Thursday, July 17, 2008

The dress code of rebellion

The Dress Code for rebellion

I once worked with this artsy bar-back guy with whom I had a conversation that went sort of like this:

Him: “I like your shirt. Is it real?”
Me: “It’s a real shirt, yes.”
Him: “I mean is it a real Rolling Stones concert shirt? Or is it like, from Urban Outfitters?”
Me: “It’s real, my friend’s mom found it at a thrift shop in New Paltz.”
Him: “Good. I hate everyone who buys their shit at Urban Outfitters. They sell shirts that look like that, you know? And ones that look like this. With holes in them made to look vintage. But this is really vintage. It was my dads.”
Me: “That black t-shirt?”
Him: “Yeah.”
Me: “Oh. Neat.”
Him: “What are you doing on Friday?”

Clearly I walked away from this conversation mumbling “Good god, this kid is so friggin lame,” but it did get me thinking.
If I had said that it was, in fact, one of the many shirts that Urban Outfitters spews forth from their Soho location then, what? Would my co-worker have taken back the compliment? Would that have meant that I was any less of a Rolling Stones fan and therefore less cool? Less music savvy? Less date worthy? Probably.
Now I know that I have the annoying tendency to play devil’s advocate. I am certainly aware of how much cooler it is to have a shirt from the actual concert than one from a chain store that also sells Happy Bunny books. So I am not arguing that point.
My argument (or debate or point or meandering thought) is: why is there a dress code for rebellion?

Our sense of style is pretty much our best form of expression and by far the most useful tool in:
a- stating who we are
b- Judging others

How you dress makes a declarative statement so no wonder rebellion has its own dress code. Clothing makes the man, and therefore it is also our best form of evaluation. Some of the biggest generalizations come from our everyday wardrobe:
“I am not attracted to guys in suits” (A clear oversimplification that means that men in suits go to bars in midtown and chug beers and can’t possibly be interesting.)
“You are such a hippie. But you dress too well to be a real hippie.” (Oversimplification of a girl sitting on the ground while in line for a Phil Lesh concert, but also wearing seven jeans)
“I can’t wear that.” (Stated by a fellow who will wear pants with no button, underwear with holes, and a shirt covered in BBQ sauce, but wouldn’t step outside in anything he finds to be too hipster oriented)
These sorts of statements show us just how important it is that our outside reflects what is inside so that there is no confusion to the outside world. There is a uniform for everything that we do, for every person that we become.
In my mind there is a longstanding notion of rebellion and what one should wear in order to properly display that agenda. I remember the rebels of my Junior High School; they were the kids who wore band t-shirts and had green hair. There were lots of them, mostly thin guys or chicks with bad acne. And if you wanted to be one, well, you had to dress like that too. I could certainly not be called a Goth while wearing everyman clothes, even if my attitude, music choices, and lifestyle clearly displayed my gothic attitude.
You ever see a film where a preppy guy walks into a biker bar? Who says that that guy isn’t the most badass biker around? His clothes do. He needs the uniform.
It is certainly an interesting thought that even being rebellious invites a certain level of judgment and consideration from the other rebels. There is no place that you are truly free from this societal norm.

Monday, July 7, 2008

All you need is LOVE

Love conquers all.

Recently I read a rather lengthy and rather bitter statement by Lentyne Bennett on the statement ‘Love conquers all’ (originally written by Virgil.)
Basically Bennett shits all over one of society’s most treasured, cliché, and poetic sayings.

“For centuries upon centuries we have been misinterpreting this famed trio of words. The uninformed masses breathlessly hold up this dwarfish phrase as a justification for snogging in public squares, abandoning wives, cuckolding husbands, for the escalating divorce rate, for the swarms of bastard children begging for handouts…when there is nothing remotely encouraging or cheerful about this oft-quoted phrase.”

Bennett goes on to stress that the Latin poet did not write ‘Love frees all” or Love liberates all.”

“…therein lies the first degree of our flagrant misunderstanding. Conquer: to defeat, subjugate, massacre, cream, make mincemeat of.”

It is quite interesting to think of such a popular turn of phrase in this fashion. Generally the ability to say “Well, love conquers all” is a powerful thing; it means that you have an instance in which love is the ultimate and deciding factor. No doubt your statement will churn up some sighs from those around you and those far off wistful looks of ‘oh I wish I had some instance in which love conquered all.’
I have never used the statement in a negative light. But wow does it apply. Love conquers all, including reason.

example: Did you hear about that mother who abandoned her kids to run off with her boyfriend? Well, what can you do, love conquers all.

example: What about that peace prize winner guy who murdered that chick’s boyfriend and wore his skin like a suit so that she would be reminded of him?
Well, ya know, love conquers all.

Leave it up to us to take a phrase such as this, so heavily laden with meaning, and associate it with something beautiful and light. And I am not slamming on love by any means. I love love and am lucky enough to be in love. But we all know what love is capable of. Love is visceral; it can make people physically ill. It conquers reason, and there is no rationality in love. You could be the best Jewish daughter in the world, but if you fall in love with a black Arabic woman, then no amount of cajoling from your parents about that nice lawyer Shlomo will change your true feelings. Love is passionate and love is unbelievably violent. Love of self, love of another, love of your children, love of God… we have seen all of these result in unbelievable violence, both in history and in our daily lives.

But in violence there is another type of beauty. All worthwhile tales posses some element of violence.

We take much more notice of those who overcome obstacles to get where they are today. Living a blessed life and completing the NYC marathon is great. Having had both your parents die in a tragic accident and then running the NYC marathon is news worthy. Through violence there is victory, and no story is a good one without conflict.

As a society we hold great respect for violence and the aftereffects. Perhaps this is why we so embrace the “Love conquers all” mentality. There is respect in the face of violent acts. There is a level of understanding in the irrational movements powerful emotions can force us to make. “I know my stalker was crazy but wow do I wish I felt as strongly about something as they did.”

"...we risk the massacre of the things we hold most dear, including our sense of self," Bennett says.

Sounds pretty awesome though.