Talk to anyone who knows me really well and they’ll tell you, I’m fairly fashion clueless. My best friend, who is a guy, has way better fashion sense than I ever will, and can tell me what color pink complements the pink dress I’m planning to wear, and whether black or silver shoes are the way to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a complete idiot, and once things have been explained to me I generally remember and can manage to get myself put together without asking questions about every single outfit. And, I like to think I have a basic idea about what one should or should not wear. My mom tried to give me a good basic foundation, and she taught me what questions to ask to find out what the styles were for that season. There were a number of fashion statements brought to my attention during my late elementary school early middle school years. Half my wardrobe had sequins or glitter attached, and I owned countless little flower and butterfly clips in numerous colors which I used to keep the four little twists of hair I pulled back in place. Mostly these were things my blind mom saw in the store, heard about from friends’ moms, or talked over with my “vision teachers.” I went along with the clothes, partly because I liked them and partly because I wanted to fit in.

I recently came across a “fashion accessory” that I was really hoping wasn’t worn by anyone outside of high school (and only then if you were begging for your daily swirly.) Back in fifth or sixth grade my teachers suggested another addition to my wardrobe; they wanted me to wear a cane holster. The theory was that it would be a way for me to keep track of my cane while I was running around with my friends in gym class or recess. I never went for it, partly because I didn’t want to wear belts all the time, and I like to think partly because I knew it would make me stand out like a sore thumb. And yet, as a grown woman, I ran across the cane holster in the course of my summer job.

Let me take just a minute and describe the cane holster. It looks a lot like a gun holster, six to eight inches long and made out of leather. It’s black, and you wear it on a belt. It’s the perfect size for one of those traditional folding canes, and the idea, I guess, is that you can fold your cane up and stick it in there for easy access.

The person I met this summer who wore one happened to be female, though I don’t think it would be any better if a blind man was wearing one of these things. She was getting ready to enter the workforce as a teacher of blind students. Though we had our differences in philosophy and teaching methods, I generally liked and respected her and thought she wanted the best thing for her students. So the fact that she wore a cane holster confused me. First off, it’s black, and only black. Is she going to wear the black cane holster with brown shoes, or on a brown belt? And speaking of belts, I guess she’s always going to wear one? Which means no cute little dresses or skirts, which seem to be fairly in fashion these days especially in the spring and summer. At least I hope it means she’s not going to wear dresses or skirts, because I can’t stomach the thought of someone wearing a belt over those.

The other thing that confused me was the fact that she actually seemed to realize that the holster wasn’t cool. She said things like, “I always have to wear a belt,” and made comments that made me think she knew this wasn’t really the normal thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go out of my way to avoid “looking blind” any more. I no longer wear sunglasses to try to hide my eyes, and I use my long white cane with pride. I’m comfortable in my own skin. But somehow this feels different to me, closer to the dark sunglasses end of things.

Maybe I’m just missing something here, some little fashion thing that actually makes this okay. If so, please feel free to point it out to me. But if not, do professionals really think this is okay for our blind kids? Is this how people think we’re going to teach our blind kids to fit in? If you’re going to insist on teaching the short heavy folding cane, can’t we at least teach kids to put it in a backpack or purse if they want to have it up and out of the way? Why do we need to wear something to make us look different?

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