Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Winter of the deconstructed hoodie

Photographed in Nolita district, New York. (Picture: Shannon Skillem, Nylon magazine)

At the risk of sounding like the Late Show parody of The Sharp, hoodies - are - back! Not that they ever went away. They're one of those things that instantly makes you look hipper, even if you aren't. But this year, we won't just see plain old hoodies. 2005 is going to be the Winter of the Deconstructed Hoodie.

I want to look at three ways of deconstructing the plain hoodie: adding words and images; cutting it up; and reconstructing it. The most obvious way to customise hoodies is to create slogan hoodies. Chris has a wonderful hoodie, which he created himself, that has "Baudrillard" appliqued across the front. Last year I was researching an article about the explosion of specialist t-shirt labels (that my editor butchered so it merely said "whoa, ain't slogan t-shirts subversive!") and I discovered Neighborhoodies. The idea is genius. You tell them what you want on your hoodie, t-shirt, etc, and they'll sew or print it on and deliver the finished garment with a personalised note. It's a business model that I plan to emulate, with modifications, when I finally get Melkwear off the ground.

Then there are cut-up hoodies. Everyone tells me that the Flashdance 80s look - raw-seamed sportswear - is 'over', and people are now wearing tailored or 'ethnic' clothes. But that's not what I see people wearing, and those aren't the hoodies you see in the shops. Industrie has some great 80s-style hoodies with ripped-off sleeves this season (they call them "Raging Bull"), which you can check out online if you can get over the Kevin Federline-esque model.

I think Industrie is the Sportsgirl of menswear. They do some great basic menswear with a slightly edgy quality that always looks quite sharp in the catalogues and the shop windows, but never looks as good on real men. Possibly this is because the layered, structured way that stylists (and hipsters!) construct outfits seems completely alien to the approach of your average dufus: "Duh, I will put some pants on. And then I will put on a top. And then some shoes. I dress me real good."

But Industrie possibly plays the same role for men as Sportsgirl does for women - as a signifier of "fashionability" (or "fashion-ability"!) for those who aren't otherwise adept at fashion semiotics. Just as any chick can go to Sportsgirl and know that she'll be "in fashion", men can go to Industrie, safe in the knowledge that whatever distressed garment they buy will be considered "fashionable".

Here it is worthwhile differentiating between several linked ideas: "fashionable", "cool", "stylish". I should perhaps devote an entire post to this. "Fashionable" implies being on the crest of a wave of deliberate obsolescence; knowing that what you're wearing now won't be acceptable within the symbolic and actual economies of fashion. "Cool" is an ephemeral, aloof form of affect that trades on exclusivity and otherness. The cool person is always the other, because it is fundamentally uncool to call yourself cool. "Stylish" implies a more permanent and idiosyncratic dress sense that works aesthetically in a variety of contexts and fashion cycles.

According to this brief and problematic schema that I've just sketched, Sportsgirl and Industrie are fashion stores. If you pick and choose garments to fit with your own aesthetic, they can also be stylish; but their ubiquity makes them uncool.

But anyway. I also saw a wonderful men's hoodie in a shop on Little Collins Street, which had large circular cut-out panels in the sides. It was designed to be worn with a singlet or something underneath. I was so excited by this look that I went to Savers to try and find a cheap hoodie to cut up and experiment with, but there weren't any I liked. I bought a spotted t-shirt instead.

The final winter hoodie trend I want to point out is the one illustrated by this New Yorker - reconstructed hoodies. I'm fascinated by his Frankenhoodie - it appears to be constructed from two separate garments sewn together. It makes me wonder whether he has a doppelganger wearing the opposite-coloured hoodie. Industrie is doing a version of this, too. Particularly, look out for the pink one that they somewhat alarmingly describe as the "savaged zip" hoodie.

The main characteristic of the reconstructed hoodie is that it toys with the basic hoodie construction. The cut-up hoodie pulls the familiar form apart and creates dynamic absences that are only enhanced by the small traumas of their curling, frayed edges. But the reconstructed hoodie draws its dynamism from the slightly askew way it puts the hoodie form back together - the things it adds, like extra colours and zips.


Glen Fuller said...

I photographed myself after reading this hoodie post first thing this morning! hurrah!

Will Tregoning said...

Glenn, you are fashion fast foward.

Industrie is the kind of stuff where, if you wore it to an extended family barbeque, your family might think you were hip.

...mj said...

That hoodie is the pinnacle of argyle deconstructed into modern streetwear. So minimal, So bold! If i wore bagggy clothes, I'd get my mother to make one!


Glen Fuller said...

Ta Wil!

I assume you are making a cryptic reference to the early 90s comedy tv show.

I am the Steve Vizard of fashion.

(Would I say, 'Hurrah!'? I think I would much more likely say, 'Fuck yeah!' Damn, I must have been tired this morning...)

My prize piece of clothing is a "Harvey Beef" worker's jacket complete with authentic looking dark stains. Are they stains from the limp carcass of the cow mid-slaughter spurting? Blood splattered by a blunt heavy object impacting a boss in a postal worker's nihilist rage? Or were the stains -- no where near a pocket -- from a leaking red biro pen?

Red. A RED biro. Yeah? RED.

Red biro pens exist, of course, but I have certainly never seen a worker... WITH A RED BIRO PEN!

Lucy Tartan said...

Loving the frankenstein hoodie idea. Or how about Exquisite Corpse hoodie, where each player adds a new layer of hoodie without seeing the other layers first? does that even make sense? Frankensteining is sort of how i get dressed in the morning, now i think of it. Minus the neck bolts.

Will Tregoning said...

No No Glen, not that shitty tv show. I mean, you are, like, the future.

Brownie said...

The Politics of Hoodies -
Link to article in London Guardian today about shoppong mall ban on hoodies.,3604,1482816,00.html

p7 said...

hey melk

thanks for the props on the baudrillard hoodie! i also have a stencil of foucault that i neeeed on a tshirt, but that's anodda life...

I too am fascinated by the neighborhoodie concept, and in fact am now the proud owner of a customised wonder - it says 'the prismatic 7' around the hem on the right hand side... remind me to show yer.

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