Tag Archives: Fashion

Kenneth Cole Steps In It

Kenneth Cole twitter

Kenneth Cole PR twitter

Katherine Noyes at PC World:

For all those who needed an illustration of how a business shouldn’t use Twitter, Kenneth Cole kindly provided it this week by using the current unrest in Egypt as a promotional tool.

“Millions are in uproar in #Cairo,” read the original tweet from Thursday morning. “Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at http://bit.ly/KCairo.”

Widespread uproar was the result, all right, but not as a result of any spring collection. Such was the magnitude of the outcry at Cole’s insensitivity, in fact, that the company hastily removed the tweet that same day and issued two retractions instead.

“Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation,” read the first. “We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”

A second, posted on Facebook soon afterward, read as follows:

“I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic:

And a snapshot of reactions:

  • The Next Web – “Oh dear, we thought that big brands might have learnt that hijacking hashtags isn’t a good idea”
  • Advertising Age – “Kenneth Cole and others in the media and marketing industries not only suffer from a lack of tact, they suffer from a lack of historical knowledge and the ability to grasp that the situation in Egypt could get a hell of lot uglier than it is even at this moment.”
  • Styleite – “Apparently Kenneth Cole knows there’s nothing like a violent political revolution to boost sales!”

Brenna Ehrlich at Mashable:

Cole made a similarly indelicate statement in the past; following 9/11, he told the New York Daily News: “Important moments like this are a time to reflect… To remind us, sometimes, that it’s not only important what you wear, but it’s also important to be aware.”

The Twitterverse, unsurprisingly, is not happy with Cole’s 140-character missive. A fake account — @KennethColePR, à la @BPGlobalPR — has even cropped up, mocking the designer with such tweets as: “Our new slingback pumps would make Anne Frank come out of hiding! #KennethColeTweets.”

Amy Odell at New York Magazine:

Since the Tweet caused mass offense around the Internet, a Kenneth Cole parody account @KennethColePR emerged. Its tweets include, “‘People from New Orleans are flooding into Kenneth Cole stores!’ #KennethColeTweets.” Also: “People of Haiti, fall into our store for earth-shattering savings! #KennethColeTweets.” Not to be outdone by: “Hey, Pope Benedict – there’s no way to fondle our spring shoes inappropriately! #KennethColeTweets.”An hour ago, the pranksters got serious, tweeting that they would turn over the fake account to the brand if they made a donation to Amnesty International or another charitable organization. And still, a quick scan of the Kenneth Cole Facebook wall reveals a lot of people thought that Cairo tweet was funny anyway.

Adam Clark Estes in Salon:

Oh, Kenneth.

Unspoken rule No. 1: Don’t make jokes about tragedies. You’ve donethis sort of thingbefore — mixing up bad puns and profundity. It’s oh-so-tempting to try to make light of grim situations, sad stories and global traumas. Don’t try to make it funny. That’s what comedians are for. Kenneth Cole is a fashion designer known for sharp-looking dress shoes, not sharp wit.

Unspoken rule No. 2: Don’t make marketing gimmicks out of tragedies. This is just like rule No. 1 but more directed at Kenneth Cole. When the world’s attention is fixated on one event, sometimes it’s not the best idea to jump up and down with the “Look at me!” routine. The unrest in Egypt isn’t the Super Bowl. It’s a troubling story with historical implications. Nobody wants to hear about your spring slacks.

Chris Morran at The Consumerist:

When you think of Kenneth Cole, you probably don’t associate the apparel brand with edgy, topical humor. And you probably won’t ever again, after the company stuck its shiny leather shoe in its mouth with a Tweet referencing the current political upheaval in Egypt.

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Filed under Fashion, Middle East, New Media

That’s My Chocolate Cake Recipe, Dammit!

Erik Hayden at The Atlantic with the round-up. Hayden:

When Chuck Schumer reintroduced the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Prevention Act in Congress, industry insiders hailed it as a breakthrough for high-end fashion designers looking to protect their work from the copycats and ripoffs that inevitably appear after a trend comes into vogue. But as opinion begins to trickle in about the proposed legislation, some critics are bit more skeptical about the merits of the bill.

Rather than encouraging innovation, skeptics argue that fashion copyrighting could ensure certain designers maintain a monopoly on fashion trends and stifle the need for constant reinvention.

Matthew Yglesias:

Oftentimes, discussions of copyright policy hinge on hypotheticals. What if you couldn’t copyright recordings of songs? What would happen then? Maybe nobody would record new songs. Or maybe the quality of new recordings would be abysmally low. What would we listen to then? Won’t somebody think of the children?

Fortunately, in the realm of fashion we don’t need to speculate. We know what a world without fashion copyrights would look like, because we live in one today and we’ve always lived in one. It’s a world full of innovation in the field of design, and also full of various kinds of knock-off. Fashion leaders introduce new concepts, and cheaper imitators come along and follow the pack. In order to remain distinctive, the leaders are driven to further imitate. Meanwhile, everybody has plenty of clothes and styles in tie-width, skirt-length, etc. oscillate around. Yet somehow fashion designers and the members of congress who love them keep coming back to Washington looking for government-sponsored monopolies. The latest version of legislation to allow fashion copyrights has Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Hatch, Graham, and Hutchison as co-sponsors along with lead author Chuck Schumer.

