Monday, February 27, 2006

the emperor wears vintage

Go away 80s. I'll not mince words when I say that 80s fashion sucks. So stop it, please I beg of you.

It’s hard to tell if my visceral response to the 80s revival has to do with my own traumatic fashion faux-pas growing up. Like that time that I was waiting for my dad to pick me up from school when Courteney Schlein, an upperclassman who was waiting next to me, looked me up and down and said, “… Nice… vest.”

I was clad in a navy-colored puffy down vest, the kind that would be very comfortable if you were, let’s say, skiing in Vancouver. It might also have been unseasonably warm out that day. Of course, I never wore that vest to school again. (I have left out the part where my dad eventually pulls up in our rattling two-toned brown and beige Chevrolet cruiser as Courtney’s mom pulls up right behind him in an immaculate black Mercedes sedan.) Or maybe it’s because of the time that I arrived at a formal wearing a homespun creation that involved black and white houndstooth and a balloon skirt. A formidable combination to say the least.

Regardless, I like to think that my offense is simply on an aesthetic level, pure unadulterated aesthetics, of which mine are very refined and vastly superior to other elementary humans that walk this earth.

But it only dawned on me this afternoon that there is even such a thing as an 80s fashion revival. This occurred as I was eating lunch and taking a moment out of my otherwise very busy and important day when I happened to catch Beverly Hills Cop on TV. The opening montage had Eddie Murphy strolling down Rodeo drive and checking out all the fashion victims wearing clothes that look disconcertingly like the hipster fashion of today. My superfast brain proceeded to make the connection that there are people out there, I dare say very young soulless people, who never actually lived through the 80s, resurrecting out of some sort of retro tomfoolery a fashion wave that should lie deeply buried in our shameful past. What’s worse is the culture of what I call “ironicalism” surrounding it. Whatever (insert finger quotations here).

Let’s call things as they are. First, this so-called “vintage” craze is nothing more than used clothing. That’s right. That would be stuff that other people didn’t want and were almost willing to throw away but were too cheap to do so. So, while I am a believer of recycling and restoration of quality goods (homes, furniture, old typewriters, cars, handmade bespoke suits) I refuse to buy into this delusion over what is in fact thrift store shopping. And if you’re going to buy thrift store stuff, fine, it’s all good, but let’s not go calling it “vintage”. It’s just used shit.

The thing is, some of my best friends wear "vintage" and I love them despite it. I understand that old stuff has a lot more character than off-the-rack Banana Republic. I will even claim to have a couple of prized used items in my own sartorial collection. But if we could only be a little more honest about what it is. And if we could just refrain from pretending like 80s clothing has been around long enough to be "vintage". And while we're at it, can we please not pretend that wearing "vintage" shoes is not completely gross? Someone else's foot was in there for chrissakes.

Fashion is inherently referential. All the looks have been done before and even the bubble skirt of the 80s can be found to date back to the 50s. But what I would like to believe is that if there can remotely be such a thing as "progress" that this would somehow entail leaving the bad stuff behind, being able to judge the ugly from the beautiful, or at least place things in a refreshingly new context where to be ironic isn't just to reproduce a look but to reconfigure that look into a real statement with true irony. When it comes down to it, the whole 80s vintage thing is just a physical manifestation of everything else going horribly wrong in the world. It invokes Reaganomics, Less Than Zero, square headlights on cars. So I don't think that it is overreacting when I say that the next person I see prancing down the road in an ill-fitting "vintage" dress and some outlandish beaded necklace and Jackie O sunglasses is not only committing a crime against fashion but a crime against humanity and should be punished accordingly.

On a side note, it's fracking freezing in LA today. It must be 50 degrees out or something.

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