NOTES FROM THE CLOSET: OBSERVATIONS OF A FASHION ANTHROPOLOGIST
Fashion as the First Art by John E.
The technical term for sticking out your ass at potential mates is presenting. The pinkening of the genitals due to sexual excitation and invitation is flushing. Although we human apes are more subtle about such displays, be they voluntary or involuntary, we’re just as likely to engage in them as our homies lower on the evolutionary ladder. Most of us are familiar with the more common examples – whether it be the use of skinny jeans and high heels to make the booty 3-D or how painting the lips red mimics excited genitalia or even the donning of an ultra red dress before a date (“Your vagina – I mean, dress – looks great!”).
However, our translation of physiological markers into fashion is richer than even that. For example, look at the pictures above. While some might claim “Pink” or “Juicy” scrawled across their booty, so close to (shiver) real pink, as warm as one’s childhood bed, is nothing more than an unhappy coincidence in which one’s favorite company also happens to have a rather suggestive name, they’re obviously full of shit. “Oh? The ‘suckme’ written across my blue jean crotch? That’s just the name of a little start-up in Nashville. The founder’s Japanese.”
But, hey, I’m after more than a meditation on cross-species forms of showing one’s ass-ets. No, the comparison above shows one of the reasons that fashion is not only exciting, but also the most natural of the arts
Before there was human chatter about fashion, fashion was.
“Yo, let there be lights,” the Void proclaimed, and the runway of the world was suddenly amok with the strut, flop, and prance of a near infinity of colors and forms, each conscious of the power of fashion. The lion’s pimped-out mane. The peacock’s psychedelic feathers. And mammals don’t just settle for the fashion hand they’ve been dealt. Out on the Javan grasslands, male sambar deer try to impress females by running through brush to pick up twigs and grass in order to trick out their antlers (a strategy familiar to hippies). In the insect world, emerald moth caterpillars sew flowers on their spiny backs with silk. Lacewing larvae wear cloaks of lichen, bark, plant fibers, and spider webs. And mujid crabs mod their shells with algae, wood, and, in a Jeffrey Dahmerian gesture, parts of other invertebrates.
Fashion then in part is the human equivalent of the displays of other animals, displays that serve two primary purposes – to attract mates and display dominance. Sound familiar? From bondage gear and gimp masks to Stetsons and snakeskin boots to Armani Wall Street suits, from “Juicy” sweats to licorice lingerie, we’re down with the wild kingdom. Fashion is primitive in this regard, savage, vital.
This is an especially interesting point when you consider the amount of nose-holding that occurs when fashion is mentioned. We humans have a love/hate relationship with fashion (mostly marked by actual love and pretended hate). Many like to dismiss it as materialistic and shallow, overemphasizing the charms of the physical world and the physical body which are bad bad bad. But this makes fashion even more significant in our culture. It’s a battleground between those ashamed of our connection to the rest of the natural world and those who embrace it.
Sure, sure, no, we don’t want to wholly give into unchecked animal impulses. Other animals, after all, generally have no problem with copraphagia, sex with minors, and humping socks. But it’s just as blind to wholly deny it. We are animal, fashion is animal, and to embrace it is not to push us into the bloody-in-tooth-and-claw world of nature so much as it is to embrace the parade divinity of the howling creatures we are.
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