“I would wear them all the time,” I thought as my thumb hovered over the ‘add to cart’ button of a pair of £99 hot pink recycled cotton joggers to match a £124 hot pink recycled cotton hoodie. “I’d feel more pulled together, less scruffy,” I reasoned as I scrolled through the extra product images again. “I’d be really warm in them,” I convinced myself as I read the product description for the tenth time.
I have not wanted a matching tracksuit since I was about ten years old and all of my friends who went on foreign beach holidays and took trips to Disneyland like it wasn’t a big deal started rocking up in matching adidas sets. I am not a tracksuit person. “Athleisure” makes me die inside and part of me still refuses to accept joggers as clothing to be worn outside of the gym. But then lockdown happened and everyone started sharing their comfy, work from home outfits on Instagram and it seems that they all went on a shopping trip to buy fun, stylish tracksuits without me. There everyone is, lounging on their velvet sofa or sitting on the floor of their expansive bedroom in front of their huge mirror or swinging their legs off the side of their kitchen island, all matchy-matchy in their tracksuits.
Meanwhile, my combo of ‘scruffy’ jeans and a jumper or my checked ‘daytime pyjama’ bottoms and a long sleeved top (and a jumper, and a cardigan…) suddenly feel deeply, deeply un-coordinated, unstylish, and uncool. Yes, me and everyone popping up in my Instagram feed are all dressed casually, but they look like cohesively put together human beings whereas I now feel like a troll that has clothed itself with whatever happened to float downstream to its hovel under the bridge.
And if they’re not wearing a tracksuit? They’re wearing nice socks. Like, really nice socks. Tie dye socks, socks with contrasting toes and heels, sheer socks with velvet polka dots, stripy socks, cosy rib knit socks. My socks, faded offerings of Christmases gone by or simple black organic cotton no longer make the grade. How dare my feet look so mediocre? If I had some nice socks then they would add some balance to my haphazard ensembles and I could say I’m going for an ironic eclectic look, or something. Nice socks would solve everything! I even considered tie dyeing some of my white socks as a ‘creative project’ until I realised that I had neither dye nor white socks at my disposal.
As well as a tracksuit and nice socks, it’s also become clear that I’m going to need a voluminous dress (to pair with the socks), a pair of vintage-style running shorts, a v-neck cardigan, a boilersuit, some quilted, sleeping bag-style slippers and a pair of high waisted leggings. A set of silky printed pyjamas wouldn’t go amiss either, nor would a perfectly cut, cropped-but-not-too-cropped logo sweatshirt.
Of course none of this shit ever crossed my mind before because the outfits I saw on Instagram were all being worn by people who were out in the world, being seen by other people. If they were working from home, they’d probably just throw anything on too, surely? So I thought. But now those same people are working from home. And they look good. The audacity.
I’d love to tell you that because I write about sustainability and overconsumption that I’m post-Instagram envy, post-consumption, post-“OMG I neeeeed that!” but alas, I am not. Hideously, boringly predictably, being faced with all these images of people looking great at home has sent my insecurities sky-rocketing. Yes, I know people post their best on Instagram, and yes I know they probably wear less cool combinations when no one will see them (online or otherwise) but that reality doesn’t stop me from feeling that I’m losing the ‘what people wear at home’ game. A game that doesn’t exist. But, don’t worry, I don’t let that fact get in my way either.
I’m currently sat in my garden as I type this wearing a pair of floral charity shop trousers (v nice), a colour block charity shop jumper (nice), a pair of ancient pink Nike slides (quite nice) and a second hand woven summer hat with a hot pink rim (v nice). All nice. All fine. All being seen by absolutely no one and yet I can’t help but feel like it doesn’t match up to the image I now have in my head of what I should look like. Thanks, Instagram.
Although it is actually quite tempting to just go and buy everything on my list above (second hand, obvz), I won’t because I know that ultimately it won’t actually make me feel any better. There will be someone else to compare myself to before I know it and they’re probably knocking about the house in Issey Mikaye or custom couture loungewear.
I feel like I’m meandering towards some sort of moral of the story. Is it: don’t use Instagram? It probably should be but that’s not going to happen. I follow too many good dogs on there to just abandon it. Is it: don’t envy what others have? It probably should be that too but it’s not that simple. Fine, you can not react to feelings of envy but just switching them off isn’t really an answer. Is it: never buy any clothes again? Also probably yes. But I love finding second hand gems so I won’t be committing to that either. Is it: don’t compare yourself to others? Yes. That too. But again, not easy.
Maybe the moral is that I, apparently, don’t like to commit to things in blog posts. Or maybe it’s just, you can try and opt out of certain cycles and systems but you’ll still likely feel the same old feelings, at least for a while anyway. Especially if your environment hasn’t changed. And that’s fine because you don’t have to react to those feelings or give in to them. But maybe you will and you shouldn’t feel too bad then either, because it’s all so deeply ingrained. Give yourself a break but have a little think before you buy the tracksuit (or whatever it may be) and question whether there are any external forces making you feel inadequate or bad about yourself. If there are, maybe leave it in stock for someone else. That’s what I did and, thankfully for my bank balance and my soul, they’re all sold out now anyway.