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Postmodern Grooming

I had to laugh when I read the following Tweet yesterday by novelist and fellow client of Rachelle Gardner, Richard Mabry.

I gave up on MTV when they dropped the “M” and morphed into the cable version of TMZ. So had Richard not pointed out that MTV Movie Awards took place, I would have never known. (Unless someone was shot, stabbed, or had french-kissed a member of the same sex on stage, which would have found its way into network news.) In either case, I wouldn’t care.

However, this trend toward sloppiness amongst the rich and famous intrigues me, and 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. Who would have thought that the “bed head” would ever be en vogue? And to think, all the gel I’ve wasted trying to look cool.

In case you live on Pluto (or don’t watch MTV), this phenomenon has a name. It’s been called “messy chic,” “earthy elegance,” and “the new bohemian.” Urban Dictionary calls it slobby chic and follows with the single best definition:

The art of dressing like shit or wearing the same outfit for consecutive days or even weeks even though, or even because, one possesses an extreme amount of wealth and because they know they can get away with it. Often, people who subscribe to the “slobby chic” mentality will complain about “rich people”, intentionally ignoring the fact these “rich people” generally include themselves, their parents, their siblings, their extended family, and their friends.

But before you go trying to emulate the latest celeb’s “thrift store” wardrobe, consider how expensive it is. 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.

Anyway, I recall hearing some sociological theory about all this suggesting that how people dress is indicative of a society’s trajectory. The theory 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 society is on the decline. In other words, fake Gucci’s are a good sign. Pricey designer jeans with holes in them, on the other hand, are a sign of the Apocalypse.

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but apparently it is not evidence of wealth or a high IQ. And if you’re looking for tips on personal grooming, you may want to bypass Michael Moore and Lindsay Lohan. 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.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • xdpaul June 7, 2011, 6:40 AM

    Considering that the “award”appears to be an oil can filled with packing peanuts and goes to paragons of cinema such as “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and “Twilight: Eclipse,” I’m not terribly concerned about what trousers the culture puts on whilst the Titanic sinks!

    I certainly hope this is a culture in decline! If it is on the rise…now THAT would be depressing. 🙂

  • Sally Apokedak June 7, 2011, 7:58 AM

    Very funny post. And great comment, as usual, from xdpaul.

  • Carradee June 7, 2011, 8:17 AM

    *winces* I’ve seen that. I don’t get why folks will pay to have their clothes pre-ripped. There’s one type of jeans around here that I can even recognize, thanks to where the torn spots are. Just buy some cheap jeans and rip ’em yourself—you’ll be in fashion, it’ll cost less, and you won’t have folks saying “Hey, [so-and-so] has those pants.”

  • Neil Larkins June 7, 2011, 8:18 AM

    He’s just now noticing this? Oh man!

  • Bruce Hennigan June 7, 2011, 8:32 AM

    The sloppy quotient extends to other areas, too. My son, a devout Christian just turned 27 and his favorite Christian artists have a slightly out of tune, definitely unpolished, and very sloppy sound. He detests any musical numbers with background vocals, orchestra, or a well honed musical score. Go figure!

  • Matt Schuster June 7, 2011, 9:03 AM

    The pressure of our society, and especially for the Echo Boomers is one of failure. For too long the artists dressed in their riches they suck from their followers. Now, to be more like their fans, poor, disillusioned, going broke, or worse being broke, they want to make their likeness be known, at least on the outside.
    The generation Y inherits the wind of a people who are divorced, out of a job or in fear of losing it. Their up-bringing is peer driven, parents are out of the picture for most. The Y generation knows itself lost, and has turned it into a virtue, a philosophy of life. The artists that do not get it? Are out. Disharmony is more trustworthy because it is not pretentious, is does not reek of bullshit, white washed walls.

  • Tim George June 7, 2011, 9:04 AM

    I never was a clothes hounds but it’s taken ten years of living in Florida to sufficiently lower my standards to even begin to fit in. I am now comfortable with shorts and no socks in church if that is what floats someone’s boat. Even so, I just don’t get all the people wearing their pajamas while shopping at the mall. And I still don’t get wearing one’s underwear for outwear. As to the MTV awards, I read enough about it to know I grow truly weary of stars doing and saying “up yours” things just because they can.

    • Jill June 7, 2011, 9:14 AM

      “And I still don’t get wearing one’s underwear for outwear.” Um, that’s called being a superhero. Are you saying you don’t want to be Superman?

  • Nikole Hahn June 7, 2011, 1:10 PM

    No, I don’t live on Planet Pluto (but I hear it’s nice this time of year). I don’t watch MTV. I do agree however with that theory about society. In fact, I went to Kohl’s and dug through their clearance rack. I found those holey jeans and worn outfits marked down from $30 (approx.) to $8-12. I wouldn’t buy them even at the clearance. I can do the same damage during one good hike. :o) Great post!

  • Katherine Coble June 7, 2011, 1:37 PM

    I was in the hospital yesterday. People dress better to go to the hospital than to the grocery store here. Granted, I’m from a culture and a time where you dressed in such a way as to convey your self-respect and how you expect others to treat you.

    While the libertarian in me fully appreciates the freedom of others to dress how they choose, the anthropologist weeps a little for all the girls who grow up thinking it’s fine to telegraph a message of self-disdain, for the boys who now believe it is chic to embrace a lack of responsibility.

  • Tony June 7, 2011, 3:57 PM

    I love most styles, but I’ve never understood the appeal of dressing like a hobo. Makes me miss the classy styles of the 40s and 50s.

  • Richard Mabry June 7, 2011, 4:18 PM

    Let the record show that I have NEVER watched MTV, but when those pictures from the award show appeared online, I had to comment.
    For 36 years I practiced medicine, and every day except Saturday that meant a dress shirt and tie. Now it’s hard to tell some doctors from my yard man, except that the latter is more accessible and his fees are lower.
    Thanks for picking up the ball and running with it. Enjoy your blog.

  • Tracy Krauss June 7, 2011, 9:59 PM

    Very interesting post. and I believe the term is ‘shabby chic’ (has a much more elegant ‘ring’ to it!)

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