2009Last week, heated discussion ensued on some blogs I read when one guy posted a rant against ratty shoes and some other guys got together to sell some stuff they had made. It was capped off by this post, which centered around the style choices that people make, their motivations for those choices, and what is considered acceptable to certain groups.
Then today I read this and this, and it occurred to me that it really doesn't matter. Brian Eno is right when he says that "(t)he idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness." Don't like someone that wears old beat up shoes? That's ok, because there's probably someone somewhere who does.
But why stop there? Sure, old things are still fashionable when everything has its own subculture. But what about the notion of "cool"? Eno points out that since everything has an underground resonance with someone somewhere, nothing is uncool.
I'm sure I'm opening myself up to a ton of counterexamples here, but what if we've reached the point where everything is cool because we're not limited by the bounds of the local? If I can just jump online and find a community of Zubaz enthusiasts, for example, then I can be cool in anything, anywhere.
If nothing is uncool, the style possibilites are endless. We can pick and choose from anything. That's exciting. Even more so is this by Eno:
"As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources—cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them—it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas. The sharing of art is a precursor to the sharing of other human experiences, for what is pleasurable in art becomes thinkable in life."
Now, I didn't need Brian Eno to tell me this. None of this is particularly new. But his words come at an opportune time considering the earlier posts I referenced, and the idea of "authenticity" (which has recently come to replace "cool") being bandied about.
Chances are good that most of the people purchasing "authentic" or "heritage" branded clothing are not tanning leather or building railroads. (Although, that possibility may not be far off.) But communities of pleasure form around particular aesthetics, creating dialogue. It is less interesting to criticize the look, and more interesting to ask what is being communicated. We could be talking about anything from quality, cut, and construction, to gender, class, ethnicity, access, and even democracy.
The point is that we have a choice in who we support, what we wear, who we are as people and how we live. These choices extend to all corners of our lives, and they influence not only ourselves but those in our communities. And that's exciting, too.
(This post was a collaboration between Mike & Susie.)