A cautionary tale on Abercrombie & frump

Although it seems unlikely that the upstanding lads of Zeta Psi had their meaty fingers on the pulse of fashion when they planned RAD this semester, it appears nothing short of destiny that the theme for last Saturday’s beer-drenched orgy should correspond with the overriding influence on this fall’s fashion trends. The cocaine-fuelled hodgepodge of shoulder pads, big hair and all-round fluorescence that could only typify one decade — the ’80s.

This is not, however, simply another standard era-revival that has come to pervade many a modern day style. Much of the wanton extraversion associated with this vibrant period is kept in check, this fall, by the influence of the more Simplistic Sixties, and all the basic mod motifs that went with it.

While it may seem, to the less imaginative Yalie, that this inter-generational hybrid might make less stylistic sense than Dean Salovey’s moustache, stars like Mischa Barton and Paris Hilton would beg to differ. This pair of starlets have typified this melange perfectly — think skinny jeans and patent leather boots, headbands and leopard trench coats, leggings and jumper dresses, with some cheeky leg-warmers thrown into the mix.

“This season is about playing the game of seduction without showing too much skin”, said designer Caroline Herrera. This line of thinking has translated into, amongst other things, voluminous, loose fitting sweaters. So loose, in fact, that some qualify as “sweater-jackets”, or even housing for a small Peruvian family. Runway models, when displaying this unlikely mixture of the two decades characterized by their activity and passivity, can tend to resemble a frazzled female undergraduate scuttling across Old Campus at 8 a.m. after a night of awkward passion, rather than deific paragons of fashion. Although this young lady may well have been inspired by dubious American couture, it is towards the infinite chic of cultural hubs such as Paris and Milan that US fashion looks for inspiration.

In Europe, where clear-cut sexuality doesn’t seem too important anyway, that Fall/Winter 2006-2007 sees designers such as Paul Smith and Topshop demolish the already fragile boundary between female and male, much in the same way as the Yale women’s rugby team do during their heavy lifting sessions. This somewhat suspicious androgyny is manifested in wide trousers, slimline jackets and skin hugging suits with opened-collared shirts. The passive observer is left wondering whether or not to agree with this active perpetuation of the terrifying idea of an independent woman.

It seems that the Brits, however, regardless of their ideas on feminine autonomy, have done very little to escape the influence of their freedom-fuelled contemporaries this fall. On the other hand, the everyman tells a different story, regardless of the season. Whilst cautiously treading for the first time amidst the ranks of youth through any sufficiently white American suburb, the average Brit would undoubtedly soil those tight fitting pants. He would find himself drowning in an unfamiliar sea of fitted hats, cheap puka shell necklaces, a kaleidoscope of polo shirts with unnecessarily popped collars and cargo shorts hovering above cut off athletic socks snugly fitting inside shoes more akin to sea-faring vessels than footwear. Perhaps he might glimpse some khaki trousers and loafers, or a blue dress shirt and blazer. Leaving the boredom-fuelled environ in his wake, our courageous Englishman would venture downtown. After partaking in some casual street-corner freestyling, “8-Mile” style, dodging a few bullets and getting ready for the “Next Episode”, our friend would begin to absorb the fashion that is prevalent across much of America’s underbelly. Enormous Phat Farm tracksuits, seemingly superfluous sweatbands, and white T-shirts that could double as 8-man 100 percent cotton tents. He would marvel at the enormous jeans worn around the ankles, carefully tread around large white shoes, all the time wondering why these intimidating chaps hadn’t cut the tags off of their baseball hats.

After a swift British Airways flight back to the motherland, the intrepid globetrotter would again be surrounded by fashion that is a far stylistic cry from Yankee vogue. The British counterparts to the Abercrombie-sporting prepsters and steroid-fuelled jocks would never be caught dead wearing backwards baseball hats, khaki trousers, and, most importantly, white socks. These are the upstanding proponents of the dress shirt, cords or jeans look, perhaps with a v-neck cashmere sweater. In more louche circumstances, a casual observer would be privy to perhaps a polo shirt or two, some ripped jeans, coupled with some brown suede shoes. As for the street culture, English and American thug fashion are remarkably similar beasts. On top of the unrestrictive, loose-fit vibe, somewhat tighter Adidas tracksuits are also popular. Included under this umbrella is the “Popper” style, the back of which, unfortunately, the gangster fashion world is now seeing.

So, if you want to be in fashion this fall, throw on the leg warmers, a tie-dye headband and pump up the Eric Prydz. As you feel “Call on Me” energize every forgotten recess of your body, remember that you are doing this because of your innate fashion sense, and not just to satisfy your penchant for spandex and homoerotic fraternity parties.

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