Ezra Klein at Newsweek:

We’re used to the logic of copyright. Movies, music, and pharmaceuticals all use some form of patent or copyright protection. The idea is simple: if people can’t profit from innovation, they won’t innovate. So to encourage the development of stuff we want, we give the innovators something very valuable—exclusive access to the profit from their innovations. We’ve so bought into the logic that we allow companies to patent human genes.

And companies love copyright. They love it so much they persuaded Congress to pass the Sonny Bono Act, which extended individual copyright protections to the life of the author, plus another 70 years; and corporate copyrights to 120 years from creation, or 95 years from publication, whichever is earlier. That’s an absurdly long time, and it belies the original point of patents: does anyone seriously believe that a 40-year-old with a money-making idea is going to hold back because someone can mimic it 20 years after he dies?

At a certain point, copyrights stop protecting innovation and begin protecting profits. They scare off future inventors who want to take a 60-year-old idea and use it as the foundation to build something new and interesting. That’s the difficulty of copyrights, patents, and other forms of intellectual protection. Too little, and the first innovation won’t happen. Too much, and the second innovation—the one relying on the first—will be stanched.

Which is why we have to be careful when one industry or another demands more copyright protection for itself. “Intellectual property is legalized monopoly,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School. “And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability. We should have a high burden of proof for whether it’s necessary.”

Drug development probably meets the burden of proof. It costs hundreds of millions of dollars to bring a drug to market. If Pfizer could just copy the drugs Novartis develops, Novartis wouldn’t have much reason to develop drugs.

Recipes don’t. You can’t patent dessert. Just ask Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Years ago, he created a chocolate cake with a molten core of liquid chocolate. The recipe became a sensation. Which meant it appeared on menus all across the country, with no credit to JGV. That’s a bummer for its creator, but a boon to all of us who don’t live in New York. We get to eat it anyway. And yet innovation continues apace in the food world. JGV is still a rich man. We can have our cake and eat it, too. (Sorry, sorry.)

Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

We’ve discussed over and over and over again how the fashion industry absolutely thrives without copyright protection. In fact, much of the research shows that it thrives because of the lack of copyright. The lack of copyright in fashion does a few useful things: (1) it actually helps disseminate concepts faster, creating important trends that drive the industry forward (2) it helps create important customer segmentation in the market, which actually increases the value of top designers (3) it drives fashion designers to be more innovative and to keep innovating. And all of it works. The fashion industry is highly dynamic, rapidly innovating and highly competitive. So it seems absolutely contrary to basic common sense to introduce a copyright law aimed at adding copyright to fashion.

So, of course, fashion designers and politicians keep doing it. Pretty much every year Chuck Schumer trots out just such a bill, and this year is no different. Reader Steve Phillips points us to the announcement of the bill being introduced and ReallyEvilCanine points us to a celebratory post by a professor who was involved in drafting the bill. This time around the bill has Senators Boxer, Feinstein, Hatch, Graham & Hutchison as co-sponsors, so there’s quite a bit of firepower, as they seek to build up protectionist policies that may benefit a few top designers, but will significantly harm up-and-comers. Just as we’ve seen throughout history, intellectual property protections lag innovation, rather than cause it. That’s because the top players in the space use those laws to reduce, not enhance, competition. This is no exception.

Of course, Schumer’s been unable to shove through this disaster-in-waiting the past few times he’s tried, so hopefully it goes nowhere again, but if you want to see regulatory capture in action, here you go. In the meantime, if this should actually go through, we eagerly await the first major supporter of the bill getting caught copying someone else’s design.

Reihan Salam:

In my opinion, copyright protection is a bad idea in general, but I recognize that this is not a widely shared view. It is, however, fashionable. (Drum roll, please.) Ezra Klein adds a more sober perspective in his Newsweek column:

“Intellectual property is legalized monopoly,” says James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School. “And like any monopoly, its tendency is to raise prices and diminish availability. We should have a high burden of proof for whether it’s necessary.”

We should agree on that at the very least.

If you’re interested in these issues, I strongly recommend checking out Against Intellectual Monopoly, a book by economists Michele Boldrin and David K. Levine. You can read it for free. To get a hint of the myth-shattering that follows, the following is from the Introduction:

In most histories, James Watt is a heroic inventor, responsible for the beginning of the industrial revolution. The factsabove suggest a different interpretation. Watt is one of many clever inventors working to improve steam power in the second half of theeighteenth century. After getting one step ahead of the pack, heremained ahead not by superior innovation, but by superiorexploitation of the legal system. The fact that his business partnerwas a wealthy man with strong connections in Parliament, was not aminor help.

And it was only after the expiration of Watt’s patents that the steam engine really took off.

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Filed under Fashion, The Constitution

Clothes Make The Man, So They Say

Judy Berman at Salon:

Looking back on some of things I thought were a good idea to wear in college, I have to cringe. Culled mostly from thrift stores, my wardrobe involved everything from layered slips worn as skirts to a garish pair of faux snakeskin boots with four-inch platform heels. For a while, my personal motto was, “Every day is Halloween.” But now that the slips have disintegrated and I only keep the shoes around for costume parties, I wouldn’t trade my memories (or photos!) of the fun I had in them for the world. College is a time — and, for some, the only time, between the parental regime of childhood and the repressive dictates of the working world — to figure out who we are and will be, to push our self-images to their logical extreme, just to see what sticks. Clothing is a small but essential part of that process.

That’s why it’s so disheartening to hear that Morehouse College, an all-male, historically African-American school in Atlanta, has instituted a dress code banning this kind of experimentation. The “Appropriate Attire Policy” dictates that students refrain from wearing caps, do-rags, sagging pants, “clothing with derogatory or lewd messages either in words or pictures” and sunglasses (“in class or at formal programs”). Most controversial is the college’s decision to outlaw “clothing usually worn by women (dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.) on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events.”

