Saturday, 29 August 2009

dysfunctional outfits

Maybe the continuing popularity of the high heels and the low slung jeans, that make it impossible to walk, is due to a need for inconvenience? Perhaps life has become too bland,predictable, and comfortable and we need some kind of physical challenge to make life more interesting?

1 comment:

  1. Like many aspects of fashion, dress or style, which seem dysfunctional, or non functional, features of clothing or the manner in which it is worn can serve the purpose of communication. A handkerchief hung from a pocket or a key fob slung from the waist, can be a covert signal to indicate sexual preference or availability in a given social context. Likewise, with many aspects of subcultural clothing. Though quite often these are more generally a gesture of nonconformity or intended to simply disrupt the normal use of clothing and codes of modesty or good taste, or the way in which it is commonly thought to make sense (-what Dick Hebdige called 'noise' -a signal of interference in the accepted chain of signification -see Hebdige,Dick. Subculture: The meaning of Style, Routledge London 1988 ). This particular style is alleged to have its origins in 'Death Row' in the states, were prisoners are forbidden belts, as suicide is a risk. So outside of this context, it can be understood to express a certain machismo or threat of violence or the familiarity with prison and its customs. If this is so, rather than purely apocryphal then the fact that it has migrated so far from its origins is interesting. There is a fascinating mixture of unintended comic effect and bravado about this. Stuart Cosgrove writes thoughtfully about this mixture of menace and buffoonery in his summary of the Zoot suit fashions popular with Pachucos (Latin American) and black American youths in the 40s which led to riots with the military police (see The Zoot suit & Style Warfare in McRobbie, Angela (ed).Zoot Suits and Second Hand Dresses, MacMillan 1989). Here clothing was a badge of ethnicity as well of dissent from the accepted social order. If this single stylistic gesture does have its origin in American prison culture, it is has certainly been appropriated by groups of youth very distant from this experience and social group. It might be argued that like other fashions which spread from racial group to another, that this is also a symbolic gesture to negotiate cultural differences between ethnic groups.