Fashion Tips From The Fashion Ambivalent

29 Dec

And we’re back, just as I promised.  Uncle Alex would never let you down.  Now, rejoice.

Done rejoicing?  Outstanding; I can feel the positive vibes from here.  I hope you all had a lovely holiday that doubtless involved at least three of the seven deadly sins (I’m betting on wrath, sloth and gluttony, though I suppose you could make a case for lust, you ho-ho-Ho’s, you).

I’ve only got a few days left in the year, and frankly if I’m going to write on my vacation you’re going to have to understand that, for the next week, I’m going to write what I damn well feel like, as opposed to plying the masses with high-profile stories about political scandal or lofty morality.  As a hero of mine once said, “Onward! To dick jokes!

Okay, not really, but you get the idea.

Fashion, actually, is what I’m here to talk to you about today.  A fashion post from the fashion-challenged, as it were.  I’m not the kind of guy who typically pays a great deal of attention or puts a lot of stock in the sort of accoutrements with which we fancy ourselves up.  The biggest reason for that is because I have no clear sense in my own mind about what constitutes haute couture of any denomination.  I’ve been wearing the same clothes – the same clothes, not even just the same style or brand – for nearly ten years now, and I’m quite happy with my wardrobe.  Sure, my tastes have gone in and out of style over the last decade, but rather than consider myself outmoded or archaic, I like to think of my chosen attire as timeless.  Because let’s face it – jeans, rolled-up dress shirts and Doc Martens aren’t ever likely to stray too far from the realm of what’s socially acceptable to wear.  Right?

Seriously, I’m asking because I genuinely don’t know.

Anyway.  Regardless what I perceive in my mirror upon donning my daily uniform, I’m always fascinated by what other people see in their respective mirrors – and more to the point, what they don’t see.  Leaving aside the fact that I’m a devout person-watcher to begin with, I equate the question of fashion with plumage – an extension of the innate mating ritual in which we all engage on a day-to-day basis.  And it’s neat. People go out of their way to construct extremely complicated outfits specifically to accomplish two goals: one, to announce to the world: “this is me in all my individual glory; observe how unique I am by virtue of my tee shirt”, and two, to draw lines in the sand by saying: “this is the kind of person I am – you should be able to sketch a basic character profile of what defines me based on what I’m wearing, and if you’re not into the same bands/social scene/pay scale as I am, you might as well not even apply.”

Come on, you have to find that as interesting as I do.  It’s the bipedal higher-order-reason equivalent of beating your chest with your fists, or pissing all over a tree, or preening your fur.  It’s hilarious, and I get to see the more extreme examples every day thanks to the location of the Compound (a location that will, for the purposes of this blog, remain a secret until the day I either die or come out of anonymity to announce my greatness to the world).  Suffice to say our area is clogged to the gills with the hip, the weird and the arty of our lovely city.  And boy, do those people love them some bizarre fashion.

Now, on a regular day, said bizarre fashion would do little more than to incite from me a rueful smile or shake of the head as I passed them on the street. But more recently I’ve been taking a closer look at these trends, and I’ve come to the conclusion they’re part of a greater social ailment that I feel should be addressed. So in the interest of addressing it in typical State of Affairs fashion (har har), I give you Fashion Tips For the Fashion Challenged, By The Fashion Ambivalent.

  1. Glasses are for people who need glasses.I’ve worn corrective lenses since I was six years old when my eyesight started to fail me. Nowadays if I go without contacts or glasses I’m functionally, legally blind. Lots of my readers can empathize with that, I’m sure – there are more people wearing assisting eyewear today than ever before in history. Those same readers share my frustrations about having to haul around all the associated hardware wherever we go – cases for our glasses, if we wear glasses, and an additional case and bottle of solution if we want to go the contact lens route – for if we carelessly leave any of these accessories behind, we’re doomed to wander around bumping into furniture and straining to make out who’s talking to us until such time as we can locate suitable ocular support. And despite Lenscrafter’s best attempts to the contrary, I don’t know of very many people who are in love with their glasses – at the end of the day, it’s an unnatural thing you have to wear on your face, whether you like it or not, and to be completely frank, it sucks. So why is it that the newest trend I’ve seen circulating the hipster nation is to wear glasses when you don’t even need them? Seriously – I asked a friend the other day how long she’d needed corrective lenses and she told me “oh, these aren’t real glasses. The lenses are plain old plastic – I just like the way they look.” Really? How about I pour some Drano in your eyes and fuck them up nice and good for you so you’ll actually require those goofy black-frame monstrosities in order to see and then tell me how much you like them?

    Think about this from my perspective, folks. Imagine we lived in a world where a solid fifty percent of the population were paraplegics. Now imagine I started the popular trend of tricking out wheelchairs and riding around in them because I thought they “looked cool”. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Cripple Nation would rise up (so to speak), hunt me down Mad Max-style, and slay me. And they’d be right to do it. Hipsters: until you actually need those glasses to read the price tags at Hot Topic or Goodwill, leave that shit at home and stop being rude to the disabled.

