Summertime is coming to an end. Kids are heading back to school and soon the warm days will have to wait until next year. As a kid, I loved this time of year but I also hated it. Cooler weather meant only one thing. My Haitian mother would be dressing me for the cold weather. My mother really didn’t care how I looked to others, because the end goal was to be warm. She didn’t want me getting sick and then missing school. We couldn’t have that. Education was everything and no wind, rain, sleet, snow, or below zero temperatures were getting in the way.
For the most part, Haitian people pride themselves in their appearance. I’ve told you about the dresses, ribbons, socks, shoes, and pomp and circumstance that went along with it. I will be honest and admit that when the temperature drops we can sometimes bend the fashion rules-okay we practically break them- but I am here to debunk the stereotype that we can’t match our clothing at all.
Look, many immigrants come here with little to nothing. They are often not prepared for the change from a warm, humid tropical environment to snowy winters that can take place in the States. I know this from firsthand experience. As a result, often times they layer their clothing to stay warm, not to impress other people, but again to stay warm. As much as I would have liked my mother to shop at the GAP, our circumstances did not allow.
With that being said, growing up in the Northeast, my peak fashion harassment time was between the months of October to March, sometimes into April depending. My clothing supply came from two sources; hand me downs or garage sales. This meant a majority of my clothing was secondhand and dated, extremely dated. I had to endure so much ridicule but knowing at an early age that the clothes didn’t make the person.
So, imagine growing up in the 80s and wearing clothes from the decade prior. I knew how I looked. My friends at school and in our neighborhood made that very clear to me, yet it made no difference if I complained to my mom that the shirt didn’t match the pants, hat, socks, or coat. She was determined that I stay warm. To complete the look, she would apply Vaseline to my face. Now, I was shining and not matching; just a devastating combination.
As more and more immigrant families moved into the neighborhood, the teasing diminished because we were all pretty much in the same boat.
Fast forward to today, I have children of my own now and we live in the Southeast. We only get a few weeks of a cold spell, and although I don’t subject them to my mother’s fashion sense, they do leave this house with a shiny face.
I’d love to hear some of your childhood fashion stories. Feel free to leave a comment and I will definitely respond.