Tag Archives: Fashion

Stasi Style

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Foreign Policy magazine is carrying a rather funny set of photographs gleaned from Stasi (East German secret police) records. They were originally intended as tools to aid agents in remaining inconspicuous in public while carrying out their duties:

A portly man wearing a cranberry-colored cardigan stands uncomfortably still, his hands clasped together over the paunch of his belly. Behind tinted sunglasses his downcast gaze is awkward, avoidant. But wait, there he is again … or is he? This man in the next frame — possibly, obviously the same man — in a long shaggy brown coat and Ushanka style faux-fur cap, is wearing the same sunglasses but now there’s a dark swipe of a mustache under his nose that wasn’t there before.

There are others just like him posing in self-conscious stance with impassive expressions — a tourist impossibly conspicuous in bright red pants, outfitted with not one but two cameras; a somber-faced woman in casual jeans and a forgettable black leather jacket is later “transformed” donning a lush winter coat, her hair tucked under a fur cap, gold earrings dangling. These men and women were trained to blend in; they were trained to infiltrate, observe, and inform. They were Stasi agents, part of the East German secret police.

Stasi Style!   [ForeignPolicy]

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Historical Figures Today

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On The Telegraph, a series of famous historical figures are re-imagined. The project was commissioned by the historical TV channel Yesterday, and gives a sense of how these people would have appeared if they were alive today. Pictured above is King Henry VIII:

Renowned for being vain and lavish, King Henry has been given white veneers and hair plugs to hide his balding head.

Known to flaunt his wealth, is now out of his voluminous puffed sleeve velvet gown and in a tailored designer black suit, wearing a sparkling diamond ring and designer watch.

Instead of the cotton shirt fastened up to the chin he now sports an unbuttoned shirt Simon Cowell style and is very much the modern day lady killer.

An avid sportsman and known for being conceited he has been slimmed down. Henry’s vanity would have ensured he would have retained the naturally muscly, rugby-player type figure he had in his youth.

Known for having spent a lot of time outdoors riding, hunting, and playing tennis, Henry VIII has also been given a tan.

Henry has exchanged his uncomfortable flat footed shoes for modern shoes with a heel.

Historical Figures for the 21st Century   [TheTelegraph]

Static Culture

Writing in Vanity Fair, Kurt Andersen argues that there’s been no significant change in popular culture in the West in 20 years – a very strange thing indeed.

The past is a foreign country. Only 20 years ago the World Wide Web was an obscure academic thingamajig. All personal computers were fancy stand-alone typewriters and calculators that showed only text (but no newspapers or magazines), played no video or music, offered no products to buy. E-mail (a new coinage) and cell phones were still novelties. Personal music players required cassettes or CDs. Nobody had seen a computer-animated feature film or computer-generated scenes with live actors, and DVDs didn’t exist. The human genome hadn’t been decoded, genetically modified food didn’t exist, and functional M.R.I. was a brand-new experimental research technique. Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden had never been mentioned in The New York Times.China’s economy was less than one-eighth of its current size. CNN was the only general-interest cable news channel. Moderate Republicans occupied the White House and ran the Senate’s G.O.P. caucus.

Since 1992, as the technological miracles and wonders have propagated and the political economy has transformed, the world has become radically and profoundly new. (And then there’s the miraculous drop in violent crime in the United States, by half.) Here is what’s odd: during these same 20 years, the appearance of the world (computers, TVs, telephones, and music players aside) has changed hardly at all, less than it did during any 20-year period for at least a century. The past is a foreign country, but the recent past—the 00s, the 90s, even a lot of the 80s—looks almost identical to the present. This is the First Great Paradox of Contemporary Cultural History.

Think about it. Picture it. Rewind any other 20-year chunk of 20th-century time. There’s no chance you would mistake a photograph or movie of Americans or an American city from 1972—giant sideburns, collars, and bell-bottoms, leisure suits and cigarettes, AMC Javelins and Matadors and Gremlins alongside Dodge Demons, Swingers, Plymouth Dusters, and Scamps—with images from 1992. Time-travel back another 20 years, before rock ’n’ roll and the Pill and Vietnam, when both sexes wore hats and cars were big and bulbous with late-moderne fenders and fins—again, unmistakably different, 1952 from 1972. You can keep doing it and see that the characteristic surfaces and sounds of each historical moment are absolutely distinct from those of 20 years earlier or later: the clothes, the hair, the cars, the advertising—all of it. It’s even true of the 19th century: practically no respectable American man wore a beard before the 1850s, for instance, but beards were almost obligatory in the 1870s, and then disappeared again by 1900. The modern sensibility has been defined by brief stylistic shelf lives, our minds trained to register the recent past as old-fashioned.

You Say You Want a Devolution?   [Vanity Fair]

Want Your Boy to Tuck in His Shirt?

From an unknown magazine, circa the 1940’s, comes this advice for mothers whose sons won’t keep their shirts properly tucked in.

[via]

The Pajama Game Closes in Shanghai

The New York times has a great op-ed on Shanghai’s efforts to crack down on residents wearing pajamas everywhere as they prepare for the 2010 World Expo:

Catchy red signs reading “Pajamas don’t go out of the door; be a civilized resident for the Expo” are posted throughout the city. Volunteer “pajama policemen” patrol the neighborhoods, telling pajama wearers to go home and change. Celebrities and socialites appear on TV to promote the idea that sleepwear in public is “backward” and “uncivilized.”

But many residents disagree. Pajamas — not the sexy sleepwear you find at Victoria’s Secret, but loose-fitting, non-revealing PJs made of cotton or polyester — have been popular in Shanghai since the late 1970s, when Deng Xiaoping, then China’s leader, sought to modernize the economy and society by “opening up” to the outside world. The Chinese adopted Western pajamas without fully understanding their context. Most of us had never had any dedicated sleepwear other than old T-shirts and pants. And we thought pajamas were a symbol of wealth and coolness.

Shanghainese began wearing them to bed — but kept them on to walk around the neighborhood, mainly out of convenience. At that time in Shanghai, people lived in crammed, communal-style quarters in shikumen — low-rise townhouses in which families shared toilets and kitchens. Through the 1980s and ’90s, the average person had less than 10 square meters of living area. To change out of one’s pajamas just to walk across the road to the market would be too troublesome and unnecessary.

The Pajama Game Closes in Shanghai [NYTimes]

Fashion Waste

The New York Times has a piece worth reading about big-name clothing stores (Wal-Mart, H&M) destroying clothing that was returned or didn’t sell before they throw it out presumably so people (like homeless people) don’t get their hands on anything without paying for it. After all, Wal-Mart is only the second most-profitable company in the world. They can’t afford to be too generous.

It is winter. A third of the city is poor. And unworn clothing is being destroyed nightly.

A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed [NYTimes]

A Clothing Clearance Where More Than Just the Prices Have Been Slashed

Russian Cargo

Cool T-shirt! The name on the ship transliterates as ‘Alexey’, the first name of the creator of Tetris.

Russian Cargo [Threadless]