Style Rituals: Origins & Traditions

As independent young people influenced by trends in the media and the need to aesthetically express ourselves, we can’t help but care about how we look in eyes of others. Not only that, but what we choose to wear determines our mood throughout the day and affects our weather sensitivity and bodily comfort. Clothing style can also hint at a person’s personality, interests, cultural background, occupation and lifestyle. And because individual personalities are as diverse as the chips in a bag of Chex Party mix, different taste ensures that we all don’t look like carbon copies of each other.

So whether you’re a self-proclaimed fashionista or don t-shirts and jeans religiously, you have to admit it: style is important. We all have our quirks when it comes to how we go about achieving particular looks. Reading this list, you might find yourself nodding your head at some of these common fashion and beauty rituals.

Socks: Digging through your dresser drawer to find a matching pair of gloves … for your feet?

Unless you’re one of those people who fold their pairs of socks inward into a ball and organize them by color, you’ve lost the mate to your sock at least a few hundred times or so. Whenever this happens, you consider two solutions: a) wear mismatched socks or b) spend at least three hours of your lifespan turning your house upside-down as you look for the missing sock. Exasperated, such thoughts like, “Why go through all the trouble over a single sock?” and “Just don’t wear any socks!” and “What even are socks and why do they exist?” might enter your mind during your search.

To answer that last question, sock-wearing began in Ancient Greece when farmers would line their boots with wool to protect their feet and keep warm. Even without knowing the science behind blood circulation, they realized that the lower extremities of the human body don’t receive as much blood as the vital organs, resulting in feet that become easily cold. When Romans soldiers invaded Greece around 146 B.C., they adopted the tradition (just like they stole everything else from the Greeks) and would wrap their feet in leather or sheepskin booties called “udones”. And yes, they wore them with sandals. Can you say biggest fashion faux pas ever? No offense to any sock-sandal wearers, but the Greeks and Romans totally did it first.

Perfume & Cologne: Rubbing scented chemicals on your wrists before excessively dousing yourself in it?

Have you ever thought about how weird it is that we spray this stuff on our bodies to make us smell good? I mean, it’s not as if we live in a time period where indoor plumbing doesn’t exist and the definition of hygiene is bathing once a month at most (grody)!

 All of us can thank the Ancient Egyptians for the great success of Victoria Secret’s perfume line! As far back as 2000 B.C., people would make scented oils, balms and ointments out of sap and gum from trees and plants. These concoctions weren’t just for smelling good; perfume was used as medicinal remedies, in burial and religious ceremonies, as an aphrodisiac, and was symbolic of higher social standing.

Europeans began using perfume around the same time that major plagues were rampant, to cover the smell of disease and filth. By the 1800’s, France became the first to chemically manufacture artificial fragrances, which resulted in the product becoming affordable for the common person. This may or may not be a good thing when you consider the amount of people who wear a bit too much perfume to cover up rather, um … unpleasant scents.

Lip Products: Applying that sticky, sometimes tinted stuff you put on your lips, like, fifty seven times a day?

Winter is approaching and you know what that means: dry, chapped lips and cold sores. In the span of a month, local grocery stores and pharmacies have a Blistex, Burt’s Beeswax, and Vaseline shortage. Practically everyone has a stick of chapstick or tin of balm, regardless of gender or age. So when did this trend start, exactly?

Flavored chapstick was marketed by John Morton, a Lynchburg, Virginia resident, starting in the late 19th century, when the first brand ChapStick made an appearance. Despite changing ownership over the last century, it has still remained a successful, widely-used product. More daring or professional women might ditch the chapstick and opt for long-wear, satin lipsticks that provide moisture and vivid color for the lips. Originating in Ancient Mesopotamia, women (and men) would cover their lips with crushed jewels to enhance their appearance. Civilizations that followed would often use a mixture containing iodine and bromine (toxic if orally ingested), as well as crushed beetles or fish scales. Oh-so posh, but also oh-so deadly!

Piercings: Stabbing, looping and clasping pieces of shiny metal through and around your skin?

Piercings are perhaps one of the most commonly shared practices in the world. For some reason, many cultures decided to start poking holes in their body parts all at different times throughout history without little outside influences. Very mysterious, no? What’s even more intriguing is that different types of piercings originated in different parts of the world.

Ear piercings are pretty much a staple across the globe, and we get them as young as three and as old as ninety. Native African and American tribes pierce their tongues and lips; the former uses it as a symbol of great oratory skill while the latter uses it as a signal to show when young women are eligible to marry. Navel and nose piercings (called ‘phul’ or ‘nath’) emerged in India and Middle Eastern countries. Most Hindu Indian women pierce their left nostril to honor the goddess of marriage, Parvathi, while Muslim Indian women can get pierced once they are sixteen or they get married. Genital piercings – yes, I’m so going there – were popularized in the States in the 1970’s by pioneering piercers in California. Originally considered controversial, genital piercings became common practice after celebrities began rocking the trend.

Nail polish: Picking out a pretty paint color for the hardened keratin growing out of your fingers and toes?

Starting to notice a trend between social status and beauty? Well, painting ones nails is no different. Incredibly, nearly 5000 years ago, Chinese nobility would put enamel on their fingers to stain them red. The women in particular sported six inch artificial nails to show that they were not laborers. In ancient Babylonia and India, men and women would use kohl and henna to stain their nails black. Evidence of nail art has been found in Egyptian and Inca civilization, who painted eagle imagery on their nails. It’s certainly no Revlon or Essie polish, but ingredients such as beeswax, oils, gum Arabic, and herbal extracts made nails of past look their fiercest!

Can you guess what contemporary nail polish is made from? It’s refined automobile paint. In the 1930’s, Revlon became the first successful nail polish company to produce the white and pink enamel used for French manicures. With each decade that followed, more and more brands started popping up and introducing bold and unusual colors – Cha-Ching Cherry, Bachelorette Blue, Chocolate Cake, you name it. And most importantly, nail polish quickly became accessible to all social classes instead of just the wealthy.

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Some might argue that beauty and fashion should be something that is fleeting and unattainable by most. However, isn’t it only right that everyone should be able to feel beautiful in their own way? Regardless of whether you choose to paint your nails or pierce your ears, the choices that you make every day when you’re standing at your wardrobe or in front of a mirror say something about what you want to reveal to the world about yourself. And having so much creative freedom in this day and age, it’s only natural that you keep practicing the style rituals that make you unique and happy with yourself!

Loco readers! Leave a comment below if you have any interesting style rituals to share.

2 Comments

  • Kate H says:

    Love this article! So much truth and the history facts are pretty interesting! I have my left nostril pierced and never knew it honors the Hindu goddess of marriage, I love that! One of my style rituals is my ear gauges. I don’t know what I would do without them, they’re a part of who I am! The history of gauges would be an interesting topic for an article don’t you think? Anyways, love this! Keep writing!

    • Allie says:

      Thanks so much for you feedback, Kate! I’m glad you enjoyed reading it. And I do think that’s a great idea for another article. I personally don’t have gauges, but my step-sister and lots of other people are starting to get them. If you or another writer out there is interested in writing about it, then I’d highly encourage you/them to do it.

      P.S. It would work nicely with our next theme 😉

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