Who are You Wearing?
It’s not that I have an aversion to change. It’s not that the old ways were always better, though that is often the case. No, the thing with which I take serious issue is when perfectly fine standard practices are altered without proper notice and for no reason. It is the Curmudgeon’s considered opinion that change ought to be accompanied by a memo, letting us all know what’s changing and why. And it is for this reason that we must discuss designer clothing.
Time was, clothing was used for protection against the elements and could only be procured by hunting. As we grew in sophistication, hunting was replaced by shopping and clothing gradually evolved into a means of self-expression. Somewhere along the way came fashion design, a service that catered exclusively to a privileged clientele. Some designers even achieved fame for their unique creations. Outfits by “name” designers were seen by many as status symbols and signs of good taste, as evidenced in televised red-carpet celebrity interviews which occasionally included the strangely worded question “Who are you wearing?” Even in the face of this linguistic atrocity, I’ve no objection to acknowledging fashion as an art form.
But then, something strange happened. In a vulgar and self-serving move, certain designers began incorporating their names into their designs. This information, once neatly tucked away (along with a garment’s size and fabric content) on hidden labels, was now on public display. It tackily announced to the world that these items were expensive and created by someone famous. Meanwhile, classier folks shuddered with embarrassment.
I for one have never been particularly interested in status symbols. While I’m all for individual style, I see no value whatsoever in competitive spending. In my day, it was considered in the poorest of taste to boast about the price of one’s possessions. Displaying a brand name on one’s clothing is about as classy as painting “BENTLEY” on the side of a Bentley or stenciling “REMBRANDT” on a Rembrandt. It’s marring the art to showcase its prestige.
What’s more, it strikes me as foolish in the extreme to sign on as an unpaid advertiser walking around wearing a designer’s name and to pay top dollar for that questionable opportunity. If I’m going to promote a brand, I expect a salary....or at the very least a sizeable discount.
One of the strangest developments has been the emergence of everyday items of clothing—clothing lacking in particularly creative designs—that have been rendered “designer” by the mere addition of a name. The difference between a Prada tee shirt and one by Hanes is one logo and about $1,084. They’re tee shirts—bits of solid-colored cotton with holes for the neck and arms. They serve a practical function and nothing more. Indeed, they need not be designed, as that’s been seen to already. The same is so for baseball caps. Their shape and construction are unlikely to change in any significant way. Slapping on an Yves St. Laurent logo adds no value, except to those who find value in demonstrating their penchant for getting swindled.
Today, of course, one no longer even needs a talent for design; “designer” clothing can be so designated by the addition of virtually any famous name. Chefs, sports figures, actors, and reality TV figures can all put forth their own clothing lines, secure in the knowledge that some mindless buffoon will pony up 7200 times the manufacturing cost for the prestige of helping to advertise their brand. When you think about it, these two groups—non-designing designers and those desperate to purchase symbols of class—deserve each other.
As for me, when the need for new clothing arises, I’ll be carrying forward the ancestral hunting tradition, tracking down reasonably priced, reasonably attractive garments that aren’t doubling as billboards. And that’s by design.