion became a little Stepford-wifey. Too perfect. Too clean. Too plastic. The same perhaps can be said about music: turn on the radio and it sounds like people would rather listen to something that acknowledges their heartbreak or gets them down-and-dirrrty in the club than listen to something that actually makes them feel good. Because feeling good isn’t cool.

The less dramatic truth probably has more to do with human nature than the fact that everyone who is creative is sad, spreading sadness to all the consumers who buy what they create. They aren’t. But when we’re happy, we tend to be living in the moment. Present. And when we’re sad, we start to dwell. We overanalyze, we overthink, we feel, and to get rid of or past that, we often create things as a form of therapy.

It’s not that we’re sad. It’s that when we’re happy, we’re busy being, well, happy.

I myself have always gravitated towards feel-good jams and happy clothes: things that float, yellow, comfort – and lately, Pharrell’s single, Happy. Probably because I believe that you can never be too busy to be happy. And when life is in neutral, happy things seem to boost endorphins and create happiness from the outside in.

When I heard it on the radio in a sea of songs that just blur together with the same beat and same depressing message, my ears perked up. What? A song about something other than heartbreak or putting your hands up in the air? What, a song about the most fundamental and desirable of all of humanity’s states?

What a relief, I thought, when I heard that Happy rose to the top of the Billboard 100, just days before Pharrell is scheduled to perform it at the Oscars: I’m not the only one who wants to get up and dance to a feel-good song (twerk-free, thank you very much). I’m not the only one who loves being happy.

This song, and that yellow dress, and my perfect white tee – it all makes me heart smile, inspires me to move and breathe and live. That’s what we need more of, not another t-shirt with spikes. Go on, get happy. Go on, get 24 hours of it.

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