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What I learnt from…Wearing a bad shirt – George Blackwell

September 11, 2019

I’m walking through town on a Saturday evening. Trying to keep my vision straight ahead and ignore the gaze of others passing by, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other without acknowledging the looks I can feel burning through my peripherals as if I’m some kind of mystical creature or alien.

I can feel the sweat patches building under my arms as I get closer to safety. I can hear the sniggers and whispers from groups of strangers passing me by, a shout from across the road – was that at me? It must have been at me. 20 steps, 10 steps, and I’m in the door, safe. Back with people of a similar kind, no longer standing out from the crowd.

That’s right, it’s sh*t shirt night.

For people with any kind of social anxiety, feeling like you’re standing out from the crowd and attracting any more attention than necessary can make you literally wish the floor to open up and swallow you whole. However, on the contrary, I want to try and discuss a couple of key lessons I learnt from wearing a sh*t shirt that changed the perception of not only how I viewed myself, but how I viewed others.

This works on both ends of the spectrum in a hilariously frustrating way. I trawl TKMaxx, doing my utmost to find the most ridiculous fashion statement possible to outclass my close group of drinking partners for the evening.

I find my weapon of choice.

A special number in the reduced section (for good reason), a multi-coloured and patterned garment. Think Josephs Technicolour Dreamcoat but as a short sleeve shirt. And tight. Hideously tight. It’s perfect.

Six hours later, I’m rocking it in the pub. I would be feeling incredibly self-conscious if I wasn’t surrounded by several equally ridiculous looking humans. Drinks are flowing, and the night moves on, suddenly everyone’s loosened up and no one remembers what they’re wearing, and if they do, they don’t care anymore.

I get approached by a stranger, complimenting the shirt and enquiring where he could get his hands on one. Shortly after, I get a smile from another individual from further afar, giving a tug to the chest of their own, plainer choice of clothing, mouthing that they love the shirt. Confidence begins to grow in myself, but also confusion. I tried so hard to look ridiculous, so why am I receiving what seem to be genuine compliments from people?

The next day in a hungover daze, I continued to ponder. After intermittent napping, pizza and numerous cups of tea, an epiphany dawned on me.




No matter what you are trying to do, for whatever reason, you are never able to please everyone. I could spend every weekend doing my utmost to impress the whole room, and there would still be individuals unimpressed. In the same way, I could spend hours finding the worlds most hideous item of clothing, and I’d still find an individual that appreciated the look.

I’m not saying you should go down either of those routes. What I want to promote is the sooner you do you, be it in terms of your appearance, hobbies, how you socialise, or any other aspect of your life, the sooner you’ll feel settled, at ease, and attract the people to your life that resonate with who you really are, ultimately leaving you happiest in your relationships with others day to day.

In the same way, if you see someone else out and about, doing things you might not resonate with or that you don’t understand – don’t smirk or judge, be it internally or externally. Do your utmost to accept others for who they are because in time, this is the behaviour that will leave everyone, especially young people, free to explore who they might want to be in life without the unfortunate trend of judgement that sits in our society.

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