I Know Dick About Fashion

There’s a brand new dance but I don’t know its name. Oooh ah, fashion. And speaking as a person who’s generally about as fashionable as a turd in a swimming pool, I don’t know what fashion is. In all honesty I’d rather trip over my own feet and break my jaw on the top of a piano than write about fashion, but I have nothing else to write about. Anyway – this month’s fabrics are gingham and taffeta? This week’s colour is cerise? I don’t know what any of these words mean. When was younger I genuinely thought for a while that gingham was a component of chewing gum. So I’m a fashion dunce. All of my clothes look like a binbag full of kneecaps. But that doesn’t stop me from having opinions – inane, misguided opinions – and it’s my blog, so what are you going to do? Call the police?
“Fashion” is a thing that is constantly redefined, like “art” or “copyright infringement”. In stark defiance of Elle and Cosmopolitan, who say that this year’s shades are mauve and puce, I’m going to dribble my own witless opinions down your eyehole. So take my hand, weary fashionista, and let me walk you through the streets of London. I’ll show you something that’ll make you change your mind.
The Blazer/Hoodie Combo
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In 2007 this designer called Goran Sundberg did something fairly new with clothes: he married the blazer with the hoodie and called it “neo-edwardian”. He has my eternal gratitude. Finally I had something to wear that married my love of comfort and large hoods with all the preppy blazers and dinner jackets I had in my cupboards. Even though this combination is at least mildly reviled by the fashion world, I don’t care. The fashion world thinks you can wear clingfilm and a clothes peg and make a decent impression. I do not trust Fashion. I can’t walk down the high street wearing a cardigan. I’ll get stabbed.
The blazer/hoodie combo is the big red beacon of social misfits (like me). It says “I don’t know where I belong. I’m not street and cool enough to wear a hoodie by itself, but I wasn’t posh enough to get into a boarding school either”. It’s the happy marriage in the middle. It’s the safe zone. It’s for the man or woman who wants to look cool but realises that wearing a shirt is too smart, and wearing a hoodie is too casual, for  the checkout queue at Tescos. In short, the blazer/hoodie combo is achingly middle-class, stealing from street kids and posh kids without a shred of remorse. Of course there are those who marry the trenchcoat with the hoodie. Do you know what they look like?
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They look like Viggo Mortensen in The Road. They look like they’re preparing for the end of the world. They’re buying four hundred tins of Tomato Soup! Look out, they’ve got a hunting knife strapped to their shin!
Anyhoo, the blazer/hoodie combo is perfect wear for Century 21 – it combines the old and the new, the posh and the not-so-posh, the cool and the not-so-cool. That’s about where we are, culturally.
Sunglasses As A Utility
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Somebody famous [citation needed] once said you need two things in life – a comfortable bed and a comfortable pair of shoes; because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other. Oh yeah, clever trousers? What if you’re invited to a hot-tub party? Speaking as a person whose ideal entertainment on a Sunday is crying into a beer in the shower, I need more in my life than a bed and shoes. I need sunglasses. And maybe some kind of intervention.
You might think that sunglasses are a faintly naff cry for attention, but that’s largely because we have some kind of stigma against wearing them en masse unless it’s sunny. I’m not necessarily talking about Dolce & Gabbana or Raybans – something as necessary shouldn’t cost the earth. Those cheap ones you get in pharmacies are fine. Sunglasses are not a fashion statement – they have a heap of uses. Hungover? Sunglasses. Been punched in the face? Sunglasses. Trying to appear inscrutable on a commuter train as you travel to town to meet your caseworker? Sunglasses. Pretending to be cooler than you are in order to get the cute girl behind the counter in Starbucks to notice you, and then getting pissed off because she wrote “Rick” on the side of the cup and you’re walking along drinking it thinking what a bitch she is and then you think hang on this isn’t what I ordered and then you realise that you picked up the wrong coffee for the third time in a row? Sunglasses. To hide the tears of a clown.
Ultimately sunglasses emit one of two vibes. If it’s raining you look like an idiot who doesn’t have his shit together (which is fine because who cares what people think anyway? I mean, what are people really? Grim little blobs of fat floating around having opinions above themselves is what) or you are offering a big “screw off” to everyone. If you’re the sort of person, like me, who would climb over a hill of broken glass to avoid talking to a stranger on the bus, sunglasses are a must. Lack of eye contact automatically gets people wary and defensive. When I gushed my most recent literary kidney stone, Playing Doctor, I used sunglasses as a lazy device for indicating when characters were acting like sociopaths. The hiding of your gaze is a powerful thing – it dehumanises you- and sometimes you need that.
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 Sunglasses are as much a utility as a swiss army knife. ZZ Top said it best:
When you wake up in the morning and the light hurts your head
The first thing you do when you get up out of bed
Is hit that streets a-runnin’ and try to beat the masses
And go get yourself some cheap sunglasses
Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah
To summarise: wearing sunglasses is like smoking – guaranteed to make you look 150% dumber and 150% cooler at the same time. My vision of the future is everybody wandering around inscrutably, bumping into things.
Headphones
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Headphones (by which I mean earphones also) are the other component in the antisocial triumvirate, along with sunglasses and a bad attitude. How else can you clearly communicate to people around you that you don’t want to communicate? Headphones save you the bother of making a sign and ringing a bell. Beyond that, headphones are a sign of the times. They serve as a visual representation of how we’re plugged into technology. Science Fiction writers like to write about a future where we have biolectric implants and cybernetic accessories, but the reality is more insidious, and less invasive, than that. We’re already cyborgs. We live our lives permanently plugged in, and have done since the invention of the Walkman. I can’t leave the house without headphones : I feel naked. Walking anywhere without a soundtrack feels strangely pared-down and unreal, like seeing the world in black and white.
