11.20.2005

Postmodern Grooming

There is a math professor at the local university whom the students call Stinky Stein. He's earned the name because of his unruly beard, disheveled appearance and, most notably, the scent that signals his proximity. My son informs me that, upon entering the professor's class, the kiddies race for the back rows. Thus, the punishment for tardiness is immersion in Stein's odorous aura.

Have you noticed that intelligence, wealth and fame do not always translate into cleanliness or neatness? Einstein was famous for his messy desk (a fact that fails to impress my wife). Some psychologists suggest that you can tell a lot about a person by the condition of their workspace. But apparently, Albert E. had his own theory of clutter.

This trend toward sloppiness amongst the rich and famous appears to have a trickle down effect. Nowadays it is not uncommon to see college students going barefoot on campus, wearing pajama bottoms or sporting matted rat nests. I guess the "bed head" is en vogue. And to think, all the gel I've wasted trying to look cool.

I was somewhat relieved to discover this phenomenon has a name. It's been called "messy chic," "earthy elegance," and "the new bohemian." As of late, a new term's been coined: slobby chic.
Perhaps it's a bit of a backlash against the cookie-cutter, perfectly polished esthetic that has made plastic surgery, collagen and Botox injections almost de rigueur for many women. "For the past couple of years, the two dominant looks have been the Barbie-perfect look with perfect boobs, epitomized by Paris Hilton, and the upper East Side ladylike look with perfect makeup and Botoxed skin, seen on women like C.Z. Guest," said author and Barneys New York creative director Simon Doonan. "Both looks are overdone, overmanicured - just over."

So that explains it. Slobby chic is a reaction against everything fake; it is a direct counter to obssessive image-consciousness. Or is it?

Just when I was ready to join the revolt, I discovered how expensive it was. You see, buying clothing that looks used is quite costly. It's not enough to own designer jeans. If you're going to capture the anti-Barbie / anti-Ken look, those jeans must appear faded, have perfectly placed holes and trail threads. And if the price is any indication, tearing holes in designer fabric is a science. It used to be you could look homeless for a fraction of the cost. Needless to say, it's got me wondering whether the new bohemians are just as conscious about their image as the glam models.

I recall hearing some sociological theory about all this suggesting that how people dress is indicative of a society's trajectory. It goes like this: When the lower class try to dress like the upper class, a society is on the incline. But when the upper class try to dress like the lower class, a societiy is on the decline. In other words, fake Gucci's are a good sign. The pricey designer jeans with holes in them, on the other hand, are a sign of the Apocalypse.

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but it is not evidence of a high IQ. Just ask Albert E. or Stinky Stein. And if you're looking for tips on personal grooming, you may want to bypass the rich and famous. As for me, I can only dream of the day when I replace my Dockers with pajama bottoms and my hair weave with a bed head. Alas, the only thing keeping me from chucking my toothbrush, comb and razor, is a few million bucks.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

How very true Mike! My 14-yearold daughter does the homeless look, but without the pricetag. She sports dad's old sweatshirts, worn out jeans and usually a christian t-shirt. Her favorite t-shirt simply reads, "Christian T-shirt." While I sometimes wish she dressed a little "cuter," I'm so glad she prefers this to the tight, low-cut shirts and thong panties protruding over the top of low cut jeans look most of the high school girls do. Me? I've got laundry piled to the ceiling and I'm hoping it means I'm a brilliant writer!
Janet Rubin

Heather Smith said...

Mike,
I missed the pricey homeless look, but I must admit that my younger brother owns several pairs of jeans with "correctly placed" holes! Much to my parents dismay!! I also work for VF Jeanswear, and from all the fuss that goes on, I think you must be right about the "science" of destruction. Oh well, it keeps me in a job I guess. But I must wonder what people think of our country when they can't tell the rich and famous from the bum on the street! God help us!

Heather Smith said...

Mike,
I missed the pricey homeless look, but I must admit that my younger brother owns several pairs of jeans with "correctly placed" holes! Much to my parents dismay!! I also work for VF Jeanswear, and from all the fuss that goes on, I think you must be right about the "science" of destruction. Oh well, it keeps me in a job I guess. But I must wonder what people think of our country when they can't tell the rich and famous from the bum on the street! God help us!

mike duran said...

I heard you the first time, Heather. You didn't need to repeat yourself. But I would like to know more about the official "ripper" at your jean job. If the position ever opens, I've got a child who's great at destroying things. And Janet, I don't think piles of laundry equate to genius. But if that's the case, I'm Einstein squared.

Heather Smith said...

Mike,
Actually there's a job in the laundry open now. Believe it or not the same place we clean the jeans is where we tear them up. Stonewash/Sandblast/Destruction etc. I've heard its a good way to relieve the stress. Also, sorry about the double comment deal. My computer said it didn't accept it, but when I put the word verification in the 2nd time it put the comment there twice! Oh well!

Ame said...

We've often said our little one could work for toy companies testing their products! They would sure save a lot of money up front :) Now there's a new career opportunity for her? "Creating" designer jeans??!! Wow . . . hummmm :)

I wonder . . . as the generations roll on, will there ever be one that determines life is better lived in Contentment rather than it trying to be or become what we're not? It's a sad place to live, isn't it. Living for God alone is NOT easy, but it sure is infinitely more peaceful and fulfilling.

Kelly Klepfer said...

Great article. Love how you tied it all together.