Category Archives: bad taste

Do we need to put a label on it?

 

It used to be that wearing clothing emblazoned with labels was cool – it spoke of value, taste and wealth. And somehow it seemed that this wealth was inextricably linked to this taste and this value. Money = taste = value. A strange deduction to make; easily dismantled by the old adage, oft employed in conjunction with a wistful shake of the head: ‘Money can’t buy you style’. White t-shirts shouted Calvin Klein! Armani Exchange! Diesel! Fiorucci! It was indeed the 90s, and the logo t-shirt was in its hey day. If you didn’t have one you might as well not have been a 90210 fan. You might as well have ditched your frayed denim cut-offs and your black choker with the heart pendant. Without said logo they’d look cheap. Like they came from nowhere. If it didn’t have a label it was nothing. 

Somehow, some way, things have evolved. I’ve started to notice less and less obvious branding gracing the chests of t-shirts and the derrieres of jeans. Absence of label, ironically, has come to signal exactly what its polar opposite did in the 90s: wealth, value and most importantly, taste. I grew up with a mother that steered me away from branding of any kind. ‘Don’t get the printed one,’ she’d say, ‘it looks cheap’. My natural predisposition towards one offs developed into a love of vintage at a young age, meaning that labels only symbolised homogeny to me. Labels were for the masses.

The gradual shift in attitude towards labels is fascinating to me. Huge chain stores are abandoning brash branding and opting for unadorned chests, sleeves and backs. Why? So that they can be taken seriously alongside other labels. So that no one knows where it came from. Is that not the biggest irony of all? In a way it is refreshing: the cut of a garment and the fabric it is made of must now speak for themselves. Cheap, ill-fitting white t-shirts can no longer hide behind big, rhinestone-studded names. Clothing must stand up and be counted.

Not only does this shift mark a change in our psychology as consumers, it also heralds a dawning of fashion consciousness that countries like South Africa have never seen before. As retailers wisen up to the fact that the masses have more access to trends than ever before, they begin to cater to a more fashion savvy audience.

In a country where value for money is an imperative, it really is a revolution. It’s a sign that consumers, collectively, expect more from brands. And that what most people are looking for is true value – unadorned, unembellished and authentic.

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Buffed up

Your eyes doth not deceive you.

These chunky, Amazonian creatures are indeed the descendants of those iconic 1990’s giants, the Buffalo platform. The result of a collaboration between Monspoon Saloon and Buffalo, they’re the latest in the towering tumble of platforms to clunk on by.

Thoughts? I spied them on Style Bubble, and I’m almost ashamed to admit they arouse an inkling of Spice World nostalgia in me (sans compulsory Union Jack motif).

Check out the rest of the precarious parade here.

Show your bones

My penchant for skulls is a well-documented fetish that invades my home, doodles and writing. I’ll never forget learning about symbols in Vanitas paintings whilst at university, and realising that my lifelong love of the macabre icon was a little more historical and a little less hysterical.

The skull motif has since become overwhelmingly trendy in pop culture – art, fashion, interiors and design are inundated with it. The obvious result is that one has to be selective when choosing one’s skulls. Seriously. The skull pieces in my house are handpicked, handmade beauties that took my breath away upon first meeting.

The life-size wire skull that sits on my dining room table was bought from a street vendor in Kalk Bay when I could scarcely afford to put petrol in my car to get back to town. He had only one, and I knew if I didn’t take it right then I’d never see it again. I bargained him down to R200 and the skull joined us for lunch at Polana. The Mexican sugar skull that is custodian of my bookcase was the catalyst for my mini collection – I bribed my colleagues to give her to me for my birthday a couple of years ago. She’s a convenient candle holder, too, but I refuse to burn anything but black candles on her sacred, blossom-bedecked cranium. By the following year, said colleagues had just about mastered their amusement when I asked for the Emma Cook skull lightbox that now adorns my wall. A fetish, indeed.

Despite my genuine love of them, I am wary of actually wearing any skulls. So often they look cheap and, worse, corny. Skulls paired with pink, skulls paired with skater shoes, skulls paired with pigtails. That’s Avril Lavigne, not Karen O. It’s a travesty. My one concession is a Perspex skull pendant on a dainty silver chain, seldom worn, but always loved. And I think I may have just found another…

This ornate skull ring by local jewellers, Sirkel, is just beauteous. The perfect mix of morbid and lush – true Vanitas. Each Sirkel piece is handmade. And that makes me want one even more.

This chrysoprase set in bright rose gold also caught my eye.

Sirkel also recently collaborated with acclaimed furniture maker Gregor Jenkinto create a very selected range of handmade rings. Incorporating raw, industrial diamonds and solid, sculptural settings, the unisex range has a real air of oldworld craftsmanship. The stones look like prehistoric shards and I like the contrast of their opaque surfaces with the gleaming metals. Wish list? Yes please.

Until I can call the Sirkel skull my own, I’m sticking with my resident ghouls. Skull gifts always welcome (my birthday’s in June).

No-No. No.

I think it’s time for leggings to go away now.

