Sunday, May 27, 2012

The hypocrisy of clothes

I'll sit in church and hold your hand
I'm gonna give up heifer fuckin'
I'm gonna buy me a suit from the Sear's catalog
Clara June! Clara June!
Come Back! Come Back! - from "My Baby Done Left Me" The Fugs (Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, and other Greenwich Village types), c. 1966
In New York, suits have ventured out of their typical neighborhood boundaries of Hells Kitchen and Murray Hill to find the "cool and hip" spots such as the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, and have burned their credibility. This has caused hipsters to quickly flee and create a new place for themselves. - Urban Dictionary definition of "Suits"
Bus People, Manhattan
Sitting on the bus going north up Madison, I experienced an epiphany.

Life is so much easier for men as they have such a limited range of clothing styles.

For business it's a suit. Of course suits come in various shades of black, brown and navy and can be varied by wearing shirts and ties of varying colors, but basically it's the same old same old.

I was staring at the man in the green tie. Probably he'll wear a red on tomorrow. Probably his wife will select it. So simple. No thought required

Then there's jeans shorts and tee-shirts. They don't even have to be color-coordinated. Denim goes with just about anything.

And for those who want to make a statement, there's the black polo-neck favored by the late Steve Jobs, or the Zuckerberg hoodie. I find the black polo-neck preferable - at lease it is age-appropriate whatever one's age. The hoodie is for little kids. My son gave up wearing his around thirteen.

I think of hoodies as comfort clothing - having a sort of back-to-the-womb effect, sheltering the wearer from the harsh realities of modern life. Hardly suitable for anyone past puberty.

Financial Times ad, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan
Hoodies have had bad press lately in the US. Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed the night of February 26 while walking back to the house where he was staying in a gated community. The shooter, George Zimmerman, 28, the neighborhood watch captain, was following Martin because he thought the 17-year-old, looked suspicious. When the two got into an altercation, Zimmerman fired the gun he was carrying.

People were outraged. Congressman and women and Occupy people wore hoodies to show solidarity with Trayvon Martin's family and outrage with what many saw as racial profiling. Perhaps that's what Zuckerberg was doing when he wore his hoodie on Wall Street. I hope so. But don't think so. More likely he was showing contempt for the "suits" of this word. If so, he's just a tiny bit hypocritical.

In any case,  he didn't wear a hoodie at his wedding.

So, back to talking about grown-up men, the range of clothes is further reduced by acceptable color and pattern. Jeans, shorts, shirts, ties tees and  black polo-necks, all further limited by a colorless color rage and patterns restricted to stripes and the occasional flower for those with a Hawaiian state of mind.

So simple. And what's more, no one even notices if men wear the same clothes day in day out  ... as long as they wash them.

Women on the other hand, not only have to choose their clothes according to the fashion, season and their age - lest they are ridiculed as being mutton dressed up as lamb - they are expected to paint their faces. Secretary of State Clinton, recently had to defend herself for wearing no other makeup than lipstick. And in March this year, Germaine Greer stooped to criticizing Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her dress sense.  Apparently, "once a feminist" is enough.  Consistency is just not necessary.

Yet another example of the hypocrisyof clothes!

I'm so hung up on clothes lately, I thought Fifty Shades of Grey was a style book for men's wardrobes.  Gray, the color of male fashion. Especially in New York where color is gender-neutral.

New York - sexless gray, as gray as a Melbourne winter. Livened up by a few avant guard artists such as Bill Cunningham - the  fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who has been photographing street fashion on the sidewalks of New York for fifty years.

I watched an film about Bill Cunningham where he spoke of color, street fashion, women's hats, and his love of women's clothes from the 50s to now. To illustrate his views he displayed  a heap of photos he took in the heady days of the 1960s.

Unfortunately, in that brief window when the world was full of love and color, he shot all his photos in black and white.

Fifty shades of gray.

Stay tuned.

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