It’s big and it’s bland, full of tension and fear.
I mean, fashion seems to me to be a voluntary — eager, even — submission of one’s taste to that of an authority figure so that the authority figure can… make money. (And who made him or her an authority figure, anyway?) This sort of lemming-like behavior brought us shoulder pads, ugly christmas sweaters and harvest gold appliances.
(And other things too, of course. I don’t for a minute think that I can make anything even faintly resembling an exhaustive list — I’m just using the Rule of Three. How else can I explain leaving out orange shag carpet?)
(The fashion industry is, of course, related to the beauty industry which has been pretty heavily savaged (for example) over the years. It’s still with us, of course. Both industries are harder to kill than cockroaches on steroids.)
At its core, fashion is like the five year old kid who runs to his mother shouting “Mommy Mommy, all the other kids are doing X.” Mommy, of course, dismisses that argument instantly: “If all the other kids jumped off a bridge, would you do that too?” Moms are smart. (Don’t tell Sir Rose I said that.)
But, since it’s December, I was going to talk about winter outerwear. In winter it gets cold. When this happens, clothing that keeps you warm is a Good Thing — I don’t think there’s likely to be much disagreement on that point. Except among dumb people like, um, me — in my younger days, my winter wardrobe was an unlined leather jacket one size too large (leather being renowned for its warmth and all) with a denim jacket (ditto) under it. Clearly in my younger days I was an idiot. Eventually I got a little smarter (either that or I just got tired of FREEZING MY ASS OFF) and discovered the advantages of warm winter clothing. I settled (that’s almost certainly not the right verb) on something extremely warm and extremely black that happened to be on sale for an extremely attractive price on an extremely hot July day. Because I had ridden a bicycle to the store I had to wear the parka home. That’s how I confirmed that it was extremely warm.
My point is that it was chosen because it was extremely warm and (as far and I could tell) extremely well made. (The ‘extremely cheap’ part helped a lot — when you’re a student (certainly when I was a student) cost was a thing. A big thing. Fashion didn’t really enter into the picture. I understand that it’s a thing — really I do — but I don’t understand why it would be a thing when choosing something that only has a single function: protecting you from frostbite and death. Parkas are the ultimate in functional clothing.
Or so I thought. Winter outerwear is a fashion item. I don’t get that, but whatever — at least “they’ve” settled on something warm to make their statement. “They’ve” settled on a thing that’s Canadian, made by a family-owned (until recently, anyway — insert obligatory Bain Capital joke here) business, that’s extremely warm and is named after an animal whose primary characteristic is that it poops a lot.
The first person that I knew with one of these garments was The Man (She’s mentioned briefly here). She got one to wear to THE ARCTIC because, you know, they’re warm. Before I knew it, though, they were everywhere. Ubiquitous. Omnipresent. This confused me — I live in a city in southern Ontario (which is also called eastern Ontario) where it doesn’t really get all that cold — the average daily low for Christmas, for example, is around -10 (that’s 14 Fahrenheit). That’s cold but not that cold; arctic-ready clothing, while nice, is hardly essential. No, they were pervasive because they were fashionable. All the beautiful people — and people who wanted to be beautiful people — had them. (I don’t have one, but then I’m not beautiful.)
So it’s a fashion statement that I don’t ‘get’ — they’re far from cheap, they rarely (if ever) go on sale and they’re complete overkill for the local climate — but there have been… dumber fashion statements. (After all, they’re designed for a particular job and by all accounts they do it well. The real ones, anyway — since they’re must-have fashion accessories, counterfeiting is a problem. Cold-weather gear has apparently joined the same exclusive club as overpriced watches, wildly overpriced purses and boner pills.
There are multiple web pages about how to tell the difference between real and fake ones. Me? Even after looking at several I can’t tell, so when I was in the lineup with the lady in the goose poo parka I couldn’t tell if it was real or fake.
I mentioned a lineup. It was the express line at a supermarket. I was buying a bell pepper and a tub of lime yogurt. She… wasn’t buying anything. She was returning a can of okra in kumquat sauce or something like that — it doesn’t really matter and I wasn’t paying attention anyway — I was looking at her coat and boots (they weren’t orange) and trying not to snarl.
The ‘snarling’ part was because she had chosen the express line to return a single — cheap — item, completely oblivious to the people seething behind her. (Apparently being fashionable doesn’t automatically bring self-awareness.) The person in front of her used a debit card to buy a pack of gum. I hate that.
I mentioned that I couldn’t tell if the goose poo was real or not but this extreme cold-weather outerwear was accessorized by no hat or gloves. (Arctic outerwear with no hat? What the hell?) She was also wearing over-the-knee high-heeled leather boots (a little conservative and not blue but they were almost something Rose would wear). The ensemble struck me as…weird but what the hell do I know about what’s fashionable?
Eventually (it only took about a million years) the okra was returned and the thrice-damned debit machine finished debiting and I was able to buy my TWO THINGS and go home. It was a cold day. (Not real cold but cold enough — probably -10 or so.) As I drove up Queen St. there was another young lady dressed in goose poo; this one was crossing the street. I didn’t have lots of time to look (no debit machine in sight) but she looked cold. Heck, she was cold — she was doing that “I’m hugging myself because I’m freezing” thing. I couldn’t see why, though — she was wearing the big good-to-minus-a-zillion coat, a hat that was clearly AT LEAST +15 frost resistance and matching gloves. She shouldn’t have been cold. I didn’t get it.
Then I looked down. She wasn’t wearing fetish boots. She wasn’t wearing boots at all. She was wearing flip flops.
Like I said, I don’t get fashion.