I am tired of seeing them incorrectly worn, as they so often are. Unarguably not fit for all shapes and sizes, they seem to give many girls reason to show off things that other trousers artfully conceal (crotches, thongs, cellulite, ahem).

My main gripe, despite the fact that they really only look good on Sienna Miller-types, is the fact that they are most often worn to within an inch of their lives. And then worn again. When I say this, I’m referring to the phenomenon whereby the cotton lycra thins to the point that it produces a dappled effect across the thighs. Meaning: the world can see your legs through your pants. Meaning: throw them away! It’s not just a case of your lycra catching the light. It genuinely is a case of your pants perishing on your person.

And the other thing is that people try to get creative with them. Zips, laceups, rhinestones and more. Cut off at the calf, tucked into Uggs (Lord help us) or paired with heels for a night on the town. All this, and the trend has still long overstayed its welcome!

It also spawned a set of nightmarish sub-trends, jeggings and treggings, that are as much a visual abomination as they are a literary one. Their very names are a scar on the English language. Lindsay Lohan also launched a line dedicated specifically to leggings of all kinds… I rest my case.

The next time you don your leggings, think twice. Ask an honest friend if they can see your panties through your pants. Ensure that you have not paired calf-length leggings with shoes that stray beyond the ankle, producing a strange effect that can only (sadly) be described as squattening.

Or better yet, burn the buggers. Their tenure is up.

Girls & Boys & Birkenstocks

I was thinking about boys and girls and fashion. Or rather, girls and boys and fashion.

Most girls I know will slyly confess to having gradually and subtly infiltrated the dark recesses of their significant others’ wardrobes and ‘tweaking’ them into something more ‘appropriate’. This tweaking is generally a gradual process. First it’s a blank, dumb-founded stare when you first lay eyes upon the world’s most obstinately ugly shoes. You might then follow this up (across a series of occasions) with a couple of lighthearted but really very deadly serious jokes about said shoes. And then you might be forced to actually be moody and/or difficult when they continue to show up. If it gets to the point where you have to actually reason or bargain over the offending shoes, then you know you’re in for a rough ride – a guy who either (inexplicably) loves these shoes as much as you do yours, or a guy who wants to make a point – about being down-to-earth or about standing his ground, negative on all accounts.

If he truly adores them, your resolved might be weakened. And if he’s playing the down-to-earth, I-don’t-care-about-clothes card, then you’re either going to feel like a primadonna, or you’re going to be faced with a whole lot of cargo pants, Crocs and – God forbid – polar fleece.

 

I’m familiar with both phenomena. My first serious boyfriend, walked into my life in a do-rag, a pair of gangster jeans and a basketball vest. There also may or may not have been a bandanna hanging out of his back pocket, a la Snoop Dogg. He looked like he might surprise the Grahamstown high street with a Crip walk at any second. By the time we broke up he was wearing corduroy stove pipes, flannel shirts, (normal sized) tshirts and Converse. The only remnants of his Tupac fetish were the flat caps he refused to part with and his Dallas drawl. Success! Through a careful campaign of encouragement, discouragement, raised eyebrows and birthday presents, I guided him into manhood. Goodbye Fubu! So long, Evisu. Your services are no longer needed. Of course, he believed that he had just changed. He still believes it, I’m sure.

A friend of mine adopted a more aggressive approach. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband, wore white square toe leather loafers on their first date. With chinos. She told him in no uncertain terms that the shoes would not be around for long, nor would their partners in crime, the chinos. If he didn’t oblige, she, too, would not be around for very long. The rest, as they say, is history. She now reminds him almost daily about these humble beginnings, especially when he pips her to the post at vintage fairs, snatching the early-shape Wayfarers before she can get her paws on them. He smiles sweetly, and tightens his grip on their sleek, rare frames. True love, I tell you.

The man that is bound to his Birkenstocks out of sheer principle is the one that puts you in a real pickle. If you really dig him, you may wind up wavering on your fashion maxims – maybe I do take too long to get ready, maybe silk is impractical for a hike, maybe I shouldn’t wear sequins to Obs Fest, etc. This, upon reflection, is a masterful example of reverse psychology. He is trying to outsmart you with earthy undertones and inside-out rhetoric, i.e: You look better without makeup on (read: liquid eyeliner takes eons to get right and the gig is about to start). If, like me, the way you feel about clothes and dressing is a part of your DNA, then you should never allow someone else’s opinions on the matter to cloud your judgment. Even if he is 6″2, dark-eyed and daring.

If Herr Birkenstock is, however, the sweet type – the type that is happy to trundle along in his orthopaedic footwear while you slick on the liquid eyeliner and wear silk to sleep in, then you know you’ve found yourself a keeper. Someone who genuinely is down-to-earth and who understands that you are too, you just do it in diamonds.

The only downside is that you may then have to forego the shoe jokes and blank-eyed stares.

Uh-Oh.

Last week I tweeted about men wearing three quarter pants and how much I dislike them. After some consideration I drafted a list of other offenders – 7 style sins that average Joe’s commit each and every day, either encouraged by the women in their life, or followed by a thinly masked roll of the eyes when they exit the room in their favourite pair of elaborately utilitarian cargo’s.

