Personae. Issue 24.
Identity. Turmoil, riot, identity. Riot.
Uniforms. We’re all bound by clothes and fashion. It’s not something we choose deliberately. It never has been – however sweet it might feel to tell yourself otherwise. Since we obviously can’t walk around as full-time nudists, we use clothes as uniforms, and by doing so, we give off signals. Whether we want to or not, we each day transmit these signals to people around us telling them something about ourselves, and in many cases, more than we should. We use words like substance, integrity and so on, as if these are essential terms for us to promote our own identity. Sad to say, things tend to remain in the world of ideas. References shut us down long before we ourselves even began thinking in the same lane, whether we want to acknowledge so or not. They were there first. Regardless of how many reference points you’re able to take inspiration from, there’s always a primary source somewhere And the person that got the first clue is already dead and buried -guaranteed.
We wake up each day and choose our own uniform based on a reference, and that uniform signals the choice you make. And how we choose to own this choice is highly individual.
And it’s with this choice that we actually stand out in the crowd. The uniform itself is irrelevant. This is just the way we are. Knowing this, we can easily imagine the potential of a society where voiceovers were standards. Think about it. Less small-talk. We could all be given a way to get to know one another without so much conversation. A somewhat shitty attitude to have however, if you, oh I don’t know, happen to be in the process of creating a magazine. Though, if lady luck is with me, maybe not.
At the risk of saddling myself on a high horse, I don’t care at all if you quote-check me. Right or wrong aside, we’re all in this muck together – we just enjoy signaling who we’d want to be seen eating lunch with at break time.
I don’t mean to say one’s identity should be taken lightly. Quite the opposite. It’s more important than ever to be able to tie identity to art. To feel yourself fade away within a segment you might not be useful in, is perhaps the most painful thing an individual can experience. How we choose to make use of our voice remains up to each one of us, and how it will end up being appreciated will always stay in the power of an audience. And here exactly, is where our vulnerability lies, and perhaps why we strive for membership by dressing in uniforms. It’s safe. You know you’re not the only one. Which usually feels quite ok.
You don’t really wish to be special. All social studies research reveals the same thing: that this is the last thing you’re yearning for.
So, if you choose your signal to be a life in the outskirts of conformity, that itself will result in creating a sense of safety. Others are doing the exact same thing, which actually feels like as a good thing. The fashion industry is sustained by people’s consumption of already pioneered trends, but in recent years, fashion houses have also focused tremendously on the correct – including a tendency created- identity placed in context with its product. This is emphasized to the degree that trade specialization and expertise ends up at the social security office, clearing out for more space.
Within different subcultures we can pinpoint each identity-type and their affiliations by paying attention to their uniforms. All subcultures have offshoots. When you as a participant understand this, you’ll automatically increase your credibility within whatever segment you choose to be a part of. You’ll understand more of your field via streams of references, and the narrower that field is, the more credentials will be given to you by your fellow partisans. With these branchings, a virus is spread throughout the collective subconscious, resulting in clear parallels between what was once small and underground and what turned out a commercial success. How did it all happen?
References. References mean power. If viewed from a business point of view, you’d earn more by taking out a patent on references as medical prescriptions, instead of insulin!
One of many theories on subcultures is that those who live in urban areas are capable of finding ways to create their very own societies, and holding on to their anonymity. The latter is not always reflected by subculture’s fashion status quos, as it normally tells of something opposite.
Punk culture for instance, was a loud outcry against a machine-driven society. The ideology was carried forth by groups affected by social and political unrest. In its early stages, punk arose out of working class anxiety and frustration around economic inequality and bourgeois hypocrisy, felt by many of the young generation, as well as around neglect of the working class in general. Out of all, they were focused on supporting the working class, equality issues, anti-capitalism, and fighting corruption. One of the most important attempts was to reject mainstream society, including big corporations and mass culture and its implications.
Punk ideology mainly spreads out towards the political left, but also gave impact to the right wing, where the riotous aspect is in practicality the same, but with a completely different political assertion in terms of society and its many challenges.
As it is with many other underground cultures punk often turns to music, text, and literature involving fanzines and pamphlets as ways of spreading its message. Usually, what ranks highest is reaching people with the same mindset. Yet also to the diverse masses, but with a critical voice regarding mainstream society, seen as birthed by capitalism. Another method is expressing the ideology by direct action like protests, boycott of selected products and companies seen as symbolic of the destruction of society, including property vandalism. Punk fashion was originally an expression of a lack of social belonging and dismemberment. Its uniform often displays aggression, uproar and individualism, the latter, at least, in good faith. The desire to express individualism and socio-political opinions by wearing clothes, tattoos, and distinct jewelry often results in a more or less unwanted coherence with the many within a group. The outfits often consist of second hand items; itself a pledge to an anti-consumerist society. It is interesting, however, that with the right type of punk/ subcultural merchandise, the second-hand shop industry can gorge on more revenues than with a Givenchy luxury goods item.
