Zia Hassan

Can You Pull It Off

In a clothing store in Wyoming in 1999, I was confronted by clothing for the first on my own. My mom had purchased almost every piece of clothing that I owned, and now, on my first cross country trip by myself, I was in a clothing store and able to try out whatever I wanted.

There were all sorts of clothes. Cool looking button downs, khakis, hats, everything. It was kind of liberating, at the age of 14, to be able to go through a clothing rack and for the first time, decide what I wanted.

I could go totally wild, I realized. I could pick something completely outlandish, something that I never would’ve been given to wear in middle school. I pulled out a see-through mesh black shirt.

“Do you think it’s a nice shirt?” I asked a young clerk at the store.

“Um,” she said, looking over my super skinny 14-year old body, “as long as you think you can pull It off.”

I put the shirt back.

What does it mean to pull something off? In this instance, I think what the clerk was trying to tell me was that if you’re going to wear a see through shirt, you should probably have the body to be able to justify that decision. Fair enough. In that context, it definitely wasn’t the right shirt for me.

But I wonder how many of us feel like it we can’t pull something off, so we don’t do or wear or live that thing. How much of pulling it off is quieting the inner critic? Did Miles Davis think he could pull off all of his wild and eclectic jazz albums? Did JK Rowling think she could pull off Harry Potter, despite being rejected by tons of publishers before finally finding success?

Pulling it off is just a matter of conviction then. I could’ve pulled off that shirt with the right attitude, who knows. Sure, it would’ve been a different pattern than most people are used to (skinny guy wearing a shirt that is usually worn by someone muscular), but perhaps I could’ve pulled that off.

Pulling something off is not hard. Believing in yourself? That part is quite hard.