Tag Archives: shoes

Something for the weekend

KHamnett_thinkMaybe it is because it is the season of fashion weeks (Fashion Month?) and maybe because I just submitted some scribblings to a fashion mag’s writing competition (in the hope of winning shoes!) but I have of late, found myself musing about the mad, bad and dangerous to know world of fashion.

Of course, ten minutes hate is mostly concerned with the iniquities of politicians and the tyrannies of other weak-willed men, and it could be argued that with all the scandals, thievery and corruption in the world, taking a month off to gawk at clothes we won’t even be wearing until next Spring is, well, a bit silly, isn’t it?

I would disagree, obviously, or this post ends here…

Once you concede that clothes are about more than protecting us from the elements or saving our modesty on a packed Tube train, everything else becomes a statement of intent.  Having a good day and toasting it with bright red lipstick, wishing to hide in a comfy tracksuit, going for the full uniform of whichever tribe you picked: from goth to emo to skater or a million others, even in the anti-capitalist garb of army surplus trousers and ironic t-shirt, you are saying something about yourself when you get dressed each day.  To be ‘anti-fashion’ is to be as much a part of the conversation as a member of the front row at any show.

True, there are things to hate about fashion.  I hate it when fashion is cruel to women by, for instance, offering shoes designed to cause injuries, or making a perfectly healthy girl feel fat, or engaging in excess and waste on a scale not seen since Marie Antoinette was playing at milk-maiding.  I also hate when the fashion default setting is ‘how amazing!’ when really it should be ‘are you sure?’, which is why it is so refreshing to read reviews like this one of House of Holland’s show (hat tip to Gem Fatale’s Style Blog for the link).

But credit where credit is due, not all fashion swims at the shallow end of the pool.  Witness Katherine Hamnett offending Margaret Thatcher two decades ago, Vivienne Westwood matching a natural sense of playfulness with a deeper concern for the world around her, not to mention all the Reds, People Trees and Eduns which seek to bring us clothing grown from renewable sources, made by workers adequately rewarded for their labour and sold with biodegradable packaging.  Sometimes fashion proves that it is for the grown ups too.

vw_manifestoWestwood’s manifesto contains more than a trace of her punk roots and shows that ‘recreating a punk aesthetic’ should be about more than wearing your skinny jeans with too much eyeliner and a safety pin brooch (god help us, I have yet to recover from that one, thanks ASOS.)  Do It Yourself and be proud to have your clothes show age as you wear them.  It could be simply a ‘make do and mend’ for the Noughties except for the margin notes added to the handwritten note: exhortations to save the rainforest and support for an Amnesty International campaign.

So now that I have proved that you can keep your political consciousness and still enjoy clothes, feast yourself on these images from New York and London Fashion week.  A little something for the weekend.

Hamnett image from Vogue, Westwood manifesto from Style on Track.

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Rampant anti-hipsterism

I have been having a lot of fun in recent weeks taking the mickey out of the hipper inhabitants of my neighbourhood.  Ripping them for their lack of irony, helping a friend to surreptitiously take pictures of overly sincere straw boater-wearing, which may end up on here soon.  And I am not the only one.  It is becoming the last acceptable form of abuse: hipsterism.  Yes, I am unashamedly hipsterist.

There are two universal truths.  1. No one ever thinks they are a hipster.  2. Everyone hates a hipster.

Even the word itself is a bastardisation.  The original Beatniks of San Francisco’s North Beach used ‘hip’ amongst themselves as a badge of cool, to be hip was a good thing, usually involving ready access to a good supply of marijuana and an air of knowing which way the wind blew.  Kerouac himself preferred the team ‘Beat’, reckoning that it had an air of ‘beatific’ about it, seeing a holiness and saintliness in his friends that they probably never realised they displayed:

a generation of crazy, illuminated hipsters suddenly rising and roaming America, serious, bumming and hitchhiking everywhere, ragged, beatific, beautiful in an ugly graceful new way—a vision gleaned from the way we had heard the word “beat” spoken on street corners on Times Square and in the Village, in other cities in the downtown city night of postwar America—beat, meaning down and out but full of intense conviction

They used ‘hippie’ as a derogatory term, to mock the younger influx to the west coast in the sixties, feeling they were more about the look and the slang than the way of life, too caught up in tuning in, turning on and dropping out to look beyond the superficial at the mind expansion so beloved of their elders.  Now the word has returned for the noughties, back and ready to be used to deride a new generation.

