We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town
David Bowie. Fashion.
What do our clothes say about us?
I don’t mean when they’re crushed together in the laundry basket wondering who’s next to be washed, and cursing the current favourite top that barely lands before being whisked off to be cleaned – although I can see that as the next Pixar movie. No, I mean what do they announce about ourselves to the world that might otherwise stay silent. I don’t just mean band tee-shirts that marked some final tour in 1978, the one that’s not had the good times rinsed out since.
You can complete character profiles based upon little more than the type of sandwich someone habitually eats, so clothes are a dead giveaway. That there are more hashtags for yoga pants than there is for yoga itself tells you all you need to know.
We all succumb, seven-year-old boys go from wilfully wearing out their jeans’ knees, to being embarrassed at wearing tatty clothes. My favorite top as a boy was navy blue featuring a toucan with a massive beak. I have no idea what it said about me because I don’t recall looking in a mirror until I was 14, although I did have a prolonged period of dating girls with large-ish noses.
You can’t escape fashion. it’s this omnipresent opportunity to demonstrate what you know, imply who you know, or announce you’re in the know. Young people use it primarily to make the next generation feel old. You can’t even opt-out by refusing to be fashionable, because that’s also an announcement. And besides the clothes you were wearing are likely to have been fashionable once. After all, there were Parisian chaps still wearing tight doublet jackets long after the Renaissance, although it remains unclear if this was an ironic, or iconic comment on their times. I’m sure there are Goldsmiths’ students still wearing them. In fact anyone in London might be excused for thinking fashion has rolled over in its own excrement before face-planting itself in the gutter and rudely shooing away all offers of assistance.
I recently saw a girl with a metal curtain hook in her ear, but she wasn’t even the first. Her shot at individualization had already been taken. It’s classic early 20s conventionality in being unconventional; it’s a well-trodden path. The safety pins of the 70s’ have been replaced by spider web face tattoos suggesting public transport is an invitation to a Maori cultural appropriation party. It’s all such a good idea at the time, until you realize that being an art graduate isn’t necessarily going to pay for the political placards. There’s currently a wilful intent to appear as unattractive as possible and to dress in the manner of missionaries promoting evangelical abstinence.
Fashion becomes a problem for someone, like Johnny Depp in the current Dior Sauvage advert, when they stop wearing clothes and they start wearing you. He’s crouching over a campfire looking baffled and wearing more beads than a psychotherapy conference. It’s likely to be the closest the millionaire has been to a fire in twenty years, and he appears way too bewildered to be worried about man-scent, which is likely to be little more than wood smoke.
No one knows the importance of clothes better than superheroes, although it’s only the Incredibles that actually looked at who might be designing and indeed tailoring these outfits. No one wants to be saving people without a snazzy outfit, you might even argue that lesser heroes such as the Red Bee should spend less time on their attire and more time on justifying super abilities; no one needs honey in an emergency.
The bottom line is that if you leave the house, you’re judged, so it’s best to be judged in a decent cut suit than one bought as an impulse buy in Sainsbury’s, or looking like your dog’s favorite toy, which seems to be the guiding inspiration for Extinction Rebellion, or XR as it’s know, presumably not named after the classic Ford Escort XR3i.
A version of this post was previously published on LifeAssistanceAgency and is republished here with permission from the author.
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Photo credit: istockphoto