You might have heard about River Island’s recent collaboration with anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, with the message ‘Labels are for Clothes’. I love this collection and what it stands for, and I’m keen to see more stores doing unisex pieces. River Island has also just launched their new children’s clothing range with the message ‘Labels are for Clothes, not Kids’, and it was great to see them featuring children with disabilities to show case the range. You cannot help but smile when you see the campaign, the children in it absolutely smashed it!
Ditch the Label is a charity I whole heartedly support. Growing up I didn’t fit into certain groups, or activities that were expected of boys and often would feel like I didn’t fit in. I had to change my behaviour in order to avoid name calling and teasing, and quit hobbies I really enjoyed because of others lack of acceptance.
One memory that really sticks out was when I was about 8 years old I was sitting on the bench in my Nan’s garden, knitting. (lol this actually amuses me now to thing back on, and I’ve been totally guilty of teasing my friends who knit, so apologies if you are reading this and thinking what a hypocrite!)
So there I was happily knitting when I heard a shriek through the hedge. The kids who were playing football in the school field that backed onto my Nan’s garden had seen me through the hedge, and the next thing all I can hear is them screaming “Iwan’s knitting!” and then chanting “Granny!”. Original I know!
What I vividly remember is the crushing embarrassment and shame I felt in that moment. And then that was overtaken by the worry about whether that was the end of it, or whether I’d have to endure more teasing at school.
This is one example of hundreds that I’ve encountered throughout my childhood, teens and even in my adult life now. Unfortunately, some people still think it’s ok to be judgemental, to criticise, to put people in boxes and generally suck the life out of you. These are the kinds of people I tend to avoid now, and as a confident adult I’ve become well equipped with dealing with any of this kind of nonsense! Let me know if you want some tips on this and I’ll do it in a separate post.
It does worry me though, that not everyone is in the right state of mind to deal, feels strong enough, or hasn’t learned to be resilient to other peoples cruel behaviour, so it’s incredibly reassuring to know that Ditch the Label is working on changing perceptions and celebrating individuals for the amazing people they are. Some of us might kid ourselves that in modern society a lot of the horrible behaviour we experienced as children doesn’t exist so much anymore because people have become more accepting – but sadly it’s still happening. I’ve heard first hand upsetting tales from friends who’s children are being bullied, and it breaks my heart to know that those children are suffering, not to mention the anxiety it’s causing their parents. I don’t think there is a quick fix to it, and it will probably always continue to happen – but there are ways and means to help those people at the brunt of it.
With these issues still so prevalent I think it’s up to all of us to do what we can to stamp them out, in whatever small way we can. For me personally, it’s reminding my nieces and nephew to be kind to the children in their class who are different for whatever reason, encouraging my friends to champion their own individuality, and generally offering support to people who might be struggling to be confident in their own skin.
And for me, it’s reminding myself that whatever I’m doing in my life, whether it’s a taking on a new job, writing a blog post, recording a video for YouTube, or just doing anything that I feel passionate about – to not allow that seed of doubt creep in that says ‘People will think you are weird’, ‘This isn’t what people want to see’, ‘You should change this and that to appear more normal’. And instead, remind myself that all the things that could make me seem weird, less normal or might not be accepted by others are actually the things that make me really happy. I recommend any of you reading this to practice this too, it’s incredible how good it will make you feel when you stop trying to fit into a mould to please others.
River Island are donating £3 from every item from this range to Ditch the Label, and a further £1 if you post it on Instagram with the tags @riverisland #LabelsAreForClothes
I recently collaborated with Ditch the Label on a piece on Lad Culture along with a great bunch of Male Bloggers – you can read it here.