Thursday, 23 June 2011

THE NEW NORMALITY

The popular fashion blogger, Bryan Boy, demonstrates his crazy credentials in a Margiela fur hat (image via Street Peeper).

It's funny how on-trend it is to look crazy - freaky, even - preferably while protesting 'but I'm SO normal.' Blame it on Lady Gaga, Anna Dello Russo, or countless fashion bloggers, but looking vaguely 'normal' is not the order of the day. Whether it's skyscraper-high platform shoes, neon-coloured hair, or giant pieces of fruit perched atop the head, the message is clear: the wackier the better.

Lady Gaga, who is the most prolific crazy dresser, and who has spawned the greatest number of imitators, takes things a step further, celebrating being a 'freak' as an empowering means of self-realization and expression, and perhaps even a tool for social activism. She refers to her fans as "little monsters," and often greets photographers with a 'monster claw' hand gesture to emphasise the point. The appeal of turning self-perceived 'oddness' into something to celebrate (with the sartorial flourishes to match) is hard to deny.

Looking the part isn't necessarily enough, though. Witness Lady Gaga's utterly cryptic ramblings in her column in V Magazine, or the proud proclamation by the most chic of bloggers, Jane Aldridge, that she keeps plastic animal figurines in her bag for now apparent reason, alongside her wallet and make-up. If ever there was a moment to live by the mantra le freak, c'est chic, it's now.

Perhaps we are witnessing the natural filtering of outlandish '00s night club fashion (as documented in Ognyan Yordanov's recent book) into the mainstream, as fast-fashion retailers provide ample options for wacky dressing at affordable prices, while almost any suburban hair saloon can now fit its clientele with a hot pink hair piece, shaped like a bow. Perhaps it's a reaction against an increasingly globalised and homogenized culture.

The desire to stand apart, however, and to look intentionally offbeat and outlandish, is centuries old, certainly pre-dating Lady Gaga and her fans. What I think is notable, though, is how enthusiastically the 'crazy' look and stance has been accepted - and even adopted - by the mainstream, and is no longer the preserve of a relatively small group, who would in the past have been categorised as 'eccentrics'.

The inevitable question is that if wacky is becoming prominent in the mainstream, is it soon going to be necessary to be 'normal' in order to be crazy. Or if crazy is just a fashion trend, does this mean it has already lost all meaning anyway? In many respects, the most shocking outfit that Lady Gaga could wear would be a pair of jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt. The downside is that making an effort to look decidedly 'normal' is never going to be as fun as pulling on the mismatched prints and turquoise wig. In the current climate, though, it would be deliciously subversive.

Fashion editor Anna Dello Russo has become renowned online and in the fashion media for her outlandish outfits, and decidedly unconventional approach to dressing.

As Lady Gaga (L) demonstrates, practicality should never come between you and your bonkers look, while the rapper Nicki Minaj (R), in common with other popular musicians like Katy Perry and Rihanna, shows that Lady Gaga does not have a monopoly on outlandish dressing.

Along with Anna Dello Russo, and equally adored by fashion bloogers, Daphne Guinness is the other fashion industry stalwart for freaky dressing.

The zeitgeist-y blogger Bip Ling is not one to let the trend pass by.

From Thierry Mugler SS12 menswear (L) to Prada FW11 womenswear (R), the aesthetic is running in parallel on the runways of Paris and Milan (images via Style.com)

As usual I have asked more questions than I have answered. I'm not trying to come down in favour of, or against, the 'crazy' movement: I'm more interested in thinking about it than in reaching some sort of moral judgement. Perhaps I'm wrong about the whole thing, and this is nothing new. What's your take on it?

9 comments:

  1. i don't think its quite "normal" to be a kook yet, but its "in fashion". And therefore will eventually be normal soon enough as it trickles its way down. Its definitely super trendy to be weird and to be one of those cool crazy art students. I have people tell me that all the time but they seem to be more inclined to watch from a distance and stick to their jeans/t-shirt combo.

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  2. well it will sure make me think about it more. it's a weird mix cos you say the mainstream stuff but the none mainstream seem to be as obsessed, that's where i get confused

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  3. Nah, this'll always remain fringe, or self-restricting to the social spaces of least resistance e.g. nightclubs. The "mainstream" or what's left of it is a complex beast, and a good portion of it is still determined by plain old practicality and heteronormative notions of beauty and status. Mugler's getting press again but so what, there've ever been labels that did the kerayyzee thing, and even found the odd pop figure to trojan it now and then.
    I mean no one in Swindon is about to start going all out Minaj without moving to London first, for it'd be no gain for a lot of 'pain'. Most are comfortable with this stuff in the safety of fashion blogs and gossip rags only for that requires nothing of them. Easy come, easy go.

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  4. I hate Bryanboy, he clearly does it only to get attention. He really has terrible style and just puts random things together. I don't get what his 'career' is...why is he even invited to shows, or why does he even go? To take shitty, one minute footage of fashion shows on a crappy flip cam?


    Daphne Guinness on the other hand does it with good taste and she actually pulls it off. It doesn't look 'wacky' for no reason, it looks strange in a way that's very fashionable, much in the way people think fashion show looks are strange. She's all about fashion and wears Haute Couture outfits right off the runway, but that is who she is; and it seems very authentic.


    Lady Gaga to me is the same as Bryanboy, no one would have known who she was if it had not been for those outlandish outfits that got so much media attention and publicity. It's a marketing strategy. You can tell she doesn't love fashion, she doesn't even wear great couture pieces, only McQueen, probably after her stylist told her about him no doubt. She looks crazy for no apparent reason, it doesn't even look 'fashion crazy,' it just looks like she wants attention.


    I personally don't mind wearing a Raf Simons man-mini skirt over trousers, or a comme des garcons kilt over trousers, or Rick Owens drop crotch, silk shorts. That may be weird to people outside fashion, but it makes sense to me; however I'm not just gonna throw on randomly weird shit for no reason like Bryanboy (except that Margiela head piece) and Lady gaga do.

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  5. ehh i think the prada dress is not quite in line here except for the hat... anyways: i don't really know how to put it correctly but i feel like the ones constantly exposed in flashlight are not really the ones that make fashion worth it... you know, self-declared fashion lovers who are basicly consumers....

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  6. I think Anna Dello Russo and Daphne Guiness do the "wacky" look with taste. Lady Gaga just wears the most out there look that her stylist pulls for her because in the end she will get more press. more press = more money. Bryanboy though, I don't even know what he really does. He pretty much just mashes random pieces together which again becomes mad and interesting and then he gets more press. Like was does he even do on his blog tbh? But I agree, that Prada dress isn't really out there, it's mabe just that hat. In this time everyone wants to be a bit more eccentric but when everyone is "eccentric" doesn't that mean everyone is normal? It's probably why fashion is now universal, it's not a private world anymore. Everyone wants to be apart of it.

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  7. Chloe Sevigny stated to the Guardian, "Yeah, you know, wear something unusual to distract from my face. Oldest trick in the book." If you look at the women who are known for their eccentric tastes in fashion, they're typically women society doesn't describe as typically attractive.

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  8. Thanks for all the very interesting comments

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  9. Fashion history repeats itself. I remember beginning of the 1990's suddenly everything went over the top. Watch the ' Dee-Lite' video 'Groove is in the heart'. Or the great posts on Youtube about the ' party monster ' scene of the New York Club Kids at the end of the 80's fronted by James St. James and good- bless- him- crazy Michael Alig. The Fashion Philospher

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