Nothing says rebellion, more than a pair of knee-length socks, pushed right down to the ultimate slouchy status that could put you in the good books with the cool kids.
These charcoal socks, combined with a heavy-duty pleated wool skirt, brings back memories of ‘school uniform’ days, where finding a unique identity manifested itself via the smaller details; your bag, shoes (sandals or lace-ups); how you tucked in your shirt, whether you wore the uniform in its entirety; the length of your skirt—some girls rolled theirs up at the waist (to shorten it) despite the protruding rolls of fabric bursting from their mid-section— and yes, the way you wore your socks i.e. pulled up, slouchy, overly slouchy, ankle length or none.
To me this outfit is reminiscent of how I felt about high school.
There is a subtle hint of rebellion: the black over-sized tank worn over a turtleneck toughens up the structure of an asymmetrical pleated skirt. The simplicity of a straight cut coat reminds me of the blazer that I wore (when they were not even compulsory), and the boots? Well, what can I say? They’re the personification of the good girl turned—not bad—but weird. I’ve come back to them this winter with a vengeance, and I love them for the textured overlay and their irregular, non-conformist beauty.
Now, back to high school. Rules, restriction and the perfunctory conventions of uniformity—along with weekly PE classes in terry toweling rompers—was not my idea of a good time. But if these were the best years of your life, then I would love to know who you are, and what you actually experienced!
For me, it was challenging trying to find a place to belong, and no matter how hard I tried to navigate my way through the first three years, I struggled to find meaningful connections—my greatest hamartia—I only wanted to make connections if they felt meaningful, but later realised that not every connection has to be.
It was only when I made the transition to an alternative high school, that I felt a sense of ‘belonging’. We were brought together through the sheer fact that we didn’t fit anywhere else.
Here, uniforms were irrelevant, you called your teachers by their first names, and adults sat next to you (having returned to study for whatever reason). It was a refreshing environment, and the only way I could have made it through what are meant to be ‘monumental’ years in a person’s development.
It was a place where I could be myself without apology, experiment with my style identity, truly connect with others, and importantly, begin to find my true voice.
Photography by Howard Sly, edited by me.