Now, a few of these guidelines make sense: It’s disrespectful to wear sunglasses in the classroom, where you’re expected to be paying attention to the professor and participating in a discussion with classmates. And depending on how “clothing with derogatory or lewd messages” is defined (and who defines it), that may also be a wise call. But what about the do-rags, sagging pants and ladies’ clothing? Who is that hurting?

Well, for one thing, the drag ban isn’t aimed at what you might assume: preventing frat bros from their typical, occasionally minorly offensive, Homecoming-season cross-dressing hijinks. CNN quotes Dr. William Bynum, Morehouse’s vice president for student services, as saying, “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men.” Bynum also claims that, when he discussed the new policy with Safe Space, the college’s gay group, “Of the 27 people in the room, only three were against it.” It’s interesting, then, that Safe Space’s co-president, in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, calls the drag ban discriminatory. In fact, he says, “Some believe that this restriction is what the entire policy is correlated around.” It’s notable that while most items on the list are banned solely in academic or public buildings, it is now impermissable for Morehouse students to dress in women’s clothing anywhere on campus — even in the privacy of their own dorm rooms.

Queerty:

Morehouse, the HBCU (historically black college/university) in Atlanta, is cracking down on those silly gays who think a college campus is the appropriate place to express themselves. “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men,” says Dr. William Bynum, vice president for Student Services. And what happens if you do show up to class wearing a cute Marni number? You’ll be asked to leave. Keep doing it, and Morehouse will suspend you. The change comes “from the vision of the college’s president” Robert Michael Franklin, Bynum tells CNN, “who wants the institution to create leaders like notable graduates Martin Luther King Jr., actor Samuel Jackson and film director Spike Lee.”

Couple this knee-jerk response with Morehouse’s recent firing of an employee who made fun of that fabulous gay wedding, and we’re not sure what to think of the school’s feelings towards the gays. (Morehouse’s Bynum insists the policy change came after he met with Morehouse Safe Space, the campus’ gay organization, which voted to OK the policy change. “Of the 27 people in the room, only three were against it.”)

It’s all part of President Franklin’s “five wells” campaign. He wants students to be “well read, well spoken, well traveled, well dressed and well balanced.” That’s reasonable. And admirable! But if the trade off is a policy that’s so strict it clamps down on a student’s ability to express his gender identity, we can’t get behind it.

Is wearing pumps in class really going to distract from academia? Only if Morehouse contributes to a campus that ostracizes those individuals. Or they could teach tolerance and acceptance. You know, like that Martin Luther King Jr. fella.

Scott Jaschnik at Inside Higher Ed:

The only vocal opposition to the new rules has come from some gay students on campus. Kevin Webb, co-president of Safe Space @ Morehouse, a gay-straight student alliance, said that under Franklin’s leadership, the college has been more committed to equity for gay students than ever before, and that “as an openly gay student, I feel privileged to have matriculated now.”

Webb said that gay students are divided about the dress code. But although he will not have to change his style, he said he was bothered by the new rules.

For many gay students, fashion is an important part of self-definition, he said. “Once you try to stop people’s expression, everything that is unique about people is going to start to crumble, and you will produce robots, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?”

A few gay Morehouse students do dress in women’s clothing sometimes, and Webb said that should be allowed. While all Morehouse students are covered by the new clothing policy, Webb said he was bothered that a specific rule singled out a style popular only with some gay students. “I think this borders on discrimination,” he said. “While someone can say that it applies the heteronormativity of other students in terms of do-rags and sagging of pants, I can also say that there are gay people who sag their pants and wear their do-rags, but you don’t find people here who identify themselves as straight walking around in feminine garb.”

If male students wear feminine clothing, he asked, “what impact does it have on how intelligent they are, their grade point average and how much community service they do?”

He also questioned the idea that someone who wears more formal clothing is necessarily a better person. “We are focusing too much on the exterior,” he said. “If you put a clown in a suit, he’s still a clown.”

Bynum, the Morehouse vice president, said that he met with Safe Space before the policy went into effect, and he noted that many of the students there supported the change. He said that the policy isn’t about gay students, but about standards for all students. “Morehouse is completely supportive of our gay students. This isn’t about them, but about all students.”

Tim Cavanaugh at Reason:

So while I’ll fight like hell for all-male Morehouse College’s right to enforce its “Appropriate Attire Policy,” I’m skeptical that this is something any institution can control. According to this CNN story, courtesy of Drudge, the school’s new dress code includes some restrictions I wholly applaud, including a ban on wearing hats indoors and pajamas in public. It also prohibits cross dressing.

According to a school official, of the school’s 2,700 students, only a handful — all of them homer-sexuals — are going drag. “We are talking about five students who are living a gay lifestyle that is leading them to dress a way we do not expect in Morehouse men,” says vice president for Student Services William Bynum.

Morehouse is a private school, and it goes without saying that there are countless other colleges for men with a real commitment to fabulousness. Bynum says the campus gay organization voiced no objection to the policy, and presumably living with 2,700 young hunks is enough of a schmaltz barrel that giving up black taffeta is a small price to pay.

Still, it must be noted that the policy is against nature. Men want to dress up like women. You can pass all the rules you want, but men will find a way.

