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July 29, 2003


If the Times says that

If the Times says that tattoos have lost all value as symbols of rebellion, then it must be true. The article reviews the piercings and tattoos on the kids at Lollapalooza this year, in comparison to the first Lollapalooza in 1991, when our young generation of music fans had not yet been identified as a marketing demographic. "When I started getting tattoos, my mother was freaked a little," said Lauren Suchovic, 23, who is a photographer in Metuchen, N.J., while Brody Armstrong, the singer for the Distillers, thrashed onstage. "She was, like, Why don't you stick to henna?" said Ms. Suchovic, whose skin was imprinted with fairies and death's-head moths. "Now, my mom thinks they're awesome." -amy

    These two posts from Amy both document the "these kids today" mode of thinking that we have to go through every half-generation or so, when we collectively realize that we missed the subtle, slow slackening of standards until those standards were almost gone. You figured piercing and skimpy tops had pretty much leveled out, and next thing you know the big thing is bifurcated tongues and pelvic bones on 14-year-olds. As news of these developments in body aesthetic reaches the mainstream, I think the feeling gray beards like us have is as if we're waking from a deep sleep, and something changed while we were dreaming. And yet, it's inevitable that "standards" for what constitutes acceptable public dress/appearance will continue to slack. Has there ever been an increase in the rigidity of our fashion sense? Since the industrial revolution? I'm not sure, but I don't think so.

    I think it's clear enough that trend-setters in our culture are celebrities -- Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Sex and the City, whoever -- and these celebrities need to do more and more to get and keep our attention. Britney's transformation from Mickey Mouse Club almumna to snake-wielding bad girl is probably the most visible shift due to these pressures we've seen in a while. So, as celebrities need to become more shocking, their wardrobes become more shocking, and this is emulated among trendsetters and eventually the masses in our society. Although even Britney's tank-tops and low-riding sweats seemed distasteful a few years ago, they are now de rigeur even in the pre-teen set. Yesterday, I saw a pre-teen girl in my neighborhood wearing a pink tank top with a prominent Playboy bunny logo on it. She was walking with her mother.

    After a trend is introduced -- the pelvic bone thing, for instance -- it doesn't really matter if it sticks, the effect is the same. People may or may not still be wearing this stuff 18 months from now: what matters is that at one point, it was acceptable, and that means the next trend that comes along has to be even more provocative. The problem is, we're running out of body parts to be provocative about. So maybe we'll have to collectively decide that some other, previously un-eroticized body part is the new tits ass pelvis and gape at Britney, Christina, or their replacements as they unabashedly flash it in our face, to cries of alarm followed by disinterested yawns. -adm

    These trends do originate with celebrities, I guess, but the trickle-down interval has decreased, and the level of precision with which the look is emulated by 13 year-olds has increased. It used to be that crazy celebrity or designer fashions would get toned down to a tamer, GAP-y version by the time it hit regular stores and middle schools, but now that's apparently not the case. -amy

posted by amy at 10:23 AM | #


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