Shallow Thoughts

Shallow Thoughts

This is a question that came up in the FAQ section and I wrote a reply this morning in a moment of clarity.  Perhaps I'll feel differently later when I get back on my high fashion horse.  For now, it'll suffice…

Did the thought 'fashion & all that stuff are a bit shallow, there are more important things in life' ever cross your mind?
That thought crosses my mind every day.  There ARE plenty of things about fashion that are incredibly shallow.  I only need to read the comments section of the Guardian where people constantly deride fashion to see how it is perceived and if I'm being truly honest, in the wider context, we are basically talking about frocks and not much else.  I don't like to imbue a lofty sense of importance to fashion like I used to when I was a mardy teenager but rather, I'll take it for what it is in its many guises and forms.  It is commerce.  It is a business.  It can reflect socio-economic and political circumstances.  It is a vehicle that references the past.  It can be art (although people are all too ready to apply that world too liberally‚Ķ.).  Fashion at its core is a luxury not a necessity.  We perceive it as 'important' because I like millions of other fashion-obsessives developed an indignant territorial claim over it.  "Seeing an Alexander McQueen show on The Clothes Show changed my life", "Reading The Face was mind-blowing" – these are familiar superlatives that affirmed our devotion to something that made us feel more like individuals in our bedrooms.

As a previous commenter pointed out though, we are in an age of creative narcissism where the affirmation of ourselves as individuals' has never felt more important through what we do, what we listen to, what we eat, where we live etc.  In that way, I think that is where fashion becomes powerful, as a tool of self-expression, as a way of staking your claim to your self.  Yes, it is incredibly pretentious to throw arounds phrases such as "I experiment with my style" or "I curate my wardrobe".  I don't deny that all of that is a sort of phoney ruse that is basically linked up with the fashion product chain and yet I don't eschew it myself, because I still believe joy and some form of creativity can be found at the end of all of that consumerism.  People will look at my wardrobe and make certain assumptions about my depth of character.  That is their prerogative.  As long as I know myself that every thing has some tiny bit of meaning or significance‚Ķ a vintage Moschino shirt is there because the naked ladies remind me of Jessica Rabbit or that a Balenciaga skirt won on eBay was hard-fought because the woman refused to pay for postage to the UK‚Ķ minuscule tidbits that won't mean anything to anyone else except for me.  How marvellous.  

I want to be grateful though for being able to do something that is inherently selfish.  'Curating', 'Experimenting' or 'Concocting' looks and writing about it in an indulgent way and just being under the impression that anyone would want to read that.  Observing the changes and developments that are in effect niche and not really impacting on the wider world.  Getting invited to events with all costs covered and quaffing champagne whilst feeling ridiculous that I'm doing so.  The whole circuit of shows from invites to dressing for shows to scurrying to my seat to fighting for backstage interviews to writing till 3am in the morning.  All of that is a privilege.       

There ARE more important things.  How important they are to me, you'll never see on this blog.  How much food matters to me and where it all comes from.  How I'm suspicious about the economic rise of China.  How I can't read about extremist politics in the USA without wanting to chuck the paper across the room.  How I hate the closing of grammar schools.  How I believe in the benefits of learning a musical instrument.  Sure they're more important.  But could I write about them here?  Would I do a good job of it?  Nope, so I'll stick to the 'shallow' stuff and carry on being earnestly grateful and forty years from now when it's likely I won't be working in fashion, I'll look back and go "Wow‚Ķ I was so lucky I got to do all of that‚Ķ"


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  1. Laura

    2011-06-23 at 9:42 AM

    I like the honest answer you gave here. I often get a look of pity when talking about how I want to work in fashion journalism. Like the very thought of doing something like this would be so vacuous that they can’t even summon the energy to argue with me about it and so I get ‘the look.’
    I relate many things in my every day life to fashion; some people get it others don’t.
    I guess this is what makes all of us interesting. Some people couldn’t give a shit about it and that is fine by me.
    I think for now like you said, you should enjoy the moment and not think to much about ‘what more important things could I be doing with my time.’ Fashion is big business and I love being a part of it.

