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.