Headphones come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but I will say this: the best I’ve ever found cost less than ten pounds. And if you’re the sort of person to spend $200 on Dr Dre Beats headphones, I can pretty much guarantee that you’re someone who’s easily impressed.
Geek Chic
A long time ago “geek” meant somebody with a slide-rule (whatever that is) in their top pocket and a note from their mother explaining why they couldn’t attend Phys Ed class. Then the term got hijacked by teenage girls who thought that because they played pokemon ironically and knew what Firefly was suddenly they were geeks. Teenage girls ruin everything, and I mean everything, that they come in contact with. They’re the cultural equivalent of the chemical that turns Jack Nicholson into the Joker in Batman. They ruined Studio Ghibli. They ruined Nu Metal. They ruined Samurai. They turned Japan into the largest Mall on earth. I wish teenage girls would piss off back to their home planet and stop self-consciously wearing “geek glasses”.
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But I’m about to do something heinous and hypocritical because I’m about to recommend geeky stuff even though I’m not a geek. Am I as bad as the teenage girls? Don’t be so insulting. I figure that now geek stuff is out there we might as well help ourselves.
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Geek Chic had a powerful injection with the rise of programs like The IT Crowd and Doctor Who. Doctor Who, in particular the David Tennant iteration, served as a figurehead for geeks everywhere, which is why you’ll find Tardis-shaped coffee mugs and Pens that look like the Sonic Screwdriver on firebox or thinkgeek. There’s even a line of Star Wars-themed swimsuits for women. And I am not complaining about that.
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Classic Geek Chic means vaguely ironic t-shirts with html tags and pop-culture slogans on them. Apple logo cufflinks (assuming your cuffs have buttons, in which case, say hi to Prime Minister Gladstone while you’re there) and ties with pac-man on them. And geek jewelry, which is about utility. USB pens built into things is a good start. And stuff with LEDs in them. They’re wicked. The USB/Razorblade pendant that came with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack is the most-coveted item on my Christmas list, and there is no way I’ll ever get my hands on it.
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Women in Suits
I have a bizarre, fetishistic attraction to women in suits, in the same way I find any girl with red hair absurdly sexy.
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Maybe it’s something I need to talk to my therapist about, because a suit is definitely a masculine form of dress. Maybe I have homoerotic feelings I’m unaware of. But I have to point out that we men find women who are assertive and proactive rather attractive. The suit is the traditional wear for business and, as such, should be a genderless object. It projects an air of authority and professionalism, and that’s something that women should be, and are, embracing. It’s representative of a changing attitude towards people, no longer judging them by gender but by ability. I figure that’s something we can get behind.
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Or maybe it’s the kind of asexuality that goes with a suit. I don’t know. I’ve lost my train of thought looking at that picture of Christina Hendricks.
Phones
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Mobile phones are as much a part of your life as anything else. If you’re anything like me you can’t help but check your email every fifteen seconds (tragic, I know, but I have to keep up with all the rejection letters I get from employers/publishers/female friends) then you feel sort of wedded to your phone. And you have to accept that there’s a brand identity right there that you carry around. Obviously that’s a terrible thing to say – basing your personality around a brand identity means you haven’t got a personality. But the choices we make and the phones we buy indicate something about our personalities. At least, Sherlock Holmes would be able to tell something about you from what you own.
 I’m going to try not to be pejorative, because I know I fall into the worst class of smartphone users – people who bought iPhones because they thought they were cool. The only thing saving me from oblivion is that I don’t own a silver Macbook Pro. I am not very proud. IPhone ownership means that you like the idea of a phone that does space-age stuff but you’re too afraid to root through the BIOS editing preferences to suit you, and probably value style over substance. Android ownership means you’re way more in touch with the technical side of things. They’re more likely to know html tags off the top of your head. Windows phones are for designers and people who like solid blocks of colour. Blackberry ownership is for people who want to run around the technological curve, but oh gosh, no buttons? Blackberry owners need tactile sensations and probably make the best lovers. Budget smartphones show that a person is keen to be part of the latest technological thing but don’t necessarily have £500 to spend on a seven-inch sliver of plastic. They probably make the wisest financial decisions. People who own battered, cracked, taped or second-hand phones are mellow people, content to ride out the technological wave. They know that sooner or later everybody falls by the wayside trying to keep up with technology. Whatever clique you belong to is sort of indicative of your personality – after all, you buy things that appeal to you on a personal level. Mobile phones, the care you take of them and the things you use them for are as much an identity badge as jewelry, and should be seen as such.
In summary, I know dick about fashion.
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5 responses to “I Know Dick About Fashion

  1. This is hilarious. It’s an interesting point you raise about shades though. Wearing something over the eyes can really change a person, with sunglassses you can distance yourself from others. WIth a pair of non prescription glasses (and I’ve tested this) people suddenly listen to you more in group seminars at university lol. He must know what hes on about he’s visually impaired ! I’m not sure how that logic works.

    • It’s a weird mix of a culture thing (glasses-wearers are clever nerds) and a psychological thing. People respond differently when they can see eyes, yours or otherwise. Psychologists did an experiment with an “honesty box” that had eyes drawn on it and discovered that people were more likely to pay the correct amount if they thought they were being watched.

  2. “I can’t walk down the high street wearing a cardigan. I’ll get stabbed.”
    funny
    funny
    funny

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