1. ¾ pants. I don’t care if they’re the kind that just are ¾ or if they’re the frightening utility type that zip down to ¾, or if they’re jeans that have been rolled so that they fit the calf tightly, like some kind of camp cowboy… they’re all awful. They’re not masculine. And just like capri’s on a woman, they’re not for everyone. The rolled jean look is a personal pet hate because you usually see it on preppy types with sparkly eyes and it just looks uncomfortable.

2. While we’re in the pants department, let’s cover white linen trousers. These always have and always will be a no in my book. I don’t care if your girlfriend thinks they look stylish and makes you wear them to social events. They’re far too feminine and if most women can’t pull them off, then you know it’s a resounding NAY. They’re too lightweight and they cling to your crotch in a way that attracts negative attention. And they make me think of the word ‘slacks’, which is never a good thing and reminds me of another atrocity, the 90’s palazzo pant.

3. The third and final offender in the pants department is that slipperiest of the ‘slacks’, the parachute pant. They masquerade as practical, with their profusion of pockets, Velcro straps and zips, but really all they’re concealing is a Nokia, a wallet and a set of keys (a Swiss Army knife if you’re lucky but you’re probably more likely to find pepper spray, these days). My friend Olivia dated a guy at university who refused to part with a fire-engine red pair. He is now derogatively referred to as ‘red-parachute-pant-guy’. No matter that he was down to earth and great in bed, we could never quite get past the pants.

4. Gold chains and signet rings. They strike fear into my heart. Yes, I know they often have sentimental meaning, but they also make men look like Mafioso. Or schmucks. Sorry.

5. Underpants. When I say ‘underpants’ I mean your good old-fashioned triangular cotton under rods. The ones that come in a strange but persistent palette of colours ranging from maroon through to navy to bottle green; the ones that little boys wear, and the ones that apparently still serve a practical purpose. I get that some guys wear them under their sportswear, but I don’t reallllly wanna see them. They’re feeble. And they’re really not sexy.

6. Polo necks. Men: tread lightly in polo neck domain. Guys that can get away with a polo neck are usually dark brooding types with bedroom eyes and accents. They might even be artists too, or down-and-out musicians with calloused palms from too much guitar and too little love. If you don’t fit the profile, chances are you’ll end up looking like a ponce rather than a player.

7. Utility wear. A vast department, encompassing all manner of offenders from polar fleece through to hiking boots, cargo pants, chunky dappled socks and clothes whose sleeves/legs zip off. South Africans love it. It’s like weekend wear with a purpose, should they ever feel the need to venture off the beaten track at Kirstenbosch Gardens, chardonnay in hand. I am pretty outspoken on the topic of things that are purely functional, with no respect paid to the aesthetic. I actually had a boyfriend who was firmly rooted in this department and it killed me. I really tried, but it was beyond me why someone would choose to wear such ugly socks when there are so many on offer. He also thought my love of fashion was silly and wondered why I couldn’t be more of a ‘jeans and Tshirt kind of girl’. We parted ways amicably, and I started a fashion blog.

Yard Sale Chic

This weekend my mom and I drove past a yard sale happening on Orange Street, and despite the searing heat, pulled over for a high speed gander. Boxes overflowing with lampshades, trinkets and junk had been dragged into a cement courtyard, along with a couple of rails of – to be honest – horrid, synthetic clothing. Such is the case with things like yard sales. Whilst half heartedly digging through a box I found these miraculous pants that had my colleagues staring at me in silence all day (I’d pretend it was reverence, but I think it’s closer to disbelief or rather, misunderstanding – read: ignorance).

They looked like a massive pair of Thai fishing pants with a drawstring and an African-inspired print – not at all my style – but something told me to buy them, even if just for mooching around the house. I think it was that very small (miniscule) part of me that sometimes envies these easy going, ankle-bracelet-wearing hippie type girls that breeze around in similarly uncomplex clothes…

Anywho. When I got home I put them on and was delighted with the effect. They remind me a little of Jean-Charles de Castelbajac’s recent ethnic-inspired collection (Uber Tropikal Airlines), and, as I told my mom, they have that fashion editor quality to them – edgy, unassuming, unforgettable. I wore them to work yesterday with an oversized Trenery t-shirt, my Daniella bondage heels and my silver shongololo necklace (another fashion editoresque piece – yes, I know it’s weird, but it really is true!)

You know how people get very verbal when they like something you’re wearing? And then conversely very quiet when they don’t? Well, it was one of those days. I always take a measure of perverse delight in these silent days, because it means that a degree of fashion rebellion has taken place. The only person to compliment my Martin Luther King culottes (as they will henceforth be known) was our Creative Director, who herself is often treated to these silent days. Double win! Great minds think alike, I say.

I really enjoyed wearing them. I could feel sneaky glances alighting upon my derriere all day long, as people tried to assess their strangeness, catalogue them. Nope. Nothing comes to mind. They are simply bizarre, and I love them for it. The fact that they are also, I later realised, emblazoned with Martin Luther King’s face, just adds to their wondrous weirdness.

Got anything similarly strange but unforgettable? Something other people don’t get? Email me at pessimiss@gmail.com – I’d love to hear about your freaky favourites!