Maybe I'm a little old school when it comes to fashion, but I am having a hard time finding the appeal of today's looks. My girlfriend is studying fashion and frequently shows me new styles online, some I like, others I think are just silly. After living in New York City for several years, I have noticed countless styles…and the more eccentric and colorful the outfit, the more snobby and arrogant the individual.
To me, fashion has turned into cries for attention rather than practicality. Either outfits are designed to sell sex, or scream out for attention by encompassing bizarre trinkets and bright colors. To me, good fashion requires class, practicality, and creativity. Where has this gone? I enjoy several of your styles, and find others not so intriguing. Of course these are my opinions, and I wouldn't have an opinion if I didn't care about the subject matter. I'm afraid people will think I'm ignorant when the reality is I just dont see the practicality behind a lot of today's looks. I would love to hear your side of the story, and your views on what I call "dramatic" fashion. Thank you so much, and continue blogging! I'm finding it all very interesting.
Mr Kellman-Carlen from New York
This email above from Mr Kellman-Carlen landed in my inbox on New Year's Eve. Sadly I had Kettle chips, pigs in blankets and copious amounts of alcohol to consume that day and seeing as I spent most of New Year's Day with my head hanging in a toilet bowl, I have had to delay my answer to this email. Still, I have asked his permission to quote his email and hopefully this post will answer the questions he poses and also satiate other people's ponderings who perhaps feel the same way as he does.
There are a few phrases/terms/sentences that are rather problematic for me and I will first and foremost clear those up before I begin to tackle the main question at hand. I'm hoping this won't just be a reply filled with snarkiness because Mr Kellman-Carlen actually does pose a good question and it's a very friendly and polite email he has sent. So we start 2010 with this loaded post…
Problematic Term #1 – 'Class' – I'm always baffled as to what this actually means. 'Show some class', 'She's wearing a classy outfit'. Is it a reference to the aristocracy? Are we talking feudal-peasant class systems? Are we bringing in Karl Marx into the convo? So supposedly in all other areas of life, we don't talk about distinctions of class as an unspoken rule of social ettiquette, but as soon as we're talking about a skirt or a top, suddenly the echelons of society come crashing down on us? A confusing one for me…
Problematic Term #2 – 'Practicality' – Practical for whom? Practical in what situation? If I'm assuming that Mr Kellman-Carlen finds colourful clothes incredibly offensive, how is say a multicoloured patchwork jumper going to be far less practical than a grey sweater of the same shape? Is changing a nappie whilst wearing a tutu less practical than wearing jogging bottoms? I guess that depends who you're talking to. Is the practicality that Kellman-Carlen is referring to here, therefore NOT anything to do with physical practicality but in fact, he is really trying to get at the conventions of dress that have been deemed 'practical'. I think a general blanket term of practicality can't really be applied here as it is something that needs to be determined by an individual depending on their own lifestyles.
Problematic Term #3 – 'Attention Seeking' – Ah, my old foe. A phrase that has haunted me time and time again when I stumble upon disturbing forums where I'm labelled as 'attention seeking', 'crazy' and 'bag lady'. Are we so concerned with the expected levels of decorum and humility that we are ashamed of seeking admirable glances with our outfits? Nobody will believe me when I say I dress mainly for myself so I'll try a different tact to prevent any rumpus. Is it such a crime to dress in a way that you feel will provoke a reaction, good or bad? Past rebel movements (teddy boys, punks etc) propelled their own style of dress to provoke and certainly to seek attention to their cause. If we revel these style upstarts now, why do we then poo-poo all over those that in some ways may have similar sentiments. The other biggie problem which courses through my whole answer to Mr Kellman-Carlen is that there is NO WAY I could possibly know the inner thoughts of those accused of 'attention-seeking' with their outfits. Are they attention seeking? Are they in fact hiding some other insecurity? Are they fearful of attention altogether? I just know I'm not going to find out any of that information by looking at the hat or shoes they're wearing. I'm just not even going to try and assume certain things from their outfits.
Then comes the big theory that Mr Kellman-Carlen proposes…crudely illustrated by this graph…
Initially, I did completely guffaw at this theory that Mr Kellman-Carlen suggested. It is ostensibly complete and utter tripe. I'm not sure how many of these 'eccentric' dressers Mr Kellman-Carlen has spoken to in depth and have thus determined their level of arrogance. Or perhaps he was once verbally smited by a gang of eccentric-ly dressed people and since then he has formulated this theory… kind of like how I used to think that the chubbier someone is, the jollier they are (granted, I was five at the time of this theorising).
However, to give some benefit of the doubt to Mr Kellman-Carlen, I did think again and perhaps what he is referring to are people who are very VERY aware that they have a very 'INDIVIDUAL' and 'ECLECTIC' style of dress (caps are necessary for the emphasis…) They're quite proud of this and this pride can somehow be interpreted as arrogance. For example, x says they're going into Topshop, y says "Urgh Topshop! I would rather die than shop in there…" x says they're going to Brick Lane for vintage shopping, y says "Urgh Brick Lane! That's such a generic place to buy vintage". I'm not ashamed to say that I've probably been both x and y which is probably why I'm giving this ounce of benefit of the doubt.
The theory may or may not hold depending on how you look at it but my general conclusion about what Mr Kellman-Carlen suggests is that true arrogance can't really be determined from a mode of dress. People may be very proud of the way they dress and they are allowed their pride if what they're wearing is completely rocking their world. I just somehow highly doubt that arrogance towards others is going to be caused by a few bright colours, a penchant for hats and a preoccupation with lots of accessories.
My ultimate answer though to Mr Kellman-Carlen's protestations against 'colourful outfits', 'bizarre trickets' (whatever could he be talking about here???), 'dramatic fashion' and general eccentricity, is a burning question… has he asked each offending individual "Are you happy? Is your brightly coloured, bizarre trinket-laden, dramatic outfit making you smile and walking the streets with Mint Royale's Don't Falter wafting in your head?" Because that's a pretty important question to ask myself everyday when I get dressed. To put it childishly and bluntly, if there's no outfit mojo, I'm not going to be walking out. This doesn't necessarily translate to purposely loud and colourful outfits but something there has to be making me happy somehow. Otherwise, I'm just a grouch feeling exceptionally dreary all day long and pulling moo-faces at everyone. Who wants to be looking at a grouchy person? I certainly don't. It maybe a selfish endeavour, but it isn't causing people real acute pain other than protestations like this one. I'm not chiding Mr Kellman-Carlen for his opinions because it's nothing I've not encountered before and perhaps in his experience, he has some evidence to support his theories. I'm just wondering whether he has taken one paintbrush and painted it across a whole group of people without actually getting to grips with the individual in question as well as forgetting the very vital component of personal satisfaction and happiness that is a mighty big deal to me.
Of course, I think we need more concrete examples of what Mr Kellman-Carlen is actually referring to, in order to fully answer the questions he poses but then again, that would require an even bigger thinking cap on and to be honest, my head isn't up to it at this point. Despite the longwinded-ness of this post, I do hope it forms something of an answer, a reply or at the very least, a reaction. Given the complexity of the subject, perhaps you would all like to weigh in too, to give a more well-rounded answer. Now… err… more dry toast and peppermint tea please…