But why bother hating on them anyway?  Isn’t it a soft target when there are fiddling MPs and evil bankers to concentrate on?  Why bother kicking the so obviously down already?

The attitude that wearing the right shoes is a substitute for personality needs to be challenged at every turn.  If it is true, as Nick Hornby said in High Fidelity, that what you like is more important than what you are like, we are in trouble.  There is some pretty heavy shit coming down the pass at us and, if all we have to throw back at it are some people with exquisite taste in vintage clothing and not much else, then we are fucked.  Doomed, I tell you, by our own shallowness.  It is beautiful to express your own nature in the clothes you wear and the lifestyle you choose, this is freedom in its rawest form (‘I am what I am!’) but when it comes as a substitute for rational thinking, it needs to be questioned.  If the Iranians could see how lightly we take our freedoms and how easily we surrender them, would they still be fighting so hard to win their own?

Huge things are going on in the world but the hipster vision is about limiting horizons, ignoring focus on anything that isn’t the self.  There is a spirited defence of the hipster mind state here, which suggests that many possess ‘creative analytical thinking abilities’.  If so, it must be time to use them.  It is not healthy to be so self-absorbed, nor is it healthy to hang out in tribes with people who think exactly as you do.  It is a tragedy to ignore your capacity to transform the world because you are too occupied in clambering up the greasy pole to uber-hipsterdom.  The style exists, but is useless without the substance.  So achieve something too.  Write the book, make the movie, start that band.  Or have those dreams on one side while you crack on with sorting out corrupt politicians, our screwed economy and world hunger.  Demonstrate that you are made of more than a ‘complicated’ haircut and an ability to follow trends.  Make life about more than being an advertiser’s wet dream.  Then I and all the others will have to find something else to hate.


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The eternal catwalk of life

The girls cross at the lights, weaving in and out of the cars diagonally over the road.  Their heels are vertiginous, six inches at least; they walk as if en pointe.  Mostly they stride, as if born to walk on tiptoes, but there is one, tripping along after her friends, who already looks sunk.  It is the early part of the evening, the sun has yet to set over the 333 and you can tell that she is feeling them, with every step so conscious of how she places her feet.  The kerb almost catches her adrift as she has to negotiate the change in camber, moving as if the pavement slab was Beecher’s Brook.  The look on her face is trepidation with a dash of terror. 

She is the exception, though; most of the girls strut along the eternal catwalk of life.  They trot, skip, run even, some of the bolder ones, all on heels and platforms that look as if they were never dreamt of for moving any further distance than that between chair and bed.  They are fuck-me-shoes, the modern equivalent of bound feet perhaps, they are ruining their backs and their calves, they look amazing, they give every man within range a concrete hard on.  All the arguments for and against stack up, but it can’t be denied: they do look amazing.

Then I remember, this is an evening of gigs, we are attending, ladies.  Not the Met Gala.  There will be broken glass, discarded bottles and cracked plastic cups under foot within moments.  How will you negotiate darkened dance floors strewn with unloved flyers and trailed loo roll?  How are you going to flit between venues when you can’t feel the blood in your toes?  How much vodka will you need to drink to still be dancing at 2am? 

Which is truly sexier: standing in front of the stage yelling for one more tune because damn it, you aren’t ready to go yet or sending your miserable boyfriend out to find a taxi because damn it, you’re not moving one more step?

Then I look down at my battered, once-white pumps, look back up across the road at the girl limping behind her friends, realise the answer and softly laugh to myself.

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Anarchy in the UK

From fashion magazine Plastique comes news that:

Ever present bold costume jewellery and statement shoes are paired this season with an anarchic attitude and the desire for change.  Take a stand.  Be counted.

I’m a woman.  A woman who likes clothes.  A woman who sometimes looks good in clothes.  Yet I read the above and, dear me, I shudder.  This season’s anarchic attitude: I hope it will survive until Autumn/Winter and not find itself replaced with something more submissive.  I want it to be more than a case of striking the right pose.  I dare to cheer, to applaud the sentiment, even as I worry that Plastique’s take on this is still to, you know, buy stuff.

And no sooner had I thought that, do I find here:

No one gives a shit about democracy any more,” says Joe Corré when I ask him about his political beliefs. “You vote left or you vote right and you just get the same old crap. The only real choice people have now is where they spend their money. That’s what democracy’s come down to in Britain.

So that seems conclusive.  This season, prove your anarchist credentials with nothing more than some cracking underwear and a studied air of rebellion.  The only direct action you need take is a swipe of the plastic and the entering of your PIN.  To the barricades Oxford Street, comrades!

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