  2. There is a limit to how tight your pants ought to be.To quote The Odds, I’m a heterosexual man. Women in tight pants don’t really bother me; in fact, I’m thankful for their very existence, most days. I give a pass to men in tight pants who can pull them off, metaphorically speaking, because I grew up at the tail end of an era dominated by straight-leg ripped blue jeans, plaid shirts and work boots. There’s something about a straight-leg jean on some greasy misanthrope that says: “Gaze on my rough persona and associated outfit; am I not manly? Indeed, I am.” Same thing with women wearing clingy pants: I don’t care what size you are – if you can wear tight trousers with authority and confidence, it’s generally pretty sexy.

    But. There is a limit. There must be a limit – it must be imposed.

    I walk the neighbourhood near the Compound and I’m jaw-droppingly shocked by the sheer number of toothpick-legged androgynes stalking the sidewalks, shamelessly flaunting their emaciated forms under what I can only imagine to be some kind of spray-on denim that forms seamlessly to every nook and cranny from hip to high-top skate shoe. This is no longer a question of clothing – this is a stonewashed layer of skin, and I fail miserably when I even begin to try and understand the reasoning behind wearing such restrictive, revealing garments. The really skinny boys and girls who wear these jeans just make me laugh – I could realistically pick them up like javelins and launch them into the sun, and I entertain myself with those thoughts as I walk past. But this “fashion” doesn’t limit itself to the skinny folks – oh no. Boy-girls and girl-boys of all shapes and sizes consider it their right to crank on the old stovepipes and empirically test the structural integrity of denim by pushing the fabric to its extreme limits. I should not be able to see your genital piercing through your jeans, folks, and to be frank, it can’t possibly be comfortable. I question how you people bend far enough to sit down. There’s got to be better clothing for that sort of thing. And on that note:

  3. Leggings are not pants. They are leggings. Did I fall asleep for twenty or so years? What is with the sudden resurgence in trends that rightly haven’t seen the light of day since the mid-80s? Thanks to the prevalence of so-called “irony” in counterculture today, I can’t decide whether people genuinely think neon shirts, baggy sweaters and (god forbid) leggings actually look good or whether they think it’s funny to pretend like they do. Personally, I think the ironic part is that hipsters are supposed to be at the cutting edge of what’s new and interesting, and all they can do is sort through their older sister’s high school wardrobe looking to reboot some old trend that died out for a good reason.

    Leggings are the prime example. To me, leggings have a few uses: to be worn underneath other clothing if you don’t happen to have a pair of long underwear on hand; to be worn underneath a dress if you’re female and nine years old; to be worn along with leather accoutrements as part of a horseback riding outfit; yeah, that’s pretty much all I can think of. The way they should very much not be worn are as standalone pants, or underneath shirts that masquerade as dresses but really are just shirts, not nearly long enough to cover the bits your leggings expose with even more stark relief than your skinny jeans.

    Take a look at your older sisters’ high school year book someday. Pay close attention to the trends you see illustrated there. The leggings didn’t look good on her when she was posing next to that cardboard cutout of the New Kids On The Block, and they don’t look good now. What’s next, stirrup pants? Oh god, now I’ve gone and given them ideas. But it follows nicely to my next overreaching point.

  4. The 80s were not cool in the 80s, and they are certainly not cool in 2009.I touched on that with the leggings thing, but it actually follows through the majority of hipster fashion. Why do so many of these people, guys particularly, think it’s a Good Idea to look as much as possible like an extra from Degrassi Junior High? Greasy mullets, frail wispy moustaches, enormous grandpa glasses (they don’t even need them, but we’ve covered that), ill-fitting tee shirts underneath ugly sweaters and too-tight jeans over top of orthopaedic shoes – dressing like this has never been, is not now, and will never be a Good Idea. All the sleeve tattoos in the world won’t make up for looking like the creepy kid that used to hang out beside the Pac Man machine all day; and having a girlfriend who dresses just like you doesn’t make you any cooler either, Napoleon Dynamite.

  5. Unless it is very cold or you are Middle Eastern, you should not wear that scarf. Do I need to elaborate? You’re white, middle-class and from the suburbs. It is not cold. In fact, you’re wearing that scarf with a tee shirt. You look like a tool. I believe that just about covers it.

Now, I can hear a lot of you screaming already: “why bother to bitch and complain about this? If you don’t like it, don’t pay attention!” And yeah, on one hand you’re right. But I have two arguments to back it up.

Remember when I said these trends are part of a greater social ailment? I know clothes don’t make the man, so to speak, but they’re indicative of a deeper psychological question when it comes to my generation. The question is: who are we? Previous generations have had the dubious benefit of world events that helped define them – war, usually, or the backlash thereof, but also grand steps forward: the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall, that sort of thing. The closest thing my generation has experienced to a truly momentous world event is either the September 11th terrorist attacks or the election of the first Black president of the United States. Both of these events, while important, haven’t produced the same sweeping changes in art and politics and social interaction that, say, Vietnam did, and while you can make obvious comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq, they fall hollow on our ears when no great social movement has emerged in defiance of the Middle East wars.

