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Seminal Styles of the 20th Century, Part 10

Seminal Styles of the 20th Century, Part 10
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Parting thoughts: What comes around goes around, what goes around comes around...

  Is Now the Winter of Our Discontent? What About Now? Now? How ’bout Now?

Time passes. In a month or two, summer will give way to fall, and fall to winter. The coming year will mark the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. What have we learned?

Snatch this pebble from my hand….

The cult of celebrity so carefully nurtured and husbanded, cajoled and exploited by the invasive and overbearing media to feed the ever-more voracious public demand, is fast evolving to become the cult dead celebrity. Two fashion icons—both famous for wearing red—recently passed on the same day (although, sadly, the ubiquitous hoopla circus following the demise of Michael Jackson stripped Farrah Fawcett of her just final due). As an artist’s work increases in value posthumously, nothing ensures a permanent place on the pantheon of vaunted style like that final—and often premature—trip to the vault. Amelia Earhart. Marilyn Monroe. James Dean. Heroic figures reduced the image on a postage stamp. Sid Vicious, Tupac Shakur—victims of the culture they themselves helped create.

But as the world continues to turn at a faster and faster pace, while everything old is and will be new again, we’ve paid a price for progress. By the turn of the 21st Century, the World Wide Web has all but deleted anticipation from our collective vocabulary. No longer do we suffer the delicious thrill of being made to wait. We are no longer attuned to the pleasures of the chase, or the blissful contemplation of desire. We feed our appetite with immediacy and sate our hunger without thought. The upside: Democratization and a more level playing field. The downside: Lowest common denominator rule; Welcome to the Monkey House.

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn,” warned 19th Century poet, essayist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau. But if each day runs headlong into the next in an endlessly streaming on-demand video of instant gratification, at some point soon—when those who remember what came before are gone—will there be no distinction between midnight and dawn? Will style and taste and sexual expression become one universal construct; a giant teat at which the masses suckle and take sustenance? That’s one possibility.

In The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know.” Another option? That which has gone out of fashion will for a time lie fallow, and eventually find its way back to the fore.

“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening,” averred the 20th Century’s most influential designer, Coco Chanel, but I’d rather put my money on the sentiments of Muppet creator Jim Henson: “Nobody creates a fad. It just happens. People love going along with the idea of a beautiful pig. It’s like a conspiracy.”

As long as people continue to create and adore beautiful pigs, I believe there is hope for the world.

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Fashion Best Left Dead [86] Sep.03, 2011

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