Not Just the Clothes on our Back

Before you get changed in the morning, what goes through your mind? Why are you wearing that? Is it simply what’s in fashion? What the weather’s like? (A significant factor in the UK) or is it something more than that?

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These are the questions that come to mind when viewing Uniqlo’s first global campaign for Uniqlo Lifewear. Produced by Droga5 New York, the campaign features a young man in a white t-shirt, worn jeans, white trainers and a tan trench coat, running through a congested plaza as a female narrator with a soft, British accent attempts to illustrate exactly what clothes mean to us.

The ad opens with a similar question to my own. “Every day we get dressed. But why?” Later on pondering and describing how clothes can make us feel.

“Can a shirt change how you feel? Warm clothes release dopamine, in other words, they can make you feel happy.”

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Uniqlo’s Lifewear is a basic collection of jeans, knitwear, tank tops and long sleeved garments that can be worn by people from all walks of life from a variety of cultures. This simplicity allows people of all genders to wear something universal that can even be worn in the mundanity of companies and occupations that look increasingly similar.

Uniqlo outlines their collection as being,

“innovative high-quality clothing that is universal in design and comfort and made for everyone, everywhere.”

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In reflection to this philosophy, the characters portrayed within the ad itself are simply dressed without boasting too much detail or flamboyance. Shades of white and grey rather than vivid colours and bright patterns fill this landscape without drawing attention to either age or gender. There’s a man with waist-length hair dressed all in black, hand-in-hand with a dark haired woman with a pixie cut and a young boy sat on the shoulders of, who we assume, is his father. Without explicitly describing or portraying the gender or relationships of these characters, it leads us back to Uniqlo’s philosophy of their clothes being for ‘everyone, everywhere’.

More interestingly, Uniqlo seems to be questioning gender stereotypes and roles by reversing the typical gender image for men and women, by portraying a man with long hair and a woman with short hair, and a young boy on the shoulders of his ‘father’ with no mother figure represented. Maybe he’s a ‘stay at home’ dad, maybe there is no mother, who knows!

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Gender roles don’t cut it anymore in this modern world we live in. They are unnecessarily restrictive and limit our individual potential.

When we take on certain gender roles, it makes men and women appear as being too different, almost promoting conflict between the sexes and a sense of opposition. When one role is valued more than another- in the past, this has particularly been aimed at females- it creates inequality and feelings of oppression in that gender. However, arguably, gender roles and gender itself are simply constructs of our society. So how does this link to fashion and what we wear day-to-day?

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Men and women are known to wear specific styles, colours and articles of clothing. We don’t often see men wearing pink skirts, do we? However, these are not necessarily ‘choices’, there is nothing telling us that our bodies essentially need to wear skirts or baggy jeans. These are socially constructed norms of gender that often start from day one, like that pink blanket you are wrapped in when you’re born. American philosopher and gender theorist, Judith Butler observes,

“we regularly punish those who fail to do their gender right.”

If we fail to dress for our gender, what is our gender? Is this how our clothes define us? What Uniqlo is offering is a way for people to be neutral, dressing simply yet stylishly.

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 15:  Judith Butler poses for a photo at the Jewish Museum on September 15, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Butler is a philosopher and professor awarded the Theodor W. Adorno Award this year. (Photo by Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/Getty Images)

Judith Butler poses for a photo at the Jewish Museum on September 15, 2012 in Berlin, Germany. Butler is a philosopher and professor awarded the Theodor W. Adorno Award this year. (Photo by Target Presse Agentur Gmbh/Getty Images)

Rather than focussing on the clothes, our attention is captured by the characters in Uniqlo’s Lifewear campaign- who are these people? And what is their story? And maybe that is what our clothes are meant to say about us… Our clothes reinforce who we are, what our character is and what our story is. I am the girl in the bright orange parka, but that doesn’t describe me as being fashionable or chic, that describes me as being a bit loud, a bit reckless and proud of who I am.


Text: Millie Bull

Images: GQ, YouTube, Huffington Post, Getty Images, Fashionista

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