  2. Tara

    2011-06-23 at 10:35 AM

    Quite apart from the business end of the fashion world, which I agree is pretty cynical, I don’t agree that clothing in itself is at all frivolous. Of course, I am speaking as a person who screamed blue murder at the age of four when I couldn’t wear my favourite frock, and who adopted a punk aesthetic age seven.
    However, I am also an anthropologist and have studied human evolution. Did you know that apart from rough, chipped stone tools, pieces of pigment worn smooth from application to leather or skin are some of the earliest artefacts of our ancestors? Have you observed that many tribal peoples all over the world wear extremely elaborate costumes and make-up (and accessories), often every day?
    Costume and make-up may be ‘superficial’ in the formal sense of the word, but that doesn’t mean that they are not absolutely fundamental to the human condition.
    Of course, this is not ‘fashion’ in a strict sense, but I don’t think you dress strictly according to fashion, from what I see on your site, and you do make an art form of dressing. Couture is definately an art form, as spectacular as any other, and as skillful and provocative as anything you will see in a gallery.
    People who don’t ‘get’ fashion invariably choose clothes to wear and put them together in certain ways – they are making a statement with this as much as you or I.
    And at the end of the day, how many of us can really say they do anything truly ‘significant’ in their daily lives? Very few people are out there innoculating African children or curing cancer!

  3. Bianca

    2011-06-23 at 10:45 AM

    Wow, that’s a really honest reply. But one that is more or less true, and I guess we cling to what we like and declare it as important, maybe bragging too in a way. As well as thr things you’ve mentioned, fashion is probably also a firm of escapism from everyday life, and that might be why some are so obsessed with it, while others don’t care much.

  4. BR

    2011-06-23 at 11:05 AM

    I work in a hospital, and also as a fashion designer. I believe both are equally important. We can positively impact other people’s lives no matter our choice of job. What is important is the way we interact with and inspire others; and maintaining integrity. I believe that’s why your opinion is influential, Susie. Integrity and honesty will always be relevant and sought. Sometimes I think people use fashion in a way they use religion. Fashion is a tool that uses symbolism and ritual. Some choose to use it (wrongly, I believe) to judge or label others, some choose to view it as frivolous. Personally, fashion has given me a platform to express my beliefs about the importance and closeness of science and fashion. This is an extremely powerful combination in a business, social and cultural sense. I feel an equal sense of pride and responsibility whether I am treating a patient in A&E or developing a collection.

  5. Hannah Buswell

    2011-06-23 at 11:41 AM

    I think as someone who has studied fashion for the past few years and is a “designer” (cringe) this is a question I’m constantly battling with. It’s very difficult at time to qualify to yourself that what you’re doing is worth while and important when other people are out curing cancer and treating the sick.

  6. Designer Dresses

    2011-06-23 at 12:14 PM

    I respect you for not trying to defend fashion so much as justify how it is a part of your life. I am also fairly certain that you could say the same of a lot of other things (sports, TV shows, pretty much every other art form) although they may have their own justifications of course.

  7. Alanna

    2011-06-23 at 12:22 PM

    I really like your outfit posts. They remind me to have fun, and since they are different from the norm, they also remind me to question the norm. Frankly, I think you promote critical thinking– something that IS important, very much so. To me, just as important as traditionally noble professions.
    …and something that I feel is needed, desperately (especially here in extremist USA).

  8. Sarah

    2011-06-23 at 1:19 PM

    I agree with Laura from the first comment – I often get the look of pity when I say I study fashion marketing. I never realised how much taking a fashion course was looked down upon or considered not a real subject, until I was at Uni; my friend and I were writing a marketing essay on the target market and business demographics of Topshop makeup. Two boys who were sitting near us started laughing an whispering that we were stupid selfish self absorbent bimbos – yes the subject matter my seem laughable, but we were studying the recession and market profitability, something that would have been a module on a business course.
    What I mean to say is, that yes fashion may be considered shallow, and yes I probably am shallow when it comes to fashion at times, but we live our life in clothes. All those people who think fashion is laughable or shallow, forget that they are apart of fashion because they wear and buy clothes, whether their clothes be from Primark or Chanel, someone had to design and make them. Therefore it is still fashion.
    wow sorry for my rant 🙂 hope it all makes sense!