James Joyner:

One can be intelligent and dress like a slob — or someone of the opposite gender.  Conversely, one can dress like an executive and still be a fool.

But Franklin is carrying on a longstanding tradition at places like Morehouse.  Because it was harder for a black man to be considered intelligent or worthy of respect, a culture developed where black men of a certain station tended to dress much better and pay more attention to his manner of speaking than white men of similar status. It’s not as true as it was even twenty years ago — it’s been half a century since Brown and a generation since the Civil Rights Act of 1965 — but vestiges of that tradition remain.  Most black professionals in their 50s or older still tend to pay more attention to their clothing and public image than their white counterparts.

Franklin, Cosby, and Obama clearly want to keep this culture alive.  They realize that young black men running around with their underdrawers showing not only hinder their own chances for advancement but reinforce negative stereotypes.

Beyond that, Morehouse sees itself as something unique.  Being a “Morehouse Man” is more akin to being a graduate of the Citadel or VMI than of, say, one of the Ivies.  It’s a brand, not just an institution of higher education. And they want Morehouse men to project an image of success and professionalism.  And, it would seem, manliness.

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Filed under Education, LGBT

Dedicated Followers Of Fashion

obama-tieliess

(We nicked both these photos from James Joyner.)

Joyner also did a lot of this round-up, but we’ll just repeat it here.

Jon Stonger wants to get rid of the tie:

So the tie is traditional. So are togas, and they look comfy. Why do we still wear the tie?

One possibility is that enough people think that a tie looks good, so it stays in fashion. I understand nothing of fashion (and don’t want to) but this doesn’t seem to make sense. Ties are worn far more often in the context of business or politics then they are by celebrities and movie stars. When you think about it, a tie is really just a colorful piece of cloth hanging from someone’s throat. It makes just as much sense to find shiny objects to stick in our hair or colorful feathers to shove up our ass.

Another possibility is that men just like to be choked. After all, some people like to be tied up, and this is just a different version of that. We’re even honest enough to call it a tie (same word as tying someone’s hands or feet) rather than ‘cravat’ (or ‘noose’). Perhaps I’m deviant because I don’t enjoy the sensation of pressure around my throat. Maybe everyone else gets their jollies from oxygen restriction.

Of course, if you’re going to play S&M asphyxia games at the office, it’s important to have everyone’s consent, and they certainly don’t have mine. If there was a necktie-safeword, I would use it.

I don’t think that most people find ties to be spectacularly fashionable. I don’t think most men find them comfortable. If you had a group of 100 men and you announced that starting tomorrow, all of them were going to have to wear goofy-looking strands of rope wrapped tightly around their throats in order to come to work, they would all refuse.

John Derbyshire has an ode to ties:

I shall be sorry to see the tie disappear. I still have my school ties (both regular and Old Boys) and my college tie. The latter is a replacement. I lost the original on my travels, and went to the tie shop for a replacement. This wasn’t just any tie shop, it was the tie shop, a wonderfully atmospheric old place in Southampton Row, west-central London. The proprietor was a very old man in my college days (mid-1960s); and he was still running the place, and still looked the same, 25 years later when I bought that replacement. It’s possible my imagination has embroidered the memory, but I could swear he used to wear a tail coat in the shop. He could get you any tie at all — club, regiment, school, college, guild, lodge, . . . Last time I was there, my father had just passed away. I asked the old guy if he could supply me with the tie of Dad’s old regiment, the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, already long defunct. He tottered over to an old wooden cabinet, pulled out a drawer, and produced the tie. I almost bought it as a memento, and now wish I had. It would of course have been grossly wrong of me to wear it, not having served in the KSLI myself.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

Derb, I’ve noticed that President Obama frequently forgoes the necktie — lately, even in public appearances. That reminded me — I have no idea why — that the Iranian regime has shunned the necktie ever since Khomeini pronounced it a symbol of Western decadence. I’ve always assumed that’s why Michael Ledeen is often pictured wearing a big, bold tie — you know, as a signal to the other conspirators.

Conor Clarke at Sully’s place:

I too have absolutely no idea why McCarthy would draw such a connection.

James Joyner

Amanda Terkel at Think Progress brings some artwork:

bushties

Terkel:

One of the right wing’s favorite petty complaints about the Obama administration is over its dress code. Former Bush chief of staff Andrew Card has said that President Obama has brought a “kind of locker room experience” to the White House. The Washington Times yesterday published an account from an “observant source” who complained that “[f]lip-flops, tennis shoes, unbuttoned dress shirts with ties, and casual wear are now in style at the White House. Razors are out for men. Many male staffers seem to shave every couple of days.”

The afore mentioned piece in the Washington Times by Jennifer Harper:

“The new Obama staffers, usually no older than 30 years of age, seem to have never heard that loose lips sink ships. Instead of tucking their blue or green White House badges discretely into a shirt pocket as Bush staffers did, the Obama staffers flaunt it in public. And their loud talk is always about shop. We recently listened to White house staffers in a pizza parlor on the 1700 block of G Street discussing details about forthcoming White House policy toward communist China. On another occasion, at Potbelly Sandwiches, we overheard White House staffers discussing details of the upcoming Russian summit and policy toward the Republic of Georgia.”

“The happening and hip Obama staffers look and act like they are on campus. On the afternoon of July 31, three White House staffers were at McReynolds Liquor at 1776 G St. The three loaded up boxes of wine bottles, hard liquor and several bags of ice and carried the party straight into the Old Executive Office Building. Another July day, other young White House staffers were seen carrying two cases of Bud Light out of the White House personnel office.”

