Shh…don’t tell anyone…but for the past few weeks, I’ve been conducting a secret experiment. Although, it’s not very scientific, nor very secret, but it’s been fun. For the past few weeks, I added a pair of baby-blue earbuds to my daily wardrobe.
It started around midterms when grading clogged my calendar. I hardly had time to eat much less talk to people, so I wore my headphones in my office while grading papers, checking email, etc. They blocked out background noises and kept people at bay. Later, I participated in the iPod exchange program and received a new iPod Nano. Of course, with a new iPod, I needed new headphones!
Having been content with whatever came with my original Nano, I hadn’t been headphone shopping in ages. I never saw so many headphone selections in my life! How do you choose from so many colors, designs, and styles? I consulted help, only to find out that I knew so little about the subject, I hardly understood the clerk. So, I did what most newbies of technology do: I purchased them in a favorite color at a reasonable price. Sporting my new blue earbuds with my new tiny Nano, daily I wrapped my headphones around my neck as I ran out the door.
Traveling to a conference with a colleague, I noticed he had no qualm about wearing large, black headphones with a white skull painted on them. They didn’t count against his carry-on quota either. The TSA officials simply accepted them as part of his wardrobe.
Wearing headphones for exercise or studying makes sense to me. Music can help us focus and help our memory and learning (see my Master’s thesis for more), but headphones also isolate us and send a “do not disturb” message to the outside world, and whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, that’s exactly part of the point.
That certainly was true in my case. I needed to focus and get my work done. When alone, though, music provides company. (How ironic that I want company while wearing something that purposefully isolated myself.) The beauty of headphones lie in their portability: we can take them off when wanting to join the outside world.
Obviously, headphones are not a new phenomenon. While growing up, the Walkman was popular, and people wore headphones all the time, but the headphones back then were not nearly as sexy or fashionable as today’s. They were big, bulky, and ineffective. A cheap pair inevitably ripped out some hair and the headband interfered with hairstyles.
With the invention of earbuds, concern of damaging a hairdo no long existed. More than likely, this helped the industry move from function into fashion. From the simple black and white choices of the ‘90s, earbuds and headphones alike evolved into the choices we have today. In fact, it is now possible to purchase earbuds shaped into a gas mask or anything else.
So, some people may purchase headphones or earbuds for the sake of fashion, but I think that fashion is not on people’s minds when they don their headphones. Instead, it’s in anticipation of what the day might bring, and in a sea of people and stress, perhaps they bring a bit of needed solitude… just in a fashionable way.
Articles about headphones and fashion
Headphones that cover your eyes, too: news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-57409298-1/lady-gaga-esque-headphones-shield-your-eyes-too/
Headphone reviews: http://www.7daysindubai.com/Sound-times/story-15882637-detail/story.html