  9. central park west clothing

    2011-06-23 at 1:31 PM

    I respect you for not trying to defend fashion so much as justify how it is a part of your life. I am also fairly certain that you could say the same of a lot of other things. It’s very difficult at time to qualify to yourself that what you’re doing is worth while and important when other people are out curing cancer and treating the sick.

  10. callahan

    2011-06-23 at 1:36 PM

    First of reading that question, automatically triggered thoughts of doubt as to why im so obsessed with fashion and is it really ‘neccesary’ beacuse of course any sane genuine person would completly agree that there are far more important things in each individual’s life. And quite rightly you summed it all up in your last paragraph, this is what it is, a fashion blog, there would not be reason to share your thoughts on all other subjects on here and I hope the question wasnt asked in a judgemental sort of way, presuming that this is all what consumes your life and thoughts, but Im sure it wasnt and was just a way of letting you express what you feel on the matter. And I would just like to say, Im no expert on fashion/designers and all other concepts on the subject I work in the banking industry and this is merely just a love outside of work. But it is a LOVE and I have such a genuine interest in all your posts, and as you admit everything you are able to do is a priviledge, to be able to actually do a job you love is rare. I dont mean to sound cringey (oh god!) but the way you write is a complete talent in my view, so intelligently written but completly relatable (making up words now) to me, in terms onf interest in all things fashion related. When I first started my blog I done a post about Louise Gray which you commented on, just a quick comment along the lines of liking my little observations, and to me that meant ALOT, so thank you, sharing your views, in this case about fashion, is all what blogging is about? I believe. And its encouraging that people enjoy reading things you have written as much as you enjoy sharing with readers.
    OK back to the banking job! I can have my little escapes in my lunch hour hehe.

  11. Shawna Elizabeth

    2011-06-23 at 2:04 PM

    Definitely a well thought-out response to an interesting question! I’ve been faced with this question often as well & there’s a Howard Thurman quote which is usually my bottom line:
    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

  12. Robin

    2011-06-23 at 4:10 PM

    I am so thankful that you have written this post. I just started blogging a couple of months ago and have already been asked this question and asked it of myself. My answer to people? Me-well what are you interested in? Person-[insert random hobby i.e. cars, sports, books, etc] Me-well just imagine wearing a [car, football, book, etc.] and there you have my passion. It’s a hobby, not a lifestyle. I don’t snub on throwing on my PJs and kicking off my heels after a rough day. I don’t imagine other bloggers do either. Sure, it seems narcissistic and superficial to parade around town, taking pictures of yourself to some people, but to me that is what is making them shallow for not realizing the concept of a hobby. Most of the girls I have “met” through blogging are sweet, supportive and intelligent. Not one that I have “met” has nothing to talk about other than her newly purchased distressed denim cut offs. We have a life, this is just part of it. And so what if it actually gives women a boost of confidence when it is needed? It takes a lot of guts to take a tripod into a busy park/fishing hole/downtown area, whip it out and start posing for it with an audience. That is why I started doing it in the first place–to gain confidence and accept myself and who I was and what I was into. I actually did a post like this right after I first started blogging. In the end, the people who read these blogs are not concerned with the “superficial” end of it and can appreciate fashion and, more importantly, personal style for what it is. And those who can’t–well, try to Google something about [cars, sports, books, etc.] then and save your “I have more important things to worry about” speech for someone else!


    2011-06-23 at 4:10 PM

    Thanks for answering the question! It opens up a whole new perspective for me, especially when i find it difficult at times to admit the superficialities of fashion…because admitting that would mean that I have been wasting my time trying to pursue an ambition in the fashion industry.

  14. tasha

    2011-06-23 at 6:01 PM

    “How I can’t read about extremist politics in the USA without wanting to chuck the paper across the room.”
    I love you for this. I feel this way too . . . except it’s my computer and people I love that I want to chuck across the room. Naturally, I refrain . . .
    I promise you, it’s even worse living here. We’ll be leaving, soon.

  15. Amethyst

    2011-06-23 at 7:03 PM

    I think fashion is no more or less valid than a gazillion other things people make their living at, work in, and enjoy. Can’t we put golf or football into the shallow category also? I’ve never heard someone say that “golf is shallow” but is this simply because fashion has typically been a female pastime?
    Long live fashion, and whatever else makes us happy. In the grand scheme of things, anything that makes one feel good about oneself is much deeper than gorgeous scarves and boots.