“Flip-flops, tennis shoes, unbuttoned dress shirts with ties, and casual wear are now in style at the White House. Razors are out for men. Many male staffers seem to shave every couple of days. While it might seem cute and whimsical to have a young bunch take over the reigns of power, the world is more serious than these folks seem to realize.”

Matthew Yglesias:

A few points. One: Who cares? Second: In all my interactions with White House staff they’ve been impeccably dressed. Three: Who cares? Four: It’s actually incredibly irrational for men to be walking around wearing suits and ties in the DC summer. Five: Who cares? Six: On behalf of bearded Americans I’m offended by the implication that a man with some hair on his face can’t do a serious job. Our greatest president wore a beard!

Back to the necktie debate, Shorts And Pants:

Is your place a business ever “casual” in nature? Does your Corporate policy occasionally “bend” the rules of formal dress for the sake of a more “relaxed” environment? If so, you too can be the President of Iran! Get excited, America. Our President doesn’t always wear a neck-tie, which to some apparently makes him a terrorist.

WE SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE SIGNS COMING. Ladies and gentleman, the demise of National Review continues in full swing.

How many people will rise up in rage about this issue? The pitch forks will come out of the barn, and the next episode of Animal Farm shall commence in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. That’s a hell of a lot faster than a NASA launch.

Onward from neckties to shorts (see, that’s why we ended with shorts and pants, for the nice segue possibilities.)

michelle-obama-shorts

Robin Givhan at WaPo:

Obama, who joined the president and their two daughters for an excursion to the national park, looked like any other American tourist. Indeed, many sad-sack sightseers could take a few lessons from her style. The shorts fit her figure; she was not wearing a souvenir top that read: “My family went to Washington and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.” She was not sporting a fanny pack. Or wearing beaten-up rubber flip-flops. She looked fine.

But that doesn’t make the ensemble okay.

(Kind and civil enemies of fashion: Do I have more pressing concerns on my to-discuss list? Yes, I do. But I’m sandwiching this in between negotiating world peace and restricting short selling on Wall Street.)

[…]

The image of Obama in her shorts was strikingly modern. And for a long time, modern was not a word typically associated with the role of first lady. The women who have most recently occupied that nebulous position often seemed terribly constrained by its traditions, by the contradictory demands of the public, by the desire to do the nation proud and by the need to live a fulfilling and authentic life. Balancing all that is impossible, and so these women have cherry-picked some things that are inviolable and gone on from there. The public has been free to applaud or criticize each woman’s choices. The resulting analysis has had first ladies declared, among other things: elitist, dowdy and tragic victims of chauvinism.

Bringing up the subject of the current first lady’s shorts — indeed even admitting to noticing them — already has people booting up their laptops and taking big, gulping swigs of self-righteousness before firing off e-mails and tweets declaring the whole discussion pointless. But until the West Wing — and not the East — starts regularly fielding inquiries regarding china patterns, decorators and the menu for upcoming White House dinners and luncheons, the first lady will be burdened with matters of aesthetics. And her person remains the primary device in communicating her philosophy.

Anya Strzemien at Huffington Post:

When we asked readers on Monday whether it was appropriate for the first lady to wear shorts on Air Force One, nearly 13,000 opinions poured in. In response to the question “Does Michelle Obama have the right to bare legs?,” 59% of readers voted “Absolutely,” while 25% believed it was fine, but suggested she wear longer shorts next time. Only 17% said that shorts are inappropriate for a first lady.

Joan at Right Fashions:

The Obama’s were reportedly visiting the Grand Canyon. Sounds like a reasonable place to wear shorts, eh? I personally think she has a very keen sense of fashion, something that’s very refreshing after some of the frumpy First Ladies we’ve seen recently.

But who really thought the shorts were too short? Some feel it is the product of a slow news-month, and that there is really no evidence of any outrage over the shorts at all. One poll, conducted by the Chicago Tribune, found that over 80% responded that they were perfectly appropriate.

Claudine Zap:

No doubt about it. This story’s got legs. The first lady took a look-see at the Grand Canyon with her family this weekend while the rest of the country got a good look at her gams. Michelle Obama braved the blistering Arizona sun with an even braver style of shorts.

This winter we got a view of the fashionista-in-chief’s powerful arms, and now there’s proof that she’s got stems to match. The bare legs set off a firestorm of buzz on the Web, with looky-loos typing in “michelle obama short shorts” into the Search box.

James Joyner:

This is probably a no-win situation for Mrs. Obama.  Had she disembarked wearing a sun dress or linen Bermudas, critics would have scoffed that she was an elitist who didn’t know how to dress for a hike.

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Filed under Political Figures

Personally, I Think Senators Should Be Wearing Breeches And Powdered Wigs

Paula Marantz Cohen, who makes it to the NYT Ideas blog:

When did the immodest bathing suit come into fashion? The idea of bathing in public places began in the 18th century as seaside vacations came into vogue. In the beginning, the favored mode of dress for the beach was even more modest than that of daily life: People wore bathing “costumes” — one dressed rather than undressed in approaching the water in the vicinity of strangers. Women sometimes put weights in the hems of their garments to make sure they wouldn’t ride up — if one drowned, one did so modestly. I especially like the 19th-century practice of having horse-drawn cabanas come to the edge of the ocean so that women could emerge unseen. No wet T-shirt contests for them.

