Sunday, 9 December 2012

Borrowed clothes

Fashion is merely a form of ugliness so unbearable that we are compelled to alter it every six months.
 Oscar Wilde

I have the feeling that a lot of people who borrow Oscar Wilde's wit too freely are educated but not quite as clever as they'd like other people to think they are. Still, I like this quote and I'll make an exception in the case of Roy Bainton, who used Wilde's words back in 2010 to preface a splendid rant on the subject of fashion, for the last post on his now-dormant blog Over the Hill:*
In any case, they might argue, fashion is for everyone. Yet that’s the view from their side of the gulf. It’s the gulf of reality, the gulf between the rich and the poor which continues to expand, thanks to lack-lustre, materialistic politicians who have long since lost any decent convictions or a desire to improve the world, and will persist in their political inertia no matter who wins an election. The world of fashion, populated as it is by vacuous prima donnas, self-serving celebrity air-heads and over-pruning martinets, exists solely to sell to and entertain their own rapacious, gormless celebrity class. Whilst they continue to indulge in their mutual, design-inspired onanism in their elite, hermetically-sealed magazine feature world, the rest of us will continue to keep out the cold courtesy of Tesco and Primark, with many of us grabbing a suitable bargain from Oxfam, Help The Aged or the Heart Foundation charity shops. If there is some kind of heaven, and the departed generation before mine are looking down, then only the rapture brought about by their death could relieve the vision of despair they might witness down here on 21st century earth.

If my ranting here seems a severe observation, consider the Blair family. In her autobiography, Cherie Blair makes the staggering claim that she remains ‘a socialist’. This is a woman with a £3.6 million house, whose husband, elevated to his world status by the old Labour Party and the contributions of thousands of hard working union members, has taken on a six-figure deal to promote Louis Vuitton handbags. The deal appears to have had its genesis on board the luxury yacht of another paragon of compassion, the rock star Bono. 
Read the whole thing here.

I'm with Roy nearly all the way on this one. Fashion seems to distill some of the worst elements of our society: the epic wastefulness of planned obsolescence, the conspicuous consumption of stuff we don't need in order to impress people who aren't worth impressing, the herd mentality and a vapid obsession with style and presentation. The only thing that gives me pause for thought is the feminist critique that holds there's something misogynistic in holding fashion in low esteem. The argument is that, on average, women are more interested in fashion than men and that fashion is therefore perceived as more 'trivial' than more male-dominated industries.

I don't quite buy this idea - there's as much needless conspicuous consumption of things that are generally considered boys' toys, from Rolex watches to high-end Beemers. An obsession with status symbols and being part of the in-group is prevalent -and, in my view, equally unattractive - in both sexes. Criticism of the fashion biz only becomes sexist when it's used as a cover for dismissing women and only women, as empty-headed bimbos who never think about anything except hair and shoes. There are women that shallow, but there seem to be just as many empty-headed himbos whose life seems to revolve around the possession of an office swivel chair with arms (thus asserting superiority over the losers who haven't graduated to such dizzy heights of middle managerdom), a plasma TV the size of a billiard table, or some ridiculously expensive item of branded clothing.

*Roy's current on-line home is at