  16. Dribbling Candy

    2011-06-23 at 7:14 PM

    this was great to read. I think there is no true hierarchy of importance only an illusion of such or a comforting idea of it. Its obviously a subjective idea at that. Cheers!

  17. Shini

    2011-06-23 at 7:20 PM

    Everyone needs to dedicate, be passionate about, be steeped into something – that makes up a culture and a library of books. If we’re after the ‘more important things’ in life, such as, I don’t know, feeding the starving children for example, then who’s going to improve the art, politics, food, fashion?
    It’s people that write about ‘less important things’ that can study the subject close enough to discover parts that can contribute to the ‘more important things’, that’s how the world is built. If all cavemen went out to hunt for food, how are we so different from animals.

  18. Suzu

    2011-06-23 at 8:27 PM

    What a graceful, honest, and humble answer.

  19. Dorothy

    2011-06-23 at 9:41 PM

    Clothing, jewelry and adornment has been a part of human history for as long as we have been around. Some of the oldest artifacts indicating symbolic thought have been pieces of jewelry. The Guennol Lioness from 5000 BCE Mesopotamia (one of the most expensive pieces of sculpture ever sold at auction) was worn as a pendant. There is a string of shell beads that go back 75,000 years, older than the cave paintings at Lascaux.
    What people decide to wear and not wear is indicative of so many things beyond a person’s individual self, so I can never understand why people see it as superfluous or frivolous. Fashion may be cruel but it’s not frivolous.
    It’s much better to be thoughtful about fashion, as you are, Susie, than to pretend to be above it all when it’s so much a part of the experience of being a human.

  20. Sada Vee

    2011-06-24 at 12:03 AM

    What an honest and intelligent post.

  21. liine

    2011-06-24 at 5:13 AM

    Well said !!

  22. Michel G

    2011-06-24 at 5:58 AM

    You explained this SO well. Your vocabulary is very extensive and it adds so much context to this, very wonderful. Like most things in this world, fashion is not a necessity, but in its own way it is art and a very personal way of expressing yourself and it’s not something that will just disappear, it will always have a place.
    I always smile when I see you get interviewed on runway videos, you’re so cute and you are so intellectual! Keep up the beautiful posts 🙂

  23. Leslie H.

    2011-06-24 at 9:41 AM

    You might never write about these other interests of yours on this blog, but you certainly make me wish I were friends with you so I could have conversations discussing food, China, and political economy simultaneously (yes, all at once). The subsequent epiphanies on how all these topics (and more) are actually interrelated will make the noms we’d be nomming on taste five…million times better.
    Alas, such friendships exist only as the fluff stuff dreams are made of..
    Your blog is one of my favorites to read because it expands beyond being just another visual blog. But don’t think you can’t make a difference re: “serious world problems.” The dissemination of knowledge is more important than expressing an argument eloquently. If you see something that you don’t like, you should talk about it, even if it’s just a tweet, or an article. Change comes from increased awareness and engaging in discussion of a problem. If we just kvetch about it in the comfort of our homes to the same people who do the same thing, what good will that do? To me, this attitude of “Oh but I’m not the one curing cancer…” is taking the easy way out. Society cannot sustain itself if it depends solely on select individuals to fix all of the world’s ills. They cannot change the world. This is like saying that once the technology for the production of sustainable production of cotton at a cheaper rate exists, it’ll just spontaneously happen. No. People need to make the change they want to see in the world (cheesy, but true).
    In other words:

  24. Crazy catlady

    2011-06-24 at 11:44 AM

    Thank you so much for answering my question in such depth! I’m so glad you took it in the spirit it was meant, and such an impressive answer too. It’s good to know (from you and some of the other commenters) that i’ m not alone in doubting myself and my interests from time to time. Since I arrived in London (from China, no less!) I’ve found the fashion scene mind-blowing and fascinating, but I do sometimes wonder if it diverts too much of my attention and energy from other worthwhile things….
    Given my day job, running my own jewellery website, i’m very aware of how much of a privilege it is to make a living from something that is intrinsically a “luxury” item. I admire you for your creativity and intelligence in writing about the fashion world and hope you will continue enjoying it for a long time to come!

