Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Practical Doesn't cut it.

John left this comment, and I was just going to post a comment reply but then quickly realised it was going to be as lengthy as a blog post anyway and was interesting to do. Anyway he posted this in my "Rules for Cool" (what an ironic title) =

You should try living in Timor... You can always tell the new arrivals, their colours are brighter, they try a little harder to be fashionable, they wear shoes that they don't want to get scuffed up on the uneven pavement or that don't protect them from the mud/dust that is constantly throughout Dili's streets. After a few months, everything becomes much grubbier, much more low key and much more practical.

In fact, that's a key point. Cool is practical. I'll happily spend $30 on a t-shirt if it's comfortable and fits me well. I can literally count on my fingers the number of comfortable t-shirts that fit me really well that I have owned in my life and only 1 of them has been a Savers t-shirt (thank you Salmon for All).

When you live in a world surrounded by cheap Chinese products that break after 2 uses you start to equate price with quality. I couldn't give a shit about brand names, in fact, as much as possible I want to pay for quality over brand name. Unfortunately, because I'm not willing to spend too much time shopping, unless they spend money on marketing I'm never going to hear about them...

That all said, as much as I like to be practical, I still love The Sartorialist.

Paying for quality, I agree with in principal. Don't get me wrong, these are rules for being cool, not practicality. I don't for one second endorse 'being cool' and wearing a chesty bond singlet ripped old jeans and $2 thongs to work if you are a fireman, even on a low fire danger day in the middle of june, there's always nutcases wanting to burn down their house with their family inside so they can be together for ever.
If practicality fits in it's in Rule number 3. Which is self referenced. I ride a bicycle everywhere. So whilst it's acceptable for me to say wear armwarmers and cycle shirts and those little caps with almost no brim it isn't for my holden driving friends.
What's acceptable for my holden driving friends is shirts that say 'fat chicks shoot em don't root em' because that is practical for explaining to the officer that you hit the cyclist cause your a fuckwit without having to open your mouth.
It isn't practical though for me to wear my ill fitting cut-off big pants with low hanging crotch seems on my bicycle as they tear through. And I'm pretty sure they are neither cool nor flattering. I just like big pants cut off into shorts. SO I break the rules from time to time. They are more practical than pants which get caught in the chain though.

But practicality isn't enough! I'm sure thai-fishermans pants are practical in their proper context, they became fashionable though and billabong and rip curl released expensive versions. Thongs are practical for the beach, that doesn't make $20 haviana's cool. That's why rule number 1 is 'cool is cheap' if you buy a cheap chinese manufactured shirt that falls apart after two uses, it wasn't cheap. Just calculate your budget for clothing if you have to a $2 shirt every two days. That's $1 per day or $365 for shirts for a year, so yeah it is way cheaper to just buy a $30 shirt. It's also way cheaper to buy a second hand $30 shirt for $4. So that's why I say cheap is cool, and I hate/love to punch below the belt, but John is a 7-1 monster that maybe has to get shirts tailored for him to ever fit well and maybe would have to wear my big pants to achieve regular pants, so you aren't really a statistically valid sample John where as I am joe average.

Secondly, it is not inconcievable that after Australian tourists dub Thailand too expensive and too 'touristy' they may migrate to Timor Leste to transmogriphy it into a new Thailand/Bali. And that's where it also isn't inconcievable that Aussie bogans wanting to bring a piece of the magic of Timor home with them will inevitably take those practical local considerations home and the next thing you know we will have slappers walking around Hawthorn in Rip-curl branded Timor Leste mud resistant clothing as their parents chow down on timorese coffee and lament at how touristy timor has become.
And then in comes the margin, if people followed my rules for cool we would erect what is called a barrier for entry and rule number 1 would work like this.

Take two identical terry towling hats, one branded by a company that wants to mass market it and the other from an op shop. the op shop hat costs $2, therefore it can be considered in the realm of cool. The other hat, whilst possessing identical practical and stylistic characteristics is $20 and therefore cannot be cool.
That's how its supposed to work. Anything pricey is simply not cool. Fuck it that's how it does work. As soon as something cool is mass marketed by a company that mass markets it because there is margin in it for them it probably isn't cool.
Cool hunters never hang up their hats. They didn't look at Insane Clown Posse's cameo exhibition match on WWF and hang up their hats thinking they had taken an underground Nu Metal band to the mainstream and cool hunger would be sated for a while. Because the instant they did the obscure fans that used to think Insane Clown Posse was cool decided that they had 'sold out' and switched their attention instead to artists they thought were cool like A Simple Plan.
But this vicious cycle of opinion leader meets cool hunter, cool hunter takes opinion leaders' opinions, opinion seeker meets cool hunter, cool hunter sells opinion leaders' opinions to opinion seeker, opinion leaders meet opinion seeker, opinion leader incredibly fucked off at how opinion seeker 'doesn't get it' forms new opinions, opinion leader meets cool hunter... that cycle can be broken if the cool hunter were to ask 'and what if Insane Clown Posse were to charge $120 for their merchandise would you still buy it?' people said 'what are you a moron, that would violate cool rule #1, by definition it wouldn't be cool so why would I buy it. I'd just probably wait until I saw it dumped in some op-shop somewhere and buy it for $4'

Lastly the Sartorialist, I don't know, for scathing criticisms of current trends bikesnob NYC does it for me. Taking photos of street fashion is A) a rip of of fruits magazine, the most ripped off cool hunting mag in the world and B) precisely what cool hunting is, seeking out people bold enough to formulate their own self referenced (RUle #3) style and showing it to unimaginative people all over the world as a reference point for them to pretend to be interesting. I own fruits magazine compendiums so I must include myself in this but I've never met an interesting designer that takes inspiration from harajuku. It's been fucking done people, in harajuku.

Maybe this is a simpler fashion rule: If somebody has taken a photo of it already it is no longer creative. (pronounced PERIOD)

But yo, John is a wise man, check out his blog, he updates it Bi-annualy but the posts are always worth reading.

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