Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Jeerers at Mullets

I very nearly got a mullet earlier this year. It would have given a certain kind of person such pleasure to be able to nudge his or her companion and marvel, “Lookee there, dude’s got a mullet! It would have given me even greater pleasure to inspire that behavior in that sort of person — the kind who, in reveling in his or her own hipness, exposes his hopeless lack thereof.

As I have probably written here, I met the uncrowned king of these people in 1997 while passing out flyers for my theatre company at an Absolut-sponsored event in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Thinking it would make people more likely to accept my flyers, I took at one point to hollering, “Absolut vodka shown to cause drunkenness in laboratory animals!” Quoth the uncrowned king in sneeringly declining a flyer, “Well, duh!”

Such people love to make fun of others’ bygone fashion choices on the basis of old photographs. They’ll see, for instance, a photograph of a young woman with big hair and shoulder pads of the sort popular in the mid-80s and snicker, “What the hell were you thinking?”

A very cheap shot, that, and stupid. The most exciting thing that fashion — and rock fashion in particular — does is emphatically refute that which proceeded it, and nothing’s more emphatic, and thus exhilarating, than extreme. Thus, it stands to reason that any early or especially zealous adapter of a new style is going to look ridiculous to those clinging in terror to the refuted one. All the hundreds of little Ziggy Stardust clones one saw in the big coastal cities in the early 70s looked preposterous in comparison to, say, Crosby, Stills & Nash — but infinitely cool to one another. And whose was the greater courage, the greater panache — that of the mindless unwashed in their unstyled long hair, patched jeans, and T-shirts, or the glam kids?

This idea applies transracially, of course. Show a modern hip hop kid a photograph of the Jacksons, say, circa 1973, and he’s apt to die laughing at their huge globular hair, as he certainly would at the frilly eyelinered dandies who proliferated in the wake of Prince. Or leave music entirely and think about basketball, in which the now-standard baggy shorts favored by Michael Jordan looked comical in comparison to previous generations'.

“What the hell were you thinking?” would make sense only if there were such a thing as an absolute in fashion, and I’m not sure there is. I doubt anyone could persuasively argue that women’s hair didn’t go through a dreadful stretch in the early ‘50s when short-and-wavy was very voguish, or that the (extremely!) brief maxidress craze of around 1970 wasn’t a crime against humanity, or that nearly everyone doesn’t look better in flared trousers (as they make the legs appear longer, the hips slimmer, and the feet smaller). I am well aware, though, that various New Wave trendsetters circa 1980 vilified such trousers as monstrous because they'd become icons of earlier musical movements.

The most fashionable person, of course, is the one who wear what he or she feels most gorgeous in with confidence in spite of what Vogue or GQ or Esquire or jeerers at mullets say. In this regard, we need to tip our caps to the author Tom Wolfe, who’s been wearing the same self-designed attire for around 50 years now, and always looking fab in entirely his own way.

This is not, of course, to imply that I forgive his mindless condemnation of alternative sexuality.

[Many of my books are now available for download from Amazon. They include The Total Babe & Other Wine Country Yarns, Lentils on the Moon (aka A Message From Jesus in Braille, aka A History of the Jews in the Hudson Valley, Self-Loathing: An Owner's Manual, Third World USA, The Mona Lisa's Brother, and, for baseball nuts, Foul Balls and Alpha Males. You need neither a Kindle nor an iPad to enjoy 'em; simply download (free) Kindle software for either Mac or Windows, and enjoy them on your laptop or other computer!]

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