Tabatha Wharton



Labels are a very interesting thing.

Sociologically, it is recognized that inherently, human beings are apt to want to name, or label, everything in their experiences. Not just items, but feelings and interactions, hence the social aspect of human nature. There is a whole theory within deviance called labeling theory (basically, if you label a kid deviant, they will live up to that moniker because they will feel confined to the label thrust upon them and the expectations that go with such a label, roughly) and theory in and of itself is a kind of labeling to understand the processes by which people (sociologically) interact with and experience and create the cultures they encounter.

This goes a step further within sexuality/gender studies and into queer theory, where the ability to ascribe a label to oneself and thereby define one’s own existence (i.e., pronoun usage, sexual identification, gender identification, etc.) is a key component of the creation of the self in both individual and social spheres. We are who and what we say we are, regardless of the confines of the structures set upon us by the greater social institutions at play in our lives, and the ability to label ourselves thusly gives us a sense of agency and power in our own lives, helping to establish the routines and rituals and relationships we form in accordance with (or in direct opposition to) the ideals and standards of the cultures we participate in. And more, we choose to define these self-identified labels as we see fit, despite the potentialities of differing interpretations by outsiders.

Which is the beauty of one of the core sociological theories, symbolic interactionism — everything in our lives, our social existences, only has meaning because we ascribe it meaning. A door is a door because we say it is, and it’s a tacit social contract via communication that we, members of a culture, understand WTF a door is and what it’s purposes and activities are. However, in another culture, a door may not exist in the way we know it, or it may be wildly variant from what we accept to be “fact” — with neither interpretation being wrong, just different due to the cultural standards from which each separate meaning came into its social consciousness. In this way, language is one giant social construct, and it is fluid and malleable and changes with each and every iteration of a generation within a society. I mean, emojis are basically the new hieroglyphics and there is some real, valid beauty in that.

In every aspect of our daily lives, we make the world we live in, and we give meaning to the things we do and say and the ways we act and interpret both ourselves and others. Within the confines of what we think we know and the cultures we grew up in, we have the ability to define ourselves as we see fit (even if just quietly within our own minds) and to give meaning to what we choose and remove meaning from that which does not fit or serve us.

All of that is to say, sometimes we have to make the things we want to see in the world, even if it’s just a article of clothing. And no matter how you adorn that clothing, or let it adorn you — a sweatshirt is a sweatshirt and a t-shirt is a t-shirt, no matter what you do with it or call it or let it symbolize or whatever, because socially, it will always be interpreted as those things, no matter what you personally define it as.

You do, however, get to choose what that means to you, regardless of what society may want to make of it.

Black “I heart Dayton hearts me” hoodie: SlimxDüde
Black PBR Mini Truck Scene t-shirt: Low Label
Black cotton yoga leggings (in tall!): Old Navy
Unicorn sherpa socks: TJ Maxx
Black suede classic clogs: Birkenstock