  25. susie_bubble

    2011-06-24 at 6:26 PM

    Thanks for all the comments back….just to say the original question was not asked in a malicious way Рmainly curious….
    Laura: It can be quite difficult to defend fashion to certain people in which case I’m resigned to not being bothered and just getting on with what i do‚Ķ
    Tara: Thanks for the evolution facts – didn’t know the one about the pigment and the leather‚Ķ
    I’d like to ‘think’ that the way I dress isn’t merely shallow but when you break it down, it’s quite hard to see it any other way. To try and defend something like going to Gotemba Premium Outlet mall instead of seeing Mount Fuji in Japan (which is what I did) to get 90% off Jil Sander as anything but ‘shallow’ would be quite difficult. But I guess it’s the importance of pleasing the ‘self’ – that was what i was trying to say‚Ķ.
    But you’re right, there are very few of us making a ‘real’ difference.
    Bianca: i forgot to mention the escapism part!
    BR: Knowing what you do, and the connections between science and fashion you make, me thinks you might be contributing something greater than myself!
    Hannah Buswell: It doesn’t necessarily ‘trouble’ me but I think I have a resignation about how to put fashion into perspective. It isn’t the ‘end of the world’ if say I skip a fashion week or if i don’t get to buy such an item‚Ķ I actually think perhaps designers have an easier time in grappling this question – at least they’re putting out a product that has a potential customer base and they can become ‘artists’ in their own right‚Ķ.
    Alanna: Thank you so much… I try!
    Sarah: You might want to tell those boys that Topshop/Arcadia is a multi-million pound business that does have a sizeable impact on the British economy….
    Callahan: No the question was just a curious query Рnot judgemental at all! Thank you so much Рmeans a lot that you said that…. I hope blogging is giving you plenty of joy. I can so relate to you about escaping into the blog from the day job… (I used to work in advertising)
    Shawna: Excellent quote. I would certainly rather feel alive….!
    Robin: I often find that the ‘life’ part of what bloggers do is obscured. A blog really only mirrors one part of who we are but people can mis-construe that so easily‚Ķ.
    Supposedlyfashion: I think I admit that there are SOME superficial/shallow parts to fashion but I forgot to say in my answer that I REVEL and LOVE the other parts…. and what drives me is my own curiosity about fashion….
    Tasha: I spit at my computer too…mainly at diabolical commenters on political blogs….
    Shini: Sometimes i wish it was as simple as hunting for food…. : )
    Dorothy: Another commenter who has hauled out a pre-historic fact – where have you guys been hiding?!? That’s a whole other subject – the anthropology of dress‚Ķ something I wish I knew more about‚Ķ.
    Thanks btw….
    Michel G: Oh god, I always sound awful on those videos….
    Leslie H: If you lived in London, perhaps that could be a reality! I have toyed with the idea of bringing other subject matter onto the blog. it is after a sounding platform. The reason I’ve resisted though is that I often find I cloud the focus a bit. This blog may make me look like I only investigate hem lines and look at inspiration mood boards of designers but to start say adding my views on China and err my love of FOOD could somewhat confuse the issue. It’s not a cop-out. I would just like a different platform for all of that and of course where possible I’ll support organisations that do effect positive change. I also don’t want to sound off on a subject where I’m not confident I have all my facts right either but that’s another issue‚Ķ. thanks though for your comment. It does make me think whether there are other fields i could explore outside of this little bubble here‚Ķ.
    Crazy Cat Lady: No problem Рhope it partially answered your question. I could have gone on about the subject and as you can see here, it has incited some thoughts from other readers too….

  26. antique wedding rings

    2011-06-24 at 7:52 PM

    Your post is fantastic.. thanks!

  27. Jen

    2011-06-24 at 11:44 PM

    i love the frankness of your post. i think this is what separates a great blogger from a good blogger. i constantly think about this question as well and this is why i strive to do things to my best. at the end of the day, how many people are actually curing cancer or world hunger? We just try to do our best at what we do best and being part of the society. i also love how you said fashion can reflect socio-economic and political circumstances and is a vehicle that references the past. sometimes this is the only way that someone is able to express their point of view – for many many young designers… i remember in September Issue Anna Wintour was also faced with a similar question because her brothers wouldn’t understand(or appreciate) her job at all… but lets face it.. she is probably the most powerful woman in the USA in so many ways.
    love your blog and keep it up!

