same person, different shoes.
I just did something very horrible to myself. I exposed myself to the world of fashion blogs. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m nauseous now. I actually don’t have anything against fashion per se, there’s a part of me that enjoys it immensely. I like the aesthetic aspect, the sheer visual appeal, but above all I think fashion has tremendous subversive potential. Unfortunately this potential is very rarely used. And that was why the excursion I just did was so revolting. It could be so awesome, so earth shatteringly radical, but it’s not. It’s the exact opposite. It’s bland repetition of the same old formulas over and over again. Consumerism, name dropping, brand enslavement, plastic and the same pacifying ideals over and over again in an endless loop that never fucking stops! All this time, all this energy, that’s wasted on something that’s so stupid it’s even painful to watch. It could be so good but it’s just mind-numbingly boring. An army of clones that look like bland copies of each other. Add to the mix some shallow exhibitionism and you have the world of fashion blogs. At least the majority of them. I’m sure there are other things out there. Or rather, I really, really hope there is. For the sake of our species I hope there are at least some people in this scene that actually have some sort of reflection type behavior happening. I feel I should be honest and say that my investigation wasn’t that thorough, nausea came in the way. But this way I can at least cling to that last shred of hope. Because what I did find was so depressing it made me want to cry.
What we wear impacts how people perceive us and quite substantially so. There really is truth to that old saying about the clothes making the man, or woman for that matter. Actually more woman. Because as I have previously pointed out (here), women are usually forced to be the bearers of culture. Regulating what women can wear is one of the preferred ways of manifesting conservative values in a society, the burka being the most prominent example. But the principle is equally applicable in western society. For instance in our courtrooms where the question of how a rape victim was dressed still keeps coming up. At least if the woman happens to be of fertile age. The sick logic being if you look like a whore, you’ll get treated like a whore, and further more, you actually deserve it. Yes, clothes matter. For a while I had a job where I had to engage in a bit of masquerade, as in dress up to look like I actually belonged there. Or rather I decided to. No one actually forced me, but it soon became very obvious to me that people where more prone to listen to me if I was wearing a shirt and high heels than if I was wearing sneakers and a t-shirt. Actually, the heels were pretty much key. As long as you have that you can almost get away with jeans and a t-shirt. And it did work. People did treat me differently. Not only at work, but also in shops, hotels, restaurants, you name it. People were nicer and more polite to me. And I’m actually one of those people who will always make the very small effort it takes to be nice to people I interact with. I don’t talk on the phone while paying, I always smile, I always say thank you. Small things, but things that usually make everyone’s experience a lot nicer. And it usually means I get pretty good service. But when I was wearing my work disguise I noticed that people became even more willing to serve me as it where. In places where the staff wouldn’t actually notice me unless I was actually standing by the cash register I was all of a sudden greeted upon entry. The only difference was my clothes. I was still the same, I just looked different.
Yes, clothes do matter. But fashion doesn’t actually have to be used in a conservative way. It can work the other way too. And it has. Rebellions have been made through fashion more than once in our history. Women starting to wear trousers, the Beatles long hair, punk, the list is actually pretty long. Fashion can be used as a means to transform culture, in the case of the Beatles it could also be claimed that this new look played a role in transforming masculinity. Something that was even more the case with the flower power of the 60s. Coinciding with feminism and the symbolic burning of bras. By not letting our bodies be constricted by the uniform of mainstream society we can break free from the norm and evolve beyond the stereotype. We can show our resistance through what we wear. Which is probably one of the reasons why the whole head scarf debate has become so infected. The head scarf is seen as an act of resistance to secular western values. Be as it may with that, what we wear does send signals to our surroundings. That’s also why we use uniforms, to show that we all belong to the same group, that we subscribe to the same set of values. That we are in fact not resisting, but part of the group. And the uniform offers a means of immediate communication, we know form the very first moment how to categorize the person in front of us. A person who through the uniform transforms into something else, a representative of the group, a carrier of values. A uniform is all about the removal of the individual and the establishment of the group. The burka works in the same way. It depersonalizes and communicates values. Just like riot police.
Fashion is communication. But as per argued above, in our western culture we have also seen examples of the subversive aspect of fashion. Of trying to use fashion to make a more individual statement, to take a stance against the cultural hegemony with its proscribed gender roles. Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood are two prime examples of this attitude put in a cat walk context. Putting skirts on men, using models that don’t fit the norm, incorporating elements of subculture, repeated acts of rebellion against the norm thus highlighting the status quo. Fashion with a strong political statement. Of course it can be debated what happens to these messages, and the subcultures too for that matter, once they pass through the limelight, but at least it’s forced out in the open. At least it’s on the agenda. Because why don’t men wear skirts? They helped to teach us that it doesn’t actually have to be like that. That the gender roles don’t have to be fixed. And I suspect the gay rights movement got quite a bit of assistance from the world of fashion. Because in spite of all the conservative norms and beauty fascism that resides within the world of fashion, there’s also other elements that thrive there. The subversive power of playing with our perceptions. Presenting us with redefinitions of what a woman or a man can look like.
And that’s why that visit to the world of fashion blogs made me so depressed. There was no trace of this attitude, not a single shred of evidence that anyone had actually though beyond the point of their own reflection in the mirror. Elaborate high heels and tons of make up on the girls, crew cuts and ironic mustaches on the boys. All showing off the outfit of the day, or their latest purchases, or the newest trends all through an endless cabinet of clones. And the irony of it all was that it was being presented as if it was something unique, as if that particular look in that particular image really was one of a kind. But they all look like they are made out of plastic. And it’s the same if you look at so-called celebrity photos, I can’t fucking tell them apart! They all look like they have been soaked in formaldehyde. Ok, I suppose that’s part of that whole scene, botox is part of the occupational hazard, but with the “real” people I don’t get it. I really don’t. Fashion is all about clothes and the message you communicate with what you wear, so how come everyone is broadcasting the exact same message? If it’s all about wanting to be identical to the hype, then start wearing a uniform for real! Conformity and consumerism, that’s all I found. No transcendence of gender, no questioning of traditional beauty ideals, just makeup, fake tans, smart phones and weird poses. Can’t you do better than that? Please, it’s depressing. So utterly and fundamentally depressing. We live in a culture where we can actually stretch the limits a little bit so how come none of them are actually taking the opportunity? Fashion as voluntary cloning. Yeah, it’s really depressing. If any of you who are reading this have any tips on where I could restore some of my faith in humanity, i.e. intelligent fashion blogs, please feel free to share in a comment. Because I really hope there’s actually something out there that doesn’t evoke immediate nausea…