If I were to choose my swimming apparel from another era, it would be the one I’ve seen featured from 1910: a two-piece jersey ensemble complete with stockings (wonderful for camouflaging cellulite). But even in the 1950s and early ’60s, there remained a minimal sort of propriety, helped by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello’s championship of the one-piece.

What happened? When did we throw pudeur to the winds?

We laugh at the old bathing costumes, but we should be laughing at ourselves. It’s a lot more ridiculous to see her thunder thighs and his man breasts. I acknowledge that as Americans we’re ahead of Europeans, who have reduced the bathing suit to a jock strap, for men and women alike. But just because Europeans act like damn fools doesn’t excuse us from being a few inches of spandex less foolish. Haven’t we learned anything about the Euro-capacity for knuckleheaded behavior after two world wars?

Rob Horning at Marginal Utility:

It seems crazy that bathing suits are so immodest. Why don’t we wear dignified bathing costumes like they did in the olden days? “We laugh at the old bathing costumes, but we should be laughing at ourselves. It’s a lot more ridiculous to see her thunder thighs and his man breasts.” Yes, there is something shameful about prurient self-display. Let’s close up the beaches until common decency returns!

Then I mentioned the article to a friend, and she said patiently that it would be extremely uncomfortable to actually try to swim in one of those Victorian get-ups, and that the reason swimsuits have become more immodest is in part because they are more functional that way. It’s not necessarily some crazed conspiracy to humiliate women concocted by the bathing-suit industrial complex. It’s quite possible that the article is entirely ironic.

[…] It’s easy to fall into the trap of conflating prudishness with proper respect for the mysteries of life, easy to imagine that widespread modesty might lead to a restoration of the link between sexual passion and some kind of holy transcendence like you read about in euphemistically engorged D.H. Lawrence novels. Maybe the bare ankle could again stoke the fire in the loins and heat our elemental urges and forge our link to the divine. Or maybe not. But the body of iconography that we know associate with the Victorian period—bathing costumes, etc.—exist to service those longings we may occasionally have for an era in which desire was more difficult to arouse and therefore must have seemed much more precious. Now, of course, an elaborate industry of persuasion and an ever-more infiltrative media apparatus works to keep us in a perpetual state of desiring from which it’s hard to garner relief. Victoriana offers a fantasy of escape into an era of less intensive marketing, where desire felt sacred because it was much easier to believe it was generated from deep within oneself.

Conor Friedersdorf at Sully’s place:

If by “unseemly” the author means that adults in bathing suits are transgressing against accepted standards, she is obviously wrong, and if she means something more — that the human body is inherently shameful, and needs to be more thoroughly covered — her argument is scarcely better. Humanity’s aesthetic preferences about weight and body type are variable as a matter of historical record. Social norms about nudity vary widely across time and culture. The fact that Americans embrace the two piece bikini, Europeans sunbathe topless without a fuss, and Saudi Arabia cloaks its women in the most modest garb imaginable refutes the notion that “modesty” is the marker of a healthy society.

Patrick Appel (at Sully’s)

Meh. What’s so wrong with a little skin?

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Burka Brouhaha, En Francais

burka

Sarkozy and the Burka (or Burqa).

Jill Lawrence in Politics Daily:

From the Associated Press:

“In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity,” Sarkozy said to extended applause at the Chateau of Versailles, southwest of Paris. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it’s a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement — I want to say it solemnly,” he said. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”

From the New York Times:
“The issue of the burqa is not a religious issue, it is a question of freedom and of women’s dignity,” Mr. Sarkozy said. “The burqa is not a religious sign, it is a sign of the subjugation, of the submission of women.”

Charles Johnson at LGF

Saira Khan in The Mail

And yet, as a British Muslim woman, I abhor the practice and am calling on the Government to follow the lead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and ban the burkha in our country.

The veil is simply a tool of oppression which is being used to alienate and control women under the guise of religious freedom.

My parents moved here from Kashmir in the 1960s. They brought with them their faith and their traditions – but they also understood that they were starting a new life in a country where Islam was not the main religion.

My mother has always worn traditional Kashmiri clothes – the salwar kameez, a long tunic worn over trousers, and the chador, which is like a pashmina worn around the neck or over the hair.

When she found work in England, she adapted her dress without making a fuss. She is still very much a traditional Muslim woman, but she swims in a normal swimming costume and jogs in a tracksuit.

Jessica Valenti at Feministing:

Banning the burqa doesn’t further women’s rights – it limits them. Now, obviously there’s a difference in Islamic women’s dress from the hijab to the burqa – but legally banning any of them erases all agency from Muslim women. (I’m especially wary of Sarkozy’s comments and this potential ban given that France banned headscarves from public schools in 2004.)

If you’re interested in hearing Muslim women talking about the hijab, here are a couple of interesting vids.

Amad at Muslim Matters:

This French President, described in a recent book (failed to be blocked from publication — so much for free speech!) as an uncaring father and a womanizer wants to now tell Muslim women how to dress. I’d like to ask Sarkozy that if he can tell us how we should dress, then under equal rights of the “republic”, why can’t Muslims tell French women how not to dress?  We are even willing to donate some extra clothing material to help the near-nudity on display everyday in this model nation!

For a President to devote significant time to the hijab in an important speech to the Parliament, the first one since the 19th century, is a clear indication that Sarkozy is running out of ideas to save the country from its economic and social ills. By letting the public focus on a clearly divisive issue, but one whose inherent prejudice bonds French citizens across the political spectrum, Sarkozy wants to use this “coalition of bigots” to distract the public from real problems.