  28. Adele Booth

    2011-06-25 at 10:39 AM

    Another Anthropologist feeling the need to chip in..I don’t see fashion as being indicative of something else or reflective of values (or lack thereof). I was taught to see clothing and adornment as a completely valid social arena- all consumption, whether food, film, fashion or whatever- is a space to create a sense of personhood and self, so as relevant as anything else.
    It sounds hippy but we learnt ‘as we touch things, things touch us’- there’s not people, then a gap, and THEN stuff. We exist through stuff as much as we do lofty notions and conscious matter. If you ever get chance take a look at a man called danny miller’s books on consumption. there’s a lot of fascinating validation for clothing there!

  29. Jay.

    2011-06-25 at 2:57 PM

    Those “more important things in life” don’t have to be separate from fashion. There are some that concern fashion directly – like those five year old Chinese orphans who work for 15 hours a day “creating” that precise fashion, while some pretensions tools with too much money discuss whether the latest Armani collection has lived up to their expectations…

  30. Anna

    2011-06-26 at 10:26 AM

    I really love your blog but this post in particular caught my eye because its a question I’ve often asked myself as a teenager thinking about the future. I do love fashion and art but I wonder if there’s is more important things in life. reading what you said, as someone already in the fashion world, made me feel better and more decisive.

  31. naehee

    2011-06-26 at 11:31 AM

    i love this post thank u


    2011-06-26 at 12:19 PM

    A really well thought out post! Having followed a number of style blogs for a good couple of years now, I’ve had plenty of time to ponder whether or not to act on the urge to participate. These thoughts have to a large extent been tainted by worry about about how other people would perceive the subject matter of the blog. Seeming shallow, frivolous and self-indulgent in the eyes of others has thus delayed my participation for a long time. I am still debating whether or not to throw my own outfits into the mix for the same reasons. I don’t wish to harm my career outside of fashion. I detect a lot of this in the blogosphere as well.

  33. Crazy Cat-lady

    2011-06-28 at 2:49 PM

    Susie: yes it answered my question from all different aspects, and many thanks for the following-up… i was looking at the ‘Spots in London’ by you and realised that you live (or lived) really close to where i am. i know all the shops in Highbury and Islington that you listed – especially the ones on Holloway Road, they are real hidden gems. I pass Marie Curie every day, how come never met you before(thumb up to the ‘ugly prom dresses and wedding gowns’ fact, that’s hilarious)? If i ever see you on the street i’ll definitely come up and say hi.
    Lesiley H: like your comment very much,it reminded me and makes me feel motivated again. i wish i were friends with both of you and we can discuss food, China, political economy…(and cats, perhaps?)

  34. Mertxe Hernandez

    2011-06-28 at 4:49 PM

    very good pics!!! love your blog…!!!

  35. Branwen

    2011-06-29 at 3:39 PM

    Good answer. I’ve always respected you and your work on this blog, but even more so now.

  36. marie

    2011-07-03 at 11:42 AM

    I couldn’t agree with you more Susie and I’m sure many a follower of fashion also has their doubts sometimes. Fashion is at worst; narcissistic and shallow, a tool for making unfounded judgements about others.. As a designer myself, the work i create is wholly based on what i feel and what inspires me at the moment -which means that my work and my chosen profession is really just an extension of my ego – and if people express an interest in the work i create, they are just stroking it. As you mentioned above, ‘experimenting’ with wardrobe is also a selfish exercise- but, if one has the means and the materials, why not? Does it make you a bad person if you choose to pair to articles differently to the next person?
    Of course fashion is a multi-million dollar industry that revolves around smart marketing, business figures and trends which play to our every whim. It’s not about saving the world or feeding starving children, unfortunately… but If people were to be completely practical and rational about it, there would be no reason to bring out a shirt in a different colour after 6 months, but Millions of people would be without jobs – from design to manufacture, working with products and raw materials… our society would be vastly different. So should we not have fun with what we got?
    As Tara mentioned above; “at the end of the day, how many of us can really say they do anything truly ‘significant’ in their daily lives?” Innoculating african children etc. It’s a good question and throws up a few others e.g. How can we make fashion a more meaningful force – that perhaps helps a few more people along the way, apart from just ourselves?

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