Thursday, January 06, 2011

Green jackets overanalyzed

"Doesn’t it look sort of Freaks and Geeks? The jacket I mean?" Yes. Yes, it does. It wasn't worn on an extra, but on Lindsay Weir. It was the iconic garment of the show. Tavi already embraced it. Every store since then, if not before, has been carrying those army-inspired jackets. This trend no doubt influenced my own green-jacket purchase in August. The 90s-sitcom long-floral-dress look has made it to the NYT. It's not that it's been done - everything has been done, fashion is all retro revivals, etc. - but that it is a trend, at this moment, and has been for some time.

I think it's great that "What I Wore" is more of an instructor's manual on how to wear trends than an innovator - my own tendency to wear the same pair of corduroys and Weir-esque-maybe-if-you-squint men's winter coat every day without proper fashion-blog inspiration suggests there is a demand for such instruction. Inspiration, imitation, these are indeed the goals. But please please, if you're going to have a style blog, know your references! Maybe not avant-garde DIY shows in Bushwick, maybe not which '60s designers or rockers inspired the '90s trend in question, doesn't have to be graduate-level textile research, but do not pretend that putting a big green army jacket over a floral dress in the '90s manner is your idea.

Or maybe I'm just bitter, because in my own work, the moment I see something similar has been done, I must immediately cite it and present what I've done as having been inspired by something I often enough figured out independently, but too late.

Tangential thoughts re: "Freaks and Geeks": as spot-on as that show was, and as surprising as it is, in retrospect, that Apatow's best was a show with a female lead, I'm not sure it got much right about high school girls. Specifically, the female characters on the show virtually never care how they look. (Unless I'm forgetting an episode? There's the time Lindsay puts on a dress - wow! - to go to a party where she can flirt with Neal's college-kid older brother. But otherwise?) It's not just a lack of vanity, weight-obsession, contending-with-puberty, acne-concerns, etc. There's also none of the awkward experimentation we get with, for example, Angela Chase in "My So-Called Life," dyeing her hair bright red, not to look pretty, not to look punk, but because she's at that age. That the girls don't primp is, in a sense, what makes the show feel so realistic, because most depictions of teenage girls portray them as doing so almost continuously, influenced, no doubt, both by sexist cliché and by the fact that entertainment comes out of milieus where looks are especially valued.

But it also keeps the show in the realm of male fantasy. Lindsay Weir and Kim Kelly are a kind of male fantasy of low-maintenance, the girl with pretty hair and a good body, but who spends no time whatsoever in front of a mirror, who wouldn't dream of wanting to go to the mall. (Sam's cheerleader first-girlfriend expresses interest in shopping, which is part of the catalyst for him dumping her for being boring.) Female beauty, when it's mentioned at all, is in the sense of cheerleaders, who are naturally pretty (as when one of them tells Bill, geekiest of the geeks, that this is how she's always looked), as versus badass tomboys on the one hand, virginal Christians on the other. Which is, I think, why this show, of all shows, has inspired a fashion trend in the age of "effortless," of model-off-duty fashion, of the outfit that comes together not because it's well-styled, not because it cost a lot or was made by a special designer, but because the wearer is young, beautiful, and has no need to be vain.

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