I am not a fashion statement nor will I ever be accused of being fashion conscious. It just doesn’t give me fever. You won’t find Project Runway or America’s Top Model on my Tivo. I tend to be more focused on important things in life — like helping find a cure for chronic dumb-ass. What I have discovered though is that there seems to be an uncanny and precise correlation between chronic dumb-ass and fashion sense.
To be fair, this correlation is not limited to a particular demographic, e.g., age, sex, etc. My lovely wife is very grounded, wise-beyond-her-years and continually reminding me that what I am observing is merely a statement, an expression if you will, articulated through personal attire. I knew I jettisoned that Nehru jacket too soon.
Sense-making has long been a research interest of mine. Slippery thing it is too. I have never found explanations based on “just because” or, “art is in the eye of the beholder” to be intellectually satisfying. I probably tend to view the world and attach meaning to what I see from a much more rational perspective — more than I should. But really, some fashion statements boink my sense-making sensibility meter. You know, when you see something that makes you double-take and blurt, “Whoa, that was totally F—ing bizarre!”
Case in point. I recently volunteered on a Friday night to help out with a project intended to benefit the downtown merchants group. Hardly a sexy gig, it pretty much involved me wearing a carpenter’s apron collecting money for parking. While the success of that venture was modest, the learning experience was immense.
If you want to experience first-hand where fashion sense intersects chronic dumb-ass, just carve out a few a few minutes and head downtown. I suspect you could also extend your observations to the Mall with much the same result. Bottom line? You will find your experience like a freshman Intro to Sociology field trip.
Some observational field notes to illustrate:
5:15 PM — Apparently one of the great contemporary fashion trends is wearing a 100% wool stocking cap pulled down over your ears in 85+ degree weather. Really, summer wool headgear? I am probably way out on a limb here but I am betting you couldn’t coax veteran head lice to check into that hostel but hey, who am I to second guess head lice?
5:47 PM — Chap walking down the sidewalk wearing a rainbow color tie-dyed sarong, camouflage shirt, shower flip-flops, and a Resistol 4X straw cowboy hat. I know it is rude to stare but I gotta tell ya, that one was right up there with a Rod Serling moment. Serling said, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.”
6:08 PM — Guy wearing a t-shirt with a huge arrow pointing down and the caption — “I’m with stupid.” The nonverbal expression on his date’s face seemed to corroborate his self-loathing pronouncement.
6:22 PM — Trying to sort out the fashion statement associated with the sagging of one’s britches slightly below the mid butt-cheek look. There is precision involved with the skill of pant sagging. Too high and you are just normal, too low and Big Jim and the Twins are on stage.
7:12 PM — Who isn’t titillated by the notion you can actually still buy white patent leather shoes and a cool matching belt? If you’ve got an answer for that one, you are publishable.
The raw nature of the bizarre projects itself through a fractured prism giving sense-makers reason to pause and reflect. Bizarre is what it is. I am cool with bizarre as long as it is genuine and accompanied by reason. Bizarre you say? History is filled with iconic examples of legitimate bizarre and all seem to share a common thread — a good gimmick. Lady Gaga, KISS, Ru Paul, Boy George, Devo, The Hulkster, Dog — The Bounty Hunter, and a gene pool filled with kindred bizarre looking-dressing-talking-thinking-acting folk, develop their brands banking on a bloated 401K at the end of the rainbow. That’s legit.
Gypsy Rose Lee told the future burlesque star Louise, “Ya gotta have a gimmick.” So my bizarre friend, unless you have a discernible gimmick, you are simply in free-fall and recognizable only as a chronic dumb-ass. That is only marginally better than being a chalk outline on the sidewalk. We all know you can do better. Get a gimmick.