Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mein Clothes

An Analysis of Humanity’s Struggle against Fashion-ism in the 20th Century

It is certainly fair to say that contemporary fashion is a “cruel mistress” and a “double-edged sword”. One might go further and say that fashion is “man’s best friend” and you “cannot teach fashion new tricks”. And would it be a stretch to say that fashion is “always greener on the other side” and it “never falls far from the tree”?

Yes, yes it would be a stretch. More than that, it would be just plain assinine and more than a little bit juvenile. Still, I don’t think anyone could argue that classic maxims are underused in modern writing. I mean, if “I had a nickel for every time” I used a classic maxim …..well suffice to say they are “a dime a dozen”, though they certainly “won’t buy you happiness”.

Anyway, I digress! Fashion; more than any other human endeavor, has perplexed the masses. In fact, contemporary fashion has served to perpetrate more evil in this century than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Hilary Clinton combined. Ok, ok, that may be overstating it a little; it’s a bit like saying “I could eat a horse”, or “that took forever”. In reality though, modern fashion isn’t nearly as malevolent as Mrs. Clinton ... I think. Still, I make no apology for the embellishment, and I really don’t think that anyone could argue that hyperboles is underused in modern writing. I’m sure that a “gazillion” people would agree with me on that point.

But I digress again, we must return to fashion. The problem can be traced, like so many of humanity's woes, to the 1960’s. Preceding that time, fashion was modeled largely on the Germanic peoples of central Europe. It was ridged, bland, humorless, conforming, and occasionally annexed the Low Countries. Men had a single type of efficient low drag business suit for all occasions (i.e. working at the office, cutting the grass, high diving, blitzkrieg, etc.), and women wore simple dresses. Those women looking for something a little more “risqué” would have their dress cut to reveal their ankles, though this was frowned upon.

And then the 60’s came along. Suddenly men everywhere were adorned in seizure inducing tie-dye t-shirts and all revealing Jim Morrison-esque skin tight pants. Dresses became shorter and shorter until they commonly ended just above the navel. I can hear now a multitude of male critics shouting back at me that this doesn’t sound like a bad thing at all. To them I respond that the lack of shaving and general higene within the hippy movement made it much worse than it was good ... I think.

Soon the 1970’s were upon us, and fashion didn’t improve in the least. The advent of petroleum based synthetic leg wear allowed for even tighter fitting pants. No longer was it left to your imagination which side your buddies “dressed” on. And just like Jim Morrison before him, John Travolta took it upon himself to reveal his “package” to the world in Saturday Night Fever. Those who turned and tried to flea in horror usually ended up tripping on the excess fabric of their bell-bottoms. The resulting falls, amplified by the extra height of platform shoes often left them with broken limbs or crippling cranial concussions. The damage would have been much worse were it not for the thick luxurious shag carpet of the period. How such a hazardous state of fashion was reached is unclear, although I am certain that the excess amount of cocaine at the time had something to do with it. Also, much of the blame surely falls squarely on the Rick Dees' Disco Duck.

Nonetheless, human beings are resilient creatures, and they managed to weather the fashion horror that was 1970’s. Little did they realize that a new wave of terror was about to be unleashed. Bizarre and uncanny apparel like scrunch socks, leg warmers, parachute pants, and crooked baseball caps soon swamped the masses as time marched into the 1980s. It was a time of chaos and unbridled stupidity. With practically no time to adjust, we awoke and found that all rules of implied communal contract and social norm were thrown out the window.

With frightening swiftness, it was suddenly OK to “wear your sunglasses at night”. People everywhere were “cutting footloose”, and it was “hip to be square”. You could “dance if you wanted to, you could leave your friends behind” and “We” could all be “heroes”, but “just for one day”. And speaking of David Bowie, the king of confusing femininity took it upon himself to carry on that Jim Morrison tradition and divulge his bulge in The Labyrinth with nipple high, skin tight, body-hugging overalls. This single appearance embodied everything that was inexplicable and protruding about 80’s fashion.

Later in that decade, fashion conceived a deadly new delivery device ... the Super-Model. Contrary to their lofty title, Super-Models do not in fact possess super-powers. At least, I don’t think their abilities can be classified as super-powers. I for one cannot imagine Dr. Doom or The Green Goblin being defeated with tobacco addictions, pouting faces, and anorexia. The rise of the Super-Model lead to a plethora of confusing fashion TV shows in the preceding decade. Mystifying more than anything else, these shows featured emaciated young European women walking upon elongated oval runways, draped scantily in what I can best discerned to be fishing nets and small bits of exotic fruit.

While each model was doing her best to walk like a man, a voiceover was done by a mildly excited Englishman with a lisp, who made perplexing statements like, “Giovanti’s spring collection did more than turn a few heads, it took Paris by storm last week, where his playful ensembles featured a theme of contradiction and rebirth. Subdued mauves and spunky periwinkles clashed playfully for an uber-retro downtown chic look that seems to say ‘I’m too hot to wear’ ”.

Personally, I understand statements like this about as much as I understand a fax tone. The writers of these monologues are clearly batshit crazy.

Currently, the modern fashion crisis has waned somewhat. While full grown, thinking, and breathing adults, can still be found voluntarily adorned in cowboy boots and 8 gallon hats, they are mostly confined to the Midwestern states, Alberta, and bad network action/dramas featuring Chuck Norris. Likewise, while models still plague us, we have found secondary uses for them, such as acting in bad zombie movies. As well, while retail outlets like The Gap and Abercrombi and Fitch still present a large problem, one finds reassurance and comfort in the comeback of durable and dependable plaid at Mark's Work Wearhouse.

All in all, I think its safe to say that fashion is headed in the right direction. I am personally doing my part to mend the situation by writing silly articles on the subject that use as many clichés as possible.

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