When I first started SaftyThird, a month ago, the subheading was: Style, Fun, Safety; in that order. I had never really considered myself as being too obsessed with image. That was until I really started getting into climbing. I remember being at the climbing gym one day in short shorts, and they kept creeping up my legs and bunching up in my harness, and I just felt like some goofy looking ginger bro wearing daisy dukes. I couldn’t keep myself from worrying about what others we thinking. They didn’t. They were probably in their own heads wondering if anybody noticed that super awesome, but unnecessary, dyno they did on that purple route. Nobody probably noticed that either.
It’s easy to see what an effect climbing has on our style, and if you want to see for yourself just go to any climbing gym or popular crag and observe it. There are all sorts of archetypes, i.e. the trucker hat. Oh you bet I have an authentic sweat stained smelly trucker hat, and stretchy athletic fit climbing pants. There is no doubt that I own that one Patagonia jacket, you know the one, or that the climbing shoes that I use are the trad shoes. Guarantee’d that I’ve left my helmet in the car on accident because I didn’t want to be sighted in that goofy looking hunk of plastic, especially when I have this bad ass trucker hat to wear in place of it.
However, not everybody is susceptible to this nonsense. I have climbing partners who have families and want to make it home, so they are like if you don’t put on a helmet I’ll eventually find a climbing partner who considers his priorities a little more rationally. You know how I solved that problem? I got a helmet that was comfortable and I felt like I looked good in.
Climbing is sensual. Self-image is a big deal. And as shallow or pathetic as it might sound, it’s a freaking blessing to change your state of mind by simply putting on a shirt you look good in. You see, it’s one thing to look like shit and feel like shit; at least there is hope that you can alter your appearance to bolster better feelings. That’s modern alchemy. Take trash and transform it into gold; 50/50 chance it’ll retain full value. But if you look great and feel like shit the process becomes a lot more involved. It becomes an inside job, and those are never fun or easy.
It’s no different than taking a shower to start or reset your day. You ever do that? I do. There are days when I get home and I just surrender. There will be no more foolery transpiring today until after a hot shower. These showers are nothing less than symbolic. It’s a symbol of change, of control. The world is complicated, and one of the easiest things to control that warrants instant gratification is altering self-image. We style our hair in a way that represents us, wear clothes than fit the contours of our bodies, and then sabotage our authenticity with cool tucker hats because everyone else is doing it.
It’s not shallow. It’s being human. Style and authenticity go together. I think the want to be authentic is ingrained in us, it’s like an ancient survival mechanism that we used to rely on to find a mate, only now it just helps us feel significant.
But there is one thing to always keep in mind when it comes to alchemy, that it’s merely manipulation–a rhetoricians contortion to persuade an audience. Just because something looks so, does not mean that it is so, and the alchemist is just as prone to fooling themselves as is the observer being impressed upon.