At The Corner, Veronique de Rugy:

I have mixed feelings about this one. I am generally against all prohibition, and I am against encroachments of the freedom or religion. However, I also have read enough (here for instance) about the treatment and condition of Muslim women to find the Burqa troublesome (as the visible sign of their oppression).

Andrew Stuttaford

That said, although almost all societies do enact dress codes that reflect their notions of decency, banning the burqa from the street seems to me to be both a step too far and, quite possibly, counter-productive. What Sarkozy should do, however, is ensure that his fellow-citizens are as free to criticize the burqa as he is. In a country that stamps on free speech in the name of combatting the bogeyman of “Islamophobia,” it’s by no means clear that this indeed the case.
And more Stuttaford
Ambrose Burnside at Daily Kos:

The question remains, though.  Would a ban of the burqa be a women’s rights victory?  Or a regressive act that would stifle the free will of women who wish to wear the burqa?  Personally, I’m not in favor of banning any sort of clothing, religiously based or not, with a few exceptions such as making people remove face-coverings for ID photos, court appearances, for the police, and similar situations.

If a woman wants to wear a burqa out in public, and she’s doing it completely by her own free will, there is no reason why she shouldn’t be able to and a law banning the burqa would be a slap in the face for women’s rights.

However, if it turns out that women generally only wear the burqa to avoid being abused by jealous males, banning the burqa would be an important step toward women advancing in society.

UPDATE: Freddy Gray in TAC:

In 2003, when France decided to ban the Islamic veil from schools, there was at least an arguable case that state schools represented a public – and therefore necessarily secular — space. But to propose that hijab and niqab be expelled from French society is a more radical idea, one that carries a strong whiff of secular absolutism.

Sarkozy says that the Islamic veil is “not the French republic’s idea of women’s dignity.” Of course it isn’t. It would be a great shame if all French women began covering their faces. (Imagine if we could not behold the elegant features of Sarkozy’s wife, Carla Bruni.) But is it not an equal, or even greater, affront to women’s independence to demand that they show their faces? What if a woman chooses to hide her face from the world? Is that not a legitimate expression of her freedom, religious or otherwise?

UPDATE #2: Michelle Goldberg in American Prospect:

A ban on burqas would, of course, be unthinkable in the American context, because our understanding of church state separation, and of free speech, is quite different than the one prevailing in France. “Here in America, the separation of church and state is about the protection of religion from the state,” Scott says. “In France, the idea is to protect individuals from the claims of religion. The state can intervene on behalf of individuals when they are thought to be oppressed by some communal group.”

Yet such state interventions can end up working against individual women. Last year, for example, a Moroccan woman married to a French man was denied French citizenship because she wore a burqa at her husband’s request. The ruling declared her “radical practice of her religion (and) behavior in society incompatible with the essential values of the French community, notably the principle of equality between the sexes.” According to the scholar Cécile Laborde, political parties, intellectuals and journalists praised the decision almost unanimously.

Likewise, Sarkozy’s prospective burqa ban has significant feminist support, including the backing of the feminist group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, or Neither Whores Nor Doormats, which has its roots in France’s Muslim ghettos. It’s worth taking the position of Ni Putes Ni Soumises seriously, since the struggle against Islamic fundamentalism has been, for them, a matter of life and death. Like the Somali-Dutch feminist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, their activism serves as a crucial corrective to multicultural pieties.

Ultimately, though, there’s no evidence that most burqa-clad French women regard themselves as oppressed. “There are women who wear burqas who are not being forced by anyone, who think that form of modesty is appropriate for who they want to be in the world,” says Scott. “It’s hard to distinguish between them and those who are being forced.” And so in the end, a ban putatively passed to further women’s rights could instead impinge on their freedom, and take from them something they value. Even worse, it could lead to those in the most fundamentalist of households being trapped inside their homes altogether. It would be cruel to limit these women’s options in the name of liberation, even if their clothes are a rebuke to the secularism that the French rightly hold sacred.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias:

A woman whose husband and/or other male relations have enough power over her to force her into a burqa against her will is only going to be forced by those same men further underground by this sort of rule. The only kind of person who would be genuinely unveiled by this kind of legal measure would be someone with enough autonomy to be in a position to choose compliance with the law over compliance with tradition. The French have a strong tradition not just of secularism, but of a kind of illiberal egalitarianism that holds that everyone should really be the same, and I think it tends to push them toward measures like this that don’t ultimately help anyone.

UPDATE: Julian Sanchez

UPDATE: James Kirchick at Commentary

UPDATE: Now the burquini has been banned. New York Times.

UPDATE: Christopher Hitchens in Slate

Shikha Dalmia at Forbes

UPDATE: Ryan Brown at Salon

Jim Newell at Gawker

Rod Dreher

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A Blipster, A Hipster, A Buppie, A Yuppie and A Bobo Walk Into A Bar…

blipsterbingo

The Blipsters: Black hipsters. The blipster.info website.

The piece by Dayo Olopade at The Root:

So just what is a black hipster—a “blipster” or “alt-black”? Like many recent cultural trends, this one straddles race, politics, fashion and art. For the purposes of discussion, we’ll stick with men (though I have seen some Flock of Seagulls-looking black females out and about of late). As Lauren Cooper, a Howard University graduate who admits to an indie lifestyle, puts it, “It’s probably easier to pick out a black male ‘blipster’ than a female.”

