Plaid on Plaid: A Social Experiment


By Jordan Blackburn

It all started at 11:30 on a Saturday night. “Hey,” I texted my friend. “Wouldn’t it be funny if I wore the same outfit to school for a whole week, just to see what would happen? Actually, I kind of wear the same thing all the time anyway, people might just not notice.”

“Well, they’d probably notice after a couple of days,” she responded. It should have stopped there: laugh about the idea for a little bit, think over the possibilities, and then just go back to watching TV on my laptop.

But I’m a second semester senior, with nothing to prove and even less to lose. If anybody commented on my clothing choices, I could just explain what I was doing. It wasn’t like my social status was going to take a huge hit.

I spent the rest of the weekend thinking over the logistics of my plan.

I chose an outfit that was comfortable and in line with my typical style of clothing; if I wore fishnets and a lime green bodycon dress, people were absolutely going to notice. The true test would be if people would notice something that wasn’t particularly surprising.

A quick disclaimer: I’m not exactly known for my inventive sense of style. I tend to go for inoffensive and comfortable over innovative and varied.

My typical week of outfits includes three days of (different) flannel and two days of sweaters worn over jeans and combat boots or sneakers, so maybe I’ve spent the last three years slowly conditioning everybody around me to ignore the particulars of what I’m wearing.

In that case, I’m really not the best person to be carrying out this experiment. (On the flip side, maybe that’s the reason I was even willing to attempt it in the first place.)

On Monday morning I attended school as usual, no real test there. As the days went by, however, with no comment from even a single person, I was unsure whether to feel vindicated or insulted.

Even the people I thought would say something remained silent: my mother, my sister, the people I eat lunch with, the people I share more than half my classes with. When I asked if anybody had noticed, everybody responded with surprise and admitted that they hadn’t actually noticed.

At the end of the week, my “experiment” really wasn’t as enlightening or amusing as I had hoped it would be. Even though I washed the clothes, I still started changing out of them right as I got home because it was weirdly uncomfortable to wear the exact same set of clothes for eight hours a day, five days in a row.

For me, this was a good reminder that I’m not receiving as much scrutiny as my insecurities would like me to believe.

Sometimes it feels like everybody around me sees and is judging every little weird thing I do or say, and even though rationally I know this isn’t the case, it’s still nice to receive a reminder in the form of actual evidence that nobody is paying attention to my particular idiosyncrasies.

Society in general seems to focus so much on appearance and looks; everybody needs the latest and most popular brands to fit in. I certainly don’t think myself above this kind of deeply-ingrained conditioning, but at the same time I think experiences like this help to remind me that it’s not always as big or important as I may think.

Obviously, everybody’s situation is different, and there are lots of people who might get commentary if they wore the same outfit five days in a row, but for me it was an interesting reality check, and honestly a more boring experiment than its nature might suggest.