Saturday, October 15, 2005

JAP chic

Jews do not need "hipster Jews." Why not? Because hipster culture is all about liking things ironically, and hipster Judaism is about laughing at "Jewish" neurosis and dorkiness. Hipster Judaism is regressive, "Annie Hall" over "Yossi and Jagger"--because it's fun to ironically mock Woody Allen for being a nebbish while it fits into no particular neat box to watch gorgeous Israeli men fight wars and fall in love. Hipster Jews, I should note, are different from hipsters who happen to be Jewish. By "hipster Jews" I mean people who embrace a self-deprecating persona and for whom returning to the era of "Portnoy" is as charming a pursuit as digging through bins at the local Urban Outfitters for t-shirts proclaiming a love of "Saved by the Bell."

What we need are not hipster Jews, but chic Jews. Obviously there are already Jews who are chic, including some who dress according to religious rules and maintain a stylish look within those bounds. But is there a specifically Jewish stylishness, the way there are, for example, different types of Asian, gay, and black chic? While true stylishness ought to transcend all obvious cultural sub-types, each sub-type has its stylish and less-stylish interpretations. (Calf-length white t-shirts? Eh. Red dreadlocks? Definitely.)

The look most commonly associated with American Jews, among women at least, is what's referred to derogatorily as the JAP look. Bloomingdales, Scoop, Intermix, and probably all sorts of other names I'd know if I were from, say, L.A. I've already argued that American women in general are no less chic than, say, French women, and my point here is along similar lines. Followers of the JAP aesthetic are criticized for being overly materialistic and not sufficiently stylish. But the whole concept of "bling" suggests that materialism and fashion need not be mutually exclusive. While artfully arranged thrift-store clothes get high praise from fashion-oriented types, there are also good and bad ways to arrange clothing purchased full-price at Big Drop.

I happen to like an aesthetic that blends JAP with Japanese, French with futuristic, and that favors neon colors, pastel colors, black, silver, and white. I don't go for the hippie or Abercrombie looks (or the dreaded prep-school Grateful Dead-fan look, which blends the two; think khaki, tie-dye, and hemp necklaces), but that's just me. I can, however, appreciate a well-put-together hippie or frat boy, and, while I would not choose to look that way myself, I can appreciate the chicness a stylish person whose look could be described most accurately as "Jappy."

1 comment:

Dropout/Postgrad said...

hmm.. interesting post. as a brooklynite who has just come out of a relationship with a jewess hipster (though she might be too cool and not jewish enough for the title) i think you're being unfair. there is something about jewish cynicism that is much more cultural than a product of the times, so just let a nigga be. like if you grew up that way, its not your fault that the times caught on, nah mean? also, one of my best friends is a jewish boy at uchicago that is uber-hip though rarely would he be described as such. he's just mad smart (like in the steel smashing on hot steel type of way), well-versed in hip hop, and happens to have been an undergrad at yale. what the fuck.. why can't we just be ourselves? i'm just getting used to being considered cool, because i grew up in the hood and only recently learned that it is possible to be intelligent and cool simultaneously. i'm an indian jew (aka sikh) but it is more complicated than that (i'm also half colombian) but if it were any simpler, i wouldn't be considred as cool. my point? not fair. most of only find out we are genuinely cool years after we have struggled with the idea that we might never be appreciated for what we are and may be considered to suck for many years to come. why should good jews, who have been told that they will suck forever, feel the need to aspire towards chic to be considered coo? chances are, by the time they get there, coolness will have reverted to where they started out anyway. fuck it. make your own blog, start your own business and wait around for pop culture to catch on. two years from now, when you're an editor at conde nast, you'll know what i'm talking about.. you just haven't figured out you're that cool yet. love the jews!