Saturday, August 22, 2015

Fashion in Clothing Now Six Feet Under

This week marked the tenth anniversary of the end of the HBO cable-program Six Feet Under

However, I watched the entire five seasons of the show only earlier this year, never having even glimpsed a moment of it before.  

Dead is the New Black.

At the same time, I was reading Retromania, by Simon Reynolds, a British journalist who reports from the U.S., published 2011. It details how modern pop culture has become in the twenty-first century mainly concerned with reviving the past. 

What struck me about Six Feet Under's first two series (dating from 2000 to '02) was how the clothing styles at least were no giveaway to when the series was made. 

Bulky cathode-ray and white-encased computer monitors, and the models of car, more subtly dated the program. 

The word "fashion" in itself is still immediately identified with the sartorial. 

Yet for the past fifteen years or so, clothing has ceased to be a temporal marker of changing taste. 

The apparently undated feel of Six Feet Under is evoked partly by the fact that the sets (such as for the Fisher family’s funeral parlour) are themselves designed in a retro “Prairie” style. 

Even so, the actors are also costumed in a way that would not, to my eye, be out of place if the clothes were worn today. However, no one would be able to dress in the styles of 1987 in 2001, without seeming passe. 

Changes in fashion, with clothing-styles foremost, has (during modern times at least) been fuelled by status-seeking. Chic styles are established by higher-class taste-makers, which are in turn emulated by social climbers on each wrung of the ladder below. 

Radical Chic.

When fashions become identified with a certain class, they are quickly abandoned by those on the strata above. Periodically, the fashionable avant-garde will adopt styles identified with the underclass, so as to prevent imitation by those directly below. 

In the twenty-first century, however, clothing has mostly ceased to be a medium through which people define themselves in terms of status. 

Perhaps it is that clothes have become too inexpensive a means for status-seekers to assume the appearance of those of better station. 

Or maybe it is that the possible variations in style for modern clothing-formats (cuffed pants, front-buttoned shirts, etc.) have been exhausted, and fashion designers have to return to the past to come with anything “new.” 

Being in-fashion now focusses on products other than clothing, it seems. Certain information-technology devices have become chic to be seen with, but are at once too expensive to be easily emulated by the lower classes. 

This is the case with the Apple company’s i-phone devices, which are in no way superior to other “wireless” handheld telephones, and are (speaking from personal experience) a great deal more fragile. 

Nevertheless, anyone with a fashion sense wouldn’t dare to be without one (in spite, or because of, the fact that they cost twice as much as equivalent phones that do the job just as well). 

The disparate meanings placed by the fashion and tech industries on the very word “design”, undergo an odd concurrence here. 

For the garment-industry, the designer is responsible for laying down patterns in cloth and colour, creating an aesthetically-pleasing style for the marketplace. This hasn’t mainly to do with the functional aspects of clothing: fashion-design could be described as “useless” (as much as any art or aesthetic has no use). 

With information-technology, however, the designer is more fundamental to the manufacturing process. His work may well touch on the aesthetic features of a silicon-based device (as is the case with the i-phone and other Apple products), but design in the IT world refers to the technical architecture that makes the device functional in the first place. 

Famously, innovation has occurred far more rapidly in computing technology, than in any other industry. The biannual doubling of computer-power (the “Moore’s law” predicted by a cofounder of Intel in 1965) has rendered state-of-the-art information technology, obsolete within just a few years. 

The bulky, white-encased computer equipment seen in Six Feet Under, was outmoded because of newer, more powerful information-processors soon became available. 

But not merely so: during the time the series was in production, desktop computer-cases went from being all-white (or slightly off-white), to all-black. This was not due to solely improvements in functionality, as instead to the desire to make the desktop computer an invisible part of the decor, by rendering it literally opaque. 

If It's Not a i-phone you're a no-account declasse piece of garbage.

It reflects the personal-computer’s shift from a status symbol (with conspicuous white panelling) to simply another home appliance. As laptop computers became more portable, they were initially marketed in darker colours. 

More recently, however, their cases have been silver-chrome in appearance, making them resemble a jewellery-box or the like. The white or otherwise “ice-cream” tones of the i-phone case, are a striking claim to higher status. 

With clothing, “design” is usually what renders a garment obsolete to wear, long before it becomes worn-out or otherwise dysfunctional as apparel. Obsolescence in computing is also accelerated, by pairing the redesign of basic technical architecture for greater power and efficiency, with changes in the aesthetics of the products themselves.

No comments:

Post a Comment