#POP, #THOUGHTS, Fashion

The #Happy Era


Maisie Williams – Arya Stark on ‘Game of Thrones’ – said it most succinctly on MTV’s ‘Teens React’ video for ‘Saved by the Bell’’s 25th anniversary. While wearing an oversized baseball shirt over a tie-dye-esque top, an excessive number of bracelets of various colours and materials, and capping the look with a backwards cap, she declared: “We’re kind of coming back to this fashion now. Everyone is like wearing this stuff again.”

Teens, at least, seem to have moved into an alt-normcore version of ‘90s retro fashion. Unburdened by the angst of their yuppie-aged compatriots – who tend to go for the drably inconspicuous art-student/middle-aged-tourist look – these young alt-thinkers have adopted the bright patterns, colours, and accessories of ‘90s fashion.

They’re coming of age in an age that’s tired of being tired. Exhausted by the effort of trying to be cool, think different, and act smart, young people – and, arguably, society in general – is embracing the freedom of exuberance. Emblematic here is the general ardour and excitement following Pharrell’s #Happy movement, where thousands of people all over the world danced like no one was watching to make their own versions of his astonishingly popular song of the same name.

The #Happy Era is an age in which the natural exuberance of young people finds unfiltered expression through ever-increasing social media outlets, giving them a disproportionate influence in defining the hallmarks of our zeitgeist.

Though, sometimes this is displayed as an excessive concern for all manner of things light-hearted and self-centred, such as cats, pranks, dancing, slang, clothes, luxury goods, vacation pics, pithy quotations, self-portraits, &c.

In ages past, young people were told to sit down and shut up when they got too enthusiastic or curious. But, their inherent enthusiasm and curiosity have now found an outlet behind the backs of adults, who, for the most part, are unaware of this phantom world their children inhabit, which, due to its speedy growth, is having an actual effect on the physical world.

This is not to say that young people today are wholly different from their predecessors. Youth has always been marked by un-jaded joy. Rather, the difference is that more young people live in societies wealthy enough to provide them with the freedom to indulge that joy, and the ability to voice their thoughts. They have now an audible voice, which seems to say that they are aware of the manipulations of a consumerist culture that tells them what to buy and how to look, they are aware of a media that forces upon them biased viewpoints, and they are tired of being told what to be and what to think.

The point here is that the exuberance of young people has become a driver of the times, because, for the first time ever, they have powerful outlets to express themselves. Most interestingly, that exuberance has not been limited to trivial or self-centred expressions like borderline abusive feline obsessions or a psychologically damaging absorption with their own faces. Rather, they have been able to use social media to galvanise their exuberance for real social and political change.

The #Happy Era is one in which, for the first time, the voice of young people is so loud that it cannot be silenced and set in a corner. The democratising effect of social media has been so powerful that it has allowed the exuberance of youth to cause change on a scale that is remarkable in human history.

Perhaps, then, the current popularity of bright clothes and bright music is a well-earned celebration – the uniform of the victorious revolutionaries. Perhaps we are about to see again TV shows that take place in the bright, halcyon world of ‘Saved by the Bell’, where, as one kid watching the MTV video while wearing a neon shirt and backwards baseball cap put it: ‘these guys are just like, happy … happy kids.’

Perhaps it’s time we embraced the power of #Happy. Maybe we even deserve it.

#POP, Consumerism, Fashion

Normcore — The Inconspicuous Escape


Thwarted by the popularity of skinny jeans and fat beards, original hipsters have retreated spitefully to a place they thought no one would ever follow – the ‘90s. But, they underestimated their own trendiness, because now everyone wants to wear backwards baseball caps and oversized overalls and look like a bemused Icelandic exchange student circa 1993.

Sure, normcore is basically Mugatu’s ‘Derelicte’ collection from Zoolander. But, at its core, it’s a backlash against the exhausting effort to be different. It’s an attempt to free ourselves from trying to be someone.

Emily Segal, co-founder of the trend forecasting group K-Hole, explained to Vogue magazine that part of normcore’s impetus is that “people are genuinely tired by the fact that to achieve status you need to be different from everyone else around you.”

The goal here – in a world where ‘street style’ blogs emphasise uniqueness, but, tellingly, tend to post pictures of people who have somewhat similar aesthetic tastes – is to be as inconspicuous as possible. The achieved effect, as NY Mag’s Fiona Duncan amusingly put it, is to be unable to tell if your “fellow Soho pedestrians are art kids or middle-aged, middle-American tourists.” By venerating things like nondescript sneakers, oversized jeans, and fleece, normcore is, in a sense, a look that says: ‘I’m hiding my coolness.’

Normcore is an attempt to subvert the status quo by taking oneself out of the game. It’s a look that arises from a fear that one’s uniqueness will be exploited by a consumerist culture that seeks to pervert it for mass consumption. It’s the thought: ‘if they can’t see me, they can’t use me.’ It’s an attempt to protect one’s soul.

#POP, #THOUGHTS, Consumerism, Fashion, Television

Fur is in, Humanity is out

Joe_Namath_Fur_Coat_Super_BowlOn Super Bowl night, we witnessed a great victory for an old underdog – the fur industry. When ex-quarterback Joe Namath stole the show in his full-length mink, he brought out the best of furs, and the worst in us.

Remember when Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, and Elle Macpherson said they’d “rather go naked than wear fur” in that iconic PETA advert? Remember when top designers like Giorgio Armani said they’d never use fur?

Well, that was 1994.

Come 2014, Naomi is front and centre applauding the appearance of a white mink coat trimmed with fox fur at Donatella Versace’s Paris show.

But, she’s not the only one who loves fur. We all do. Global fur sales jumped 70% from 2000 to 2010. In 2011 alone, sales of fur pelts were close to $15bn.

Fur is back, baby.

It’s not because we’re treating animals less cruelly, though. No, nothing’s changed there. Little minks are still raised in cages on fur farms. They’re still gassed, beaten, and electrocuted. They’re still so psychologically damaged that they mutilate themselves and cannibalise each other.

So, why the sudden 180 degrees? It’s not so sudden, actually. It’s the outcome of steady, tireless work by the fur industry over the last 20 years to change popular perception. Jezebel wrote in 2012 that fur’s resurgence is the result of a calculated campaign to “re-legitimise and de-stigmatise the product” to designers as “sustainable, natural, and luxurious.”

A 2004 Independent article quipped: “Just as Peta managed to ‘out-glamorise’ the image of fur in 1994, the fur trade is now trying to ‘out-ethicise’ the animal rights world,” by claiming that the manufacture of fake fur involves chemicals that are dangerous for the environment as well as the factory workers who make them.

Well, it worked. We love fur again. But, what does that say about us? It says that we allowed ourselves to be manipulated. We allowed our opinions to be formed by the campaign with the most money. At best, it says that we lack the courage of our convictions, and at worst, that we don’t know ourselves well enough to have any convictions of our own.

Did we really believe in what we were doing 20 years ago when we bared down for fur and threw red paint on each other? Were we thinking for ourselves when we stopped wearing fur? Or were we just pretending because that was the fashion of the times?

The evidence suggests the latter. Because here we are, loving our fur, grateful that no one is bombarding us again and again with videos and photos about the poor little caged animals shaking in their little fur boots.

So we turn a blind eye because animal rights is yesterday’s cause du jour. And we ask, willing to be outraged for the required amount of time, what’s fashionable today? We plead, tell us what to believe in next! We will believe what you say, cuz we’re all slaves to fashion, anyway.

Posted at the Dhaka Tribune: http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/feb/09/fur-humanity-out