At the risk of straying off the real topic of this monologue, it’s clear that each cultural statement has a legacy, and more often than not, inheritance is not something normally received by choice, and can sometimes surprise. Without these legacies, we’d all be left in a state of lack. And by the time we create something with no heritage as reference, well then, we’d all be in a state of cultural homelessness.
We revolt against what we see as wrong, but rarely do we give thanks to that very same thing we’re protesting; it is able to make us agitated and thus cause us to act. Rooted in the classic notion of a riot is the illusion of being unique and not being placed on the assembly line. Actually, an arguably narcissistic point of view to have, yet still quite often synonymous with being firm and effective in order to reach your goals. The very same goes for people in the fashion industry and how they see through their plans; they collect their references – often from people who themselves aren’t viewed as fashion and trends perceptive – and these are mostly found on the insides of a subculture.
Like with most other adopted fashion, there’s a lot of emotionality involved in realizing that precisely the mainstream – originally being the cause for an uproar – actually takes inspiration as it pleases from your own backyard, only to cultivate it as a commercialized, nutrient-filled snack. What was intended to be your way of visually declaring an identity turns into a general standard. So now what to do? The theory stating that we choose to revolt “outside” of our appearance and performance falls short. We end up liking being with same-minded people, and we share an underlying need for acceptance by a group of people we’d rather hand-pick out our ourselves.
The clothing industry. It’s worth has been estimated by Forbes a few years back to amount to 718 billion dollars … annually. The more obvious explanation for such mountain-high sums is the fact that people need to wear clothes. But a surprisingly large percentage of that explanation relates to the high-end segment, also referred to in the industry as luxury goods. There’s no real limit to fashion’s possibilities in organizing external signals or categorizing it’s many functions. Uniforms carrying a statement are worn every day, and that statement is simply something we want to convey, so others can place you where you actually wish to be put. You choose your uniform and thus your voice. If looking through the fashion world’s lens, it will always remain endlessly interesting where the references originate from, as well as how self-contradictory the original source looks to be.
A friend of mine once told me about his views on when to compromise around ones “own” art. The answer he gave was never. Followed by “If you f… with that you’re left with nothing!”
And no, we shouldn’t mess around too much with our own artistic signature. The realness at hand has been duly noted. It’s left us with a big bite to chew on, leading to personal growth by forcing ourselves to embark on a slightly pompous journey of seeking out a broader understanding of the value in creating cultural capital. An enormous resource for any given society will always be the needs of each individual, and equally important – the right to freedom of speech via whatever chosen channel the person goes for. It produces debates, it creates disagreements, and it attracts attention. It’s all good! Everything else flattens out. Many punk rockers exist without knowing that that’s what they are. They’d never openly acknowledge this type of claim, though, about themselves. For many people, understanding their neutrality or passivity won’t happen, which is a good thing! And for better or worse, the complicated truth is that passive attitudes are in reality a true form of arrogance. For those who’re trying to communicate something outside of the normal, that arrogance is painfully tactile at times. How we all determine right or wrong, which even leads to judgement of others, are needs themselves, once again deriving from an outside reference point, converted into our own perspective. And should we actually envision and cultivate our own tastes and perspectives? THE ANSWER IS YES! Well … how? It should all be done individually. And that can only be a good thing.
In fashion, the ideas and concepts of a once self-reflective subculture, with their own style, eventually turns into public property. This is something that will happen. It’s part of an evolutionary process that can’t really be stopped. A once art and beautiful chaos-influenced neighborhood, will sooner or later be occupied by families with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever.
Sometimes, I feel as if creative people, perceived by others as small-scale, are unable to see how big a part they REALLY are of the inflation. Not to encourage self-satisfaction; there’s more than enough of that to go around. But the reasons for its persistence is perhaps that we don’t always feel as appreciated as we deep down inside hope to; we think our efforts and accomplishments deserve more recognition.
The pack will always be on the move, and the pack leader always needs to understand where the group is headed. If not, they must give up and look for a different and smaller pack. But that’s ok. The new pack will grow in time. Fashion involves and binds us all, whether we care or not. I’d say we’re all out here walking on the same tightrope. This magazine included.
But most important of all: this is a magazine for everyone. This edition is about riot. It’s not about throwing overripe plums at the neighbor’s laundry pile. Hopefully, this magazine is about a greater understanding of how we all make use of our identity as a weapon to fight for a cause.
It’s a Uniform. And that’s OK.
Hope you like it.