What people wear and why it matters are not topics in my wheelhouse, but I’m going to talk about them anyway to point out how fads are malleable and, like politics, depend on who’s in power.
In other words, a hot item one season may be completely out of style six months later, and by the same token, out-of-favour styles can suddenly, and without warning, somehow become trendy again.
Before I continue, however, a disclaimer: no one who has known me for more than an hour would describe me as a fashionista. I have written about this flaw before and it has not improved with age. I dress down most of the time, and though I always try to look presentable, I don’t ever try to look fashionable.
I can recognize when things match and when they don’t, and even when something is nice and when it’s not, but I am pretty much incapable of independent outfit coordinating. I either have to have a point of reference and copy a nice outfit piece-by-piece or I would have no idea what looks good with what.
To make matters worse, accessories are not my friend, nor are a lot of colour or bold print. I don’t do bags or clutches, or scarves, for that matter. I do have some nice shoes but most of those gems collect dust in my closet.
Do I walk around dressed like a vagrant? I wouldn’t say so. I abjectly refuse to wear pajamas outside of my house, even if I’m just running out for milk. (I say this like it’s a great accomplishment. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not, but judging by how many others I see about town not following that rule, I’m going to throw my own compliance in the win column.)
I don’t mean any of this to make myself sound like some sort of weird lady who shuffles around town wearing rags. I dress in business casual for work and in similar garb if going out for the evening, so I’m not a totally lost cause. It’s just that coordinating clothing isn’t something that comes naturally to me, nor will fashion ever be important in my life.
That said, I was particularly taken by a recent picture someone posted on-line. It was a split screen of a 1960s-era businessman in a tailored suit, juxtaposed with a picture of a male model wearing… well, respectfully, I’m not exactly sure what it was. He had on an argyle-printed turtleneck under a tweed coat at least four sizes too big, electric blue, over-the-knee socks, and a pair of red waist-cinching short-shorts that I’m pretty sure Joanne MacLeod used to wear 20 years ago in the Participaction commercials. The side-by-side photo was meant to convey that our taste in fashion has deteriorated significantly in the past 50 years.
Of that there is no doubt. Some might claim we have evolved fashion-wise, but I would argue it’s the opposite. The 50s and 60s were a timeless few decades, with simple, neat pieces with clean lines. The 70s weren’t quite so tidy, but they were nothing compared to the train wreck of leg warmers and shoulder pads in the 80s, and certainly not as egregious as neon everything and low-hanging jeans in the 90s and 2000s.
And of all the bad fashion choices that have come and gone, the most universal one, the one everyone seems to agree on, is the “no socks with sandals and shorts” rule. It is a stereotypical “Dad move” for someone to dress like that, with a pair of shorts, mid-calf socks, and open-toe sandals.
But if you can believe it, that’s no longer a fashion faux-pas. Now, apparently, dressing like a clueless tourist is making a comeback.
According to the fashion editor of GQ magazine, socks with shorts style is “something new… a little bit skater and presents a rebellious undertone.” One of the Kardashian people walked a red carpet a few weeks ago wearing socks and sandals, an offering from the newest Valentio collection. The fashion media called it “bold,” “quirky” and “adventurous.”
Go figure; a bunch of international supermodels trying to pull off a look your grandpa and his friends mastered at a barbeque four decades ago. I sure wish the 80-something crowd could be made aware that they’ve become the vanguard of 21st century urban fashion.
Fashion is like that; mysterious and unpredictable, and short-lived. It is what the popular people tell us it should be, regardless of how silly it looks. Today: socks with sandals; tomorrow: who knows.
Fashion is fickle.