Simply put: The racial archetypes that had defined the last 15 years of masculine street style have given way to a radically new aesthetic. Gone are the extra-long T-shirts, saggy jeans and Timbs long favored by young black men. They haven’t swapped them for the mopey, emo tees once favored by young whites. Rather, urban youth of all colors now rock snug pants, bright, oversized graphic tees, spotless vanity sneakers and hats with brims flatter than Kansas.

And a skateboard, too, if you can hack it. More than anything, these black hipsters are the “Kick, Push” generation. Just as “swagga” has gone mainstream, the racially ambiguous fashion statements of Lupe Fiasco, Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D. or black skateboarder Steve Williams have become a prominent urban aesthetic, from mallrats in San Diego to grown men in Chicago.

Her conversation with Reihan Salam on the subject at Bloggingheads.

Bold As Love on the Olopade piece:

Problem is that the writer misses the larger point by overemphasizing fashion in his analysis.  Moreover, while he references “indie music”, many of his prominent music examples tend to be hip hop ones (hipster rap, courtesy of Lupe Fiasco and Kanye), so it feels like the implication is that skaters and rappers got together and spawned this trend.  Maybe that’s true.  From a certain perspective.  But you and I know that there was a lot of rock influencing this trend.

Le Chic Batik:

I like that in response to the article someone comments  about pointing out the irony of black kids dressing like white kids, who are in turn dressing like Black and Latino kids from the ’80s. This article lumps together all Black people who do unusual things and calls them “Blipsters”, which is unfortunate, especially since “blipster” sounds like a foot callous.

Chris Bodenner at Andrew Sullivan links to her and to the Root slideshow.

The New York Times article from 2007 on the Blipster phenom.

At Gawker, The Assimilated Negro on the NYT piece:

While illuminating the general populace to the fact that some of us with melanin actually cop to enjoying Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is a noble cause worthy of a national holiday, we think the piece is not diligent enough in playing devil’s advocate with these stereotype-busters.

[…]Of course, I go out in bummy clothes and dirty sneakers all the time, and I’d say the subtext to that revolutionary decision is more economical; I’m broke. So I’d tell Nelson George, and the Times, it’s not just the Buppies, Baps, and Boho’s, don’t forget the Blomedians, Blancers, Blunk-rockers, Bloths, Blezebels, Blultural Blapists, and um, Bloggers. We may all be walking around with dirty shredded jeans, but that doesn’t necessarily make it cool. Blool maybe, but not cool. Not at blall.

The “Blipster” conversation also lead into a conversation concerning:

hipster-bingo

Carl Wilson, reacting to a column by Russell Smith on hipsters:

I’m not particularly concerned to defend the hipster, in the sense of the class fragment vaguely gestured at there. But for any anti-hipster screed to qualify as anything but a full-on strawman-torching session providing a smokescreen for a riot of unprocessed anxieties, I’d like to find a writer able to identify, say, three so-called hipsters by name and provide some minimal grounding of generalizations in fact. Even anecdotally. If you actually ask almost anyone five or six questions, I bet they’d soon complicate the stereotype beyond recognition. (As Margaux Williamson’s Teenager Hamlet film in many ways shows.) There are no hipsters, only anti-hipsters – or at least the ratio is approximately the same as that of actually existing Satanists to anti-Satanists during the heavy-metal and Goth panics of the 1980s and 1990s. The question is what in turn the hipster allows the anti-hipster to deny, and what’s being lost in that continuing deferral.

Richard Florida links to Chris on the blipsters and to Wilson and says:

There was a time when this kind of self-expression signified something more than fashion. Today, hipsterism has become just one of several archetypal uniforms – pin-striped banker, polo-wearing preppie, khaki-clad techie, and the like.

Brian Frank:

Richard Florida points to a familiar article about “blipsters” — “black hipsters.” Which is funny, now that I think of it, because the original hipsters were known as [correction: I meant, later known as] “white negroes”:

Later periods of hip convergence include the 1910’s and 20’s, when the radical bohemians of Greenwich Village and the renaissancers of Harlem fed off each other’s energy, and the midcentury heyday of Beat and bebop, two outsider movements that set the stage for the huge (albeit unhip) counterculture juggernaut of the 1960’s. (Norman Mailer’s famous essay from the height of Beat-bebop convergence, ”The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster,” was essentially a sketch for ”Hip: The History,” and is duly mentioned in the introduction.) [David Kamp, NY Times: 2004]

At Sully’s, Florida again.

The Assimilated Negro with more thoughts:

Hipsters are all about post-modern, post-ironic. They are acutely self-reflexive and self-conscious. They are a byproduct of the information generation. There is no longer any external advantage to be gained if we all have access to the same information/power. So the end result is to look internal. To go meta. This sensibility, more than anything else, may be the distinguishing characteristic for a hipster. It is the essence of the “cool” that fuels the hipster locomotive. And this coolness translates to music, fashion, and partying in many ways, as demonstrated by Byron’s great hipster-bingo chart.

(As a related thought, but one too involved to explore in this post, I also see hipsters representing a break from the Christian morality of previous generations, to a more Nietzschean worldview. The hipster sensibility springs from a “will to power” value system, as opposed to a judeo-christian (generally speaking) value system. Hipsters like niche. They like “individual”, which is essentially the ultimate niche. This is notwithstanding the fact that “counter-culture” always eventually morphs into “culture” thereby undermining its own agenda. So they turn away from the external crutch of religion and look to themselves. Sort of an ironic self-help generation.)

I know I missed posts on this topic, will update if I find more.

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