Volume 3, Number 7
by Wil Forbis
Fashion has always been one of those ethereal, constantly changing concepts whose attributes cannot be defined in mere words or pictures, but requires much grander descriptive orchestrations to fully convey its true essence and meaning. (Much the same can be said of the lips of Steven Tyler and the new bite sized Ritz cracker-sandwiches.) For years, I was quite fashion impaired, and that's a situation that hasn't improved much recently, but I think I've at least got a firmer handle as to the power of proper fashion in today's society.
Fashion is different things to different people, that much must be made clear. It seems that in some ways in this society we limit the term "fashion" to meaning only "high-fashion": shiny sports coats that look like they were colorized by a hue-blind Ted Turner, women's dresses apparently made from material scraped off the Space Shuttle, or long cylindrical hats that look like some kind of savage alien beast trying to consume its owner's head. This is what the average American applies to the term "fashion." But, truthfully, are not J.C Penny's jeans or Sears dresses just as much fashion? Well, actually, I don't know. It's really the argument of Art vs. Utility again, of Style vs. Substance. High fashion is, at very least, commanding, but has little value in day to day life. (No-one wants to go shopping in an outfit that requires a steel vice, a helicopter and three dwarves to get into.) At the same time, are J.C Penny's clothes really making any statement at all? (other than: "I shop at J.C. Penny's.") Is any aesthetic or artistic element being portrayed enough to dictate this apparel be named "fashion" as opposed to just "clothes." Where does one draw the line?
Frankly, the only litmus test I've ever applied to fashion is this: Do chicks dig it? (I'm a simple man of simple pleasures.) To that regard I've devised a uncomplicated strategy that can insure any clod will impress women with their wardrobe: Dress like you're gay. Hey, don't get upset at me, I don't make the rules here. But it seems quite true that if you dress in variety of flashy, bright clothes made out of materials named something like "Techron with Velvethane" chicks think you're their long lost brother. It doesn't insure you'll actually get anywhere with them (most chicks still won't sleep with their brothers) but, hey, If you can't sleep with beautiful women at least look like you do.
My current fashion dilemma are these new techno style clothes. I actually like some of the more dignified styles in this genre (read: no baggy pants) but I have no desire to be seen as a raver or techno-nut or whatever dull-witted label they would throw on me. If I could wear these clothes without any threat of some sixteen year old crawling up next to me to excitedly discuss "Acid Tongue X" album, I'd feel much more reassured. It's always a shame when a particular style of clothes gets tied in with a social group I either fear or detest. Hell, those Doc Savage, adventure guy, enlarged thigh pants look great, but then the German WWII Nazis had to come along and ruin them. (They did the same thing with those elongated Greta Garbo cigarette holders. (If there was ever a reason to start smoking, them's was it!))
Then there's the whole price situation. I just paid forty bucks for a pair of black slacks made out of 100% polyester (as the clerk and I joked, it's "100% a whole bunch of stuff mixed together." Well, a whole bunch of esters anyway. Aunt Esther, etc? This joke is quite finished now, isn't it?) You think I don't know that I could probably get the same thing for half the price at some used clothing store that donates 10% of its profits to fighting AIDS? So why do I do it? Is it to support crassness, commercialism and capitalism in their many vile forms? Well, hell, when you put it that way it doesn't sound so bad. I guess, like most Americans, I simply equate increased expense with increased quality, a theory that has been successfully proven with Jeep Cherokees and pornographic magazines. I figure Kathy Lee Gifford made some third world children slave long and hard for this, the least I can do is buy it.
I suppose what's really depressing about fashion is how much value we put upon it. The truth is, we really calculate the worth of a person based upon what they wear. When we meet someone, we determine whether this is a person we could like, possibly be friends with, solely on the basis of their appearance. And they're are really so many far more important things we should consider. Like what kind of car they drive. (Hell, I wouldn't be caught dead with those fools that drive around in the new VW Beetle. Why don't you just put tires on your igloo? And people driving 70's Volvo's? They should just be taken out and gassed) But I guess I'm just exceptionally open minded that way.