Offbeat 04 July 2014
At the moment, fashion seems to be something for younger people. Old folks get standard, boring stuff as acknowledgment of their maturity.
I bought myself a hat the other day. I found it in a budget clothing store at a price lower than budget so it was easy to add to the purchases. Looking at the thing, I thought it would be just right for a ska outfit, the type of dress worn by musicians who produce that lovely, bouncy, uptempo music that makes tragedy and misery sound happy and danceable.
Unfortunately the hat makes me look like PW Botha with a bad haircut, or Tom Waits with long hair. My next bet is a better haircut and a Batman button badge, a pair of round sunglasses, possibly a decent black suit, a string tie and a pair of black and white spats. I may even need to go and look for a better hat. I will not be defeated, yet. Sooner or later I will get it right.
Hats should make fashion easier. The anachronism of something on my head should draw attention away from the rest of me, towards my face. Unfortunately, aside from the dumb school cap that I wore for a few years, I am not accomplished at wearing one. Practice will make perfect, or at least slightly better.
At the moment, fashion seems to be something for younger people. Old folks get standard, boring stuff as acknowledgment of their maturity. The fashion maxim seems to be, ‘don’t stand out, or rock the boat, because the canoe is wobbly’. Looking around, there doesn’t seem to be much more than boring shirts for men. I can’t think of much that distinguishes older women, but I don’t let my eyes wander much, as a way of keeping within the bounds of gender respect.
Fashion has the connotation of fitting in. ‘It’s the fashion’, so we wear it.’ Style is a different thing. I wear black because it is my style, slightly goth with a penchant for the near reaches of the dark side, not that I hang out in cemeteries. It also makes for easier clothes washing and saving on water. That’s it.
Style is fun. It’s about finding the anachronism that best suits you personally. The anachronism is something you design for yourself to show to others and find, if not some kind of minor identification, then a means for people to assess you and relate to you. ‘Hey look everyone. I’m a Manchester United supporter.’
The problem with style is that it separates the individual from the group. That can be positively uncool when you need to hang with the group and fit in for the convenience of shared economic survival. To have style, you need to forgo the convenience of that sort of thing, especially in later life, because the canoe of living standards is extremely wobbly.
Sometimes, style can be hidden. It might be a pair of socks or some kind of strange underwear, but that will only be known to yourself. There might be some kind of secret joy in it for a while, but what’s the point of talking to yourself like that. Rebellion and differences need to be placed in the open to be meaningful.
Overall the message seems to be, ‘look good, look expensive, just don’t look too different’. That’s a bit depressing. In essence visual identity devolves to the idea of a large, revolving credit account at a clothes store with relatively frequent replacement of wardrobes based on wear and tear.
Yet there seem to be moments when the general rule is relaxed, particularly events and parties. And sometimes the smiles during those moments show the hidden side of people. Even the anachronism of a cheap paper wig in bright green can bring joy at a party.
People want to look different, need to stand out, but fashion denies it. People however choose fashion as the route to identification with the group. So once again, there is the huge question of why people need individualism in the first place. It feels as if our self-imposed rules and fashions split us in two. We live with them, but we need to escape from them, from time to time.
The human psyche is a paradox to me, yet I am still bound by it. I cannot bring myself to wear my individualism with comfort, cannot put on that hat easily. I am as much a slave to fashion ans anyone else. I have more questions than answers.