I said many years ago that if my generation was to take up an anthem that describes our formative years, it would probably be Green Day’s “Longview”. The lyrics are in the link; read them and tell me they don’t speak to you. Bored, unmotivated, no real reason to do anything – nothing to define us. I know trends have the tendency to repeat themselves every twenty years or so, but the trends of yesteryear are back with a vengeance – not just in clothing, but everywhere. There’s a huge market for nostalgia nowadays. How many Mattel properties have been optioned for movies? Nobody even thought about GI Joe or Transformers for years until somebody dusted off those old chestnuts and made huge-grossing Hollywood flicks out of them. Why? Because my generation wanted to see them. Same with the Ninja Turtles redux that’s coming. I’m starting to question how much of this is highbrow irony and how much of it is a genuine desire for some defining, uniting characteristic. If we don’t have history, at least we have a shared love of cheap plastic toys, bad haircuts and stupid clothes, right? That’s something, isn’t it?

I don’t know. You tell me.

Oh, and as for the second argument? If I don’t like it, don’t pay attention and stop complaining, right?

Piss off; it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want. If you don’t like it, you stop paying attention.

I’m kidding; please don’t leave. Otherwise, how will I define myself?

Maybe I’ll grow a mullet and throw all my jeans in the dryer.

10 Responses to “Fashion Tips From The Fashion Ambivalent”

  1. Lea December 29, 2009 at 7:31 PM #

    Man fashion comes from the soul… I understand that you are worried about individuality… I’m guessing your a fan of Nietzsche.. but my main qualm with you and him is that one can only learn from the past if things weren’t recycled we wouldn’t have anything. fashion is fueled by emotion personally if something moves me I feel I must wear it. In a world were it’s cool to be uncool but it’s only cool if your not trying to be cool.. but you have to try a little or else your a nerdy bum What is one to do?!
    I understand what your saying but it seems you are putting even more pressure on a culture that resulted from being pushed to hard?
    Question are you a hipster if you don’t consider yourself to be one?
    I love scarves they add symmetry and pattern to whatever your wearing it’s aesthetically pleasing.
    I wouldn’t see the Viet war as a sweeping change rather a catalyst in the combusting combination of traditionalists and the counter culture…
    you wanna know why there has been no big shift its b/c there is no real counter culture and tradition died long ago
    we are in a lackadaisical purgatory on one side there’s comfort.. and on the other side… well that’s the big question isn’t it?

  2. Diana Poulsen December 30, 2009 at 12:03 PM #

    What I can I say? I like my pants painted on and leggings do that the best. Yes, I am not a little girl, but I prefer leggings to tights with a dress and smokey silver or shiney eel black is fucking awesome. I also I have hot legs so I am plan to take advantage of that until I no longer have hot legs. So :P
    I am also a regular scarf douche, but it mostly that I do get cold! Whatever, I love a good roast. ;)

    Fake glasses do miff me. I’ve had glasses since I was 8 and I adore them, so i kinda get it. However, when people also start to fake being colourblind like me (yes, ladies can be) I’ll be pissed.

  3. Meaghan December 30, 2009 at 6:42 PM #

    To compound your horror…stirrup pants are already being sold in department stores everywhere. Ugh.

    I agree with you on most of this stuff. As someone who wears glasses, I hate people who “fake it” to look cool. However, I do see advantages. Take the loveable lawyer we all know, if he were to wear fake glasses (not grampa glasses, wire rims) to court, he would be percieved as older, more experienced and more intelligent. Unfortunately, part of the popularity of glasses is due to a perception that looking the part of a nerd means you are more intelligent/older/wiser/etc, etc. In those situations, I understand the motivation. The only other time fake glasses should be worn is by girls dressing up as naughty librarians.

  4. Shayla December 31, 2009 at 9:32 AM #

    I’m totally guilty of painted-on-pants. When I take my pants out of the laundry, I now need Andrew to help me get my pants on. No, seriously. I don’t remember how I used to get my pants on before I got married.

    I don’t really mind the other stuff you mentioned (scarves, leggings, etc.), but I DO have a few fashion piss-offs. I’ll only mentioned the biggest: Manufactured counter culture apparel. The WORST is when public figures get put on t-shirts because they suggest radicalism or rebellion. A friend of a friend got questioned about his Che Guevara shirt on the subway by someone who actually wanted to have a political discussion, and he was like, “Uh, I dunno man, my girl friend bought me this shirt.” LAME.

    PS. Stirrup pants have already come back. Sometimes they are stirrup LEGGINGS. Freak you out?

  5. the mule January 6, 2010 at 10:50 AM #

    i can’t tell if it really applies (loosely, at least) or if i just want to quote zappa because, well, let’s face it, zappa is fucking lord!

    without further ado:

    “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform and don’t kid yourself!”

    however, my uniform is far superior than the tripe you speak of.

    eat shit and die,
    the mule

  6. Justine April 16, 2011 at 10:48 PM #

    Hi,
    My name is Justine and I just really wanted to talk to someone about fashion I did really want to do it by email but this is fine. Im in grade 7 and im going into high school next year and i have wanted to be a fashion designer for a long time so I thought I should talk to someone about it. I just wanted some tips on it.
    I hope i didnt ask for to much thankyou,
    From Justine

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