Footpath Zeitgeist on Street Style

In considering further the discourses and practices of style blogs, mull over this archival nugget (from 2007!) from Footpath Zeitgeist, whose ruthlessly smart fashion commentary is often aimed squarely at the cosmopolitan circulation of the hipster-as-avant-garde figure.

But in many other ‘street style’ publications, the two ideas of hipsterism and lived fashion collapse together so that what we see covered in street style photography is a documentation of hipster culture…. We see only the most outlandish outfits; the ones that are strikingly different from ‘ordinary’ people’s clothes and are deliberately put together to attract attention. They are meant to serve as ‘inspiration’ for us ordinary people, as well as to designers and marketers who adapt these looks for profit. We can also see that in turn, this creates a culture of exhibitionism in which people actively solicit the photographer’s attention and then look for themselves in online galleries.

So there’s a triple audience: subcultural tourists getting a frisson from observing a scene in which they themselves don’t participate; insiders of this scene hoping to see themselves documented; and outsiders hoping to make money from those in the scene. There is even a fourth audience of outsiders who visit to ridicule the photographs: a rich vein of comedy mined by Gawker’s Blue States Lose and Mess+Noise’s ShakeSomeCaptions.

In this same piece, Footpath next turns her attention to some specific style blogs and, in particular, the uncurious sensibility that informed the following comments by two bloggers in response to critics: “We are NOT social commentators and we do not owe anyone a fuckin explanation of where a certain trend started or what was going through someone’s head when they put their outfit on… to tell you the truth we don’t really give a shit. […] We didn’t start this blog with any intentions. All we wanted to do was document for ourselves all this crazy shit that people were wearing, and share it with people we knew.” In response, Footpath observes:

It depresses me that we are creating generations of designers and commentators who are unable to articulate why they like particular clothes, and who are unwilling to be curious about the sartorial behaviour of those outside their comfort zone…. It promotes a depressing stylistic conformity that is ironic because it appears so individual.

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