Monday, January 03, 2005

Fashion trends that shouldn't last, but will - at least for a while. Further to my list of fashion predictions, here are some fashion trends with extraordinary tenacity, even though no self-respecting hipster would be seen dead in them now. I'd like to say that I'm not dissing these trends. Instead, the fluffy, inconsequential academic in me (as opposed to the critically engaged, professional academic!) is interested in why these trends reach critical mass and stay there, because I refuse to believe it's because the masses are unoriginal.

In fact, my embryonic opinion is that there's something (that needs to be teased out) about these trends that makes people believe they're being creative and original.

Trucker caps. Kind of a soft target, I know - Jonas was railing about the lameness of this trend back in March. But people - male and female - keep on wearing them, and I want to know why. Hey, if I produced a line of Melkwear trucker caps for my upcoming Comedy Festival show, would people buy one, d'you think? It would probably have Joel Sinclair's signature slogan, "Does My Brain Look Big In This?"

Low-rise jeans. One of my 2003 fashion predictions was the rise - literally - of jeans waists. Fashion editors had been trying to prod us towards 80s-style high pants with stovepipe legs, and I was gloomily convinced that it might take a couple of years, but we would succumb. But we didn't! I find this quite extraordinary, given that only skinny people with flat stomachs and Brazilian waxes look good in low-rise jeans. On anyone else, they unflatteringly reveal g-strings and create what I like to call the 'muffin-top' effect, where the fat over the hips spills over the top of the waistband like a muffin over its pan. Not to mention the actual appearance of pubic hair, first modelled on the Black Crowes' Amorica album cover, making a reappearance on Robbie Williams' greatest hits album cover, and of course in Bourgie today, as unwittingly modelled by Penny.

But waist-high pants are even less flattering, not to mention less comfortable. I hadn't been banking on the ingenuity of the marketplace. I first noticed in July 2003 that teenagers in Brisbane and Adelaide were wearing what Dangerfield calls 'hipster helpers' - wide bands of t-shirt fabric designed to account for the space of skin between the bottom of the top and the top of the jeans. And just this year, I've noticed that all the shops now sell really long tops, designed to sit at the spot below the hips where your leg joins your abdomen. Or people just wear minidresses over their jeans. The jeans themselves have risen a little bit, but not that much.

Distressed t-shirts. Every second male dufus I see is wearing a t-shirt with ripped seams, random things embroidered or appliqued on, bits that look like bad screen-printing and paint splashes. I reckon that Roy first came out with these t-shirts in about 2001 (and I'd be interested to hear any other genealogies) but they've been a mainstay of my favourite dufus menswear shop, the hilariously named Code Male, for at least a few years. And I find it fascinating how even the most suburban guy will now wear pink. Personally, I feel this is wonderful. Guys look so hot in pink.

Sparkly tops. I loved that Just Jeans ad for what they prosaically named 'sparkly tops', which I understand as any beaded or sequinned women's evening top. Basically, clubbers are looking strangely at the three wise men following their star, which turns out to be two booty hoes on the dance floor, wearing sparkly tops. This trend is really an offshoot of everyday bling, hence many of my arguments on that could be applied here, but what I'm interested in is the striking design similarity of so many of these tops. I also enjoy tracing their market diffusion. There's a Sass & Bide design which looks like a Y of silver sequins overlaid on a long ruched top, which has been ripped off by those ubiquitous Asian brands you see at markets, which then show up in shops like Deborah K, 7 Angels, Apple Spice and Studio Girl. And brands like Valley Girl, Supre, Jeans West and Sportsgirl have their own recognisable designs. I'm interested in the industrial patterns by which this limited set of 'sparkly' motifs percolates through the retail marketplace.

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