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Fads Destroy Meaning


Take Uggs. They are ugly boots made in Australia. Australians only really wear them around the house or to shuffle out to the bottle shop, or to warm one’s feet after doing a little winter surfing. Anyone who wears them all the time is considered, well, a bit “daggy.” Somehow, in America a few years ago, they gained  popularity among surfers, became high fashion chic which then became a fad among celebrities and suburban moms. Aussies are still puzzled, and a bit embarrassed.

Take trucker hats. A few years ago Hollywood hipsters started wearing them as an ironic rebellion. As in, “I’m so hip, I can wear this terrible piece of clothing that people associate with the lowest common denominator and still be hip. Look at me, I’m soooo ironic.” Then, people who didn’t get the irony started wearing them, and finally, they came full circle and only frat boys and people with no fashion sense were wearing them again. They lost their irony, and gained a new negative connotation.

Going back further, look at “grunge” fashion. It started in the independent alternative music scene in Washington and Seattle. Flannel shirts, knitted caps and thermal underwear were popular because they were  cheap, warm and the musicians were poor and really mostly cared about their music, not what they were wearing. Then, suddenly, grunge music took off and everyone started wearing flannel, thermals, knitted caps and ripped clothing. The original fashion of apathy became a symbol of caring too much, once you could buy pre-ripped jeans and overpriced distressed flannels at the mall.

Now, there’s a silly (arrgh, must resist using the word “kerfuffle”) spat over Rachel Ray’s Dunkin’ Donut ad where she wears a keffiyeh. Sure, it may have started as a way for celebs to show support for Palestinians, or to protest the war or whatever, but as far as I can tell, nobody is wearing them because of that anymore. They fly off the shelves, but they seem to just be another trendy scarf. The original symbolism is lost. I won’t wear one because I don’t like to buy things that everyone else is wearing. Other people have the opposite fashion criteria.  Rachel Ray is just a fashion victim, not a jihadi supporter. Indicting people because of the supposed symbolism of an item of clothing that has become simply a fad is absurd. You might as well tell Americans that they shouldn’t wear Uggs because in their homeland of Australia, only bogans wear them.

  1. emmajeans permalink
    31/05/2008 9:07 pm

    “Fashion’s embrace of political clothes — yes, even grunge — destroys their deeper meaning. ” (this article)

    I am a bit completely rubbish at knowing what is fashionable and what is political. I liked the look of those scarfs that people have been wearing lately – but I didn’t even associate them with the keffiyeh, because I’d never seen them being worn as a protest, particularly in the drapey way that people wear them atm.

    Having said that, I don’t get it when people take overt symbols of military uniforms and fashionablise them – your lime green and hot pink ‘camouflage’ pants, for instance.
    (When I was thinking about writing this reply yesterday, I looked down and noticed I was wearing the pair of powder-pink cargo pants I got from Vinnies, and wondered whether I was more clueless or more hypocritical.)

  2. 05/06/2008 7:02 am

    Fads don’t Destroy Meaning, Rappers do.

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