Friday, April 24, 2009

George F. Will, Daniel Akst, Down with Demon Denim and to hell with popular American culture

(Above: The reason why America is a land without civilization, and is in a desperate economic slump. No, it's not the nudity you clowns, it's the denim).

The issue of snobbery having been raised recently, I was very disturbed at the thought of either not being snobby enough, or maybe being too snobby, or worst of all, being unaware of the latest trends in snobbery.

Last time I worried about snobbery was when I was reading William Makepeace Thackeray's The Book of Snobs, but it seems things have moved along since Victorian times, and I was particularly pleased to be helped out by a couple of modern experts. 

They were incidentally members of mainstream conservative loonery. How's this for starters, courtesy of George F. Will writing in The Washington Post about Demon Denim?

For men, sartorial good taste can be reduced to one rule: If Fred Astaire would not have worn it, don't wear it. For women, substitute Grace Kelly.

That's so sweet and cute. Conservative thought stuck somewhere in a never never land of a Fred Astaire musical, and Grace Kelly in a Hitchcock film of the nineteen fifties.

And why this relapse into the golden age of Hollywood, which once would have been berated for its intrinsic lack of style and LA vulgarity? Well as you'd have guessed, it's the curse of denim.

Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy's catechism of leveling - thou shalt not dress better than society's most slovenly. To do so would be to commit the sin of lookism - of believing that appearance matters. That heresy leads to denying the universal appropriateness of everything, and then to the elitist assertion that there is good and bad taste.

Say what? Clerical vestment for the priesthood? Stephen Colbert has already mined this scribbling for its comedic riches, but wait, there's more, much more, because Will is only doing what cheap, sluttish columnists do - under the guise of good taste - and ripped off, sorry paid homage to,  another columnist bashing denim. And where else would we find another good old fashioned conservative columnist but in a newspaper like The Wall Street Journal? Down With Denim, shrieks Daniel Akst.

Never has a single fabric done so little for so many. Denim is hot, uncomfortable and uniquely unsuited to people who spend most of their waking hours punching keys instead of cows. It looks bad on almost everyone who isn't thin, yet has somehow made itself the unofficial uniform of the fattest people in the world.

It's time denim was called on the carpet, for its crimes are legion. Denim, for instance, is an essential co-conspirator in the modern trend toward undifferentiated dressing, in which we all strive to look equally shabby no matter what the occasion. Despite its air of innocence, no fabric has ever been so insidiously effective at undermining national discipline.

Did Levi Strauss realize the havoc his creation would wreak on the modern world? If hypocrisy had a flag, it would be cut from denim, for it is in denim that we invest our most nostalgic and destructive agrarian longings -- the ones that prompted all those exurban McMansions now sliding off their manicured lawns and into foreclosure, dragging down the global financial system with them. Denim is the SUV of fabrics, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a hulking Land Rover to the Whole Foods Market. Our fussily tailored blue jeans, prewashed and acid-treated to look not just old but even dirty, are really a sad disguise. They're like Mao jackets, an unusually dreary form of sartorial conformity by means of which we reassure one another of our purity and good intentions.

Dearie me, it seems that denim is likely responsible for the GFC, the GEC (whatever), global warming, the melting of ice caps, baby boomers, the obesity epidemic, McMansions, manicured lawns, Maoism, the French use of the guillotine in the revolutionary terror, and our yearning for an agrarian way of life, when we should be hunkered down over our screen culture getting our brain warped by the electricity leaking from the sockets (you are so wrong Susan Greenfield, it's not the intertubes, it's the geeks wearing denim).

Both Will and Akst seem to hanker for the days when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore denim as a symbol of youthful defiance. Unlike billionaire silicon valley hep cats like Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who are just arty crafty reverse snobs posing down when they should be dressing up to reflect their wealth. Say in a nice double breaster, or with spats as modelled by that arch capitalist Scrooge McDuck. 

Wills sees the ubiquitous fabric as symptomatic of deep disorders in the American national psyche. Never mind if his bizarre obsession with a fabric is symptomatic of a deep disorder in his own.

Well of course, this is all part of a light hearted humorous patter, worthy of a Friday wind down. But actually Will sounds like he might be serious, and the self loathing and hatred for American culture is like ... wow man:

Denim is the infantile uniform of a nation in which entertainment frequently features  childlike adults ("Seinfeld," "Two and a Half Men") and cartoons for adults ("King of the Hill"). Seventy-five percent of American "gamers" -- people who play video games -- are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six - so far - "Batman" adventures and "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you). Denim is the "Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps," coming soon to a cineplex near you).

Oh no, not Seinfeld. Not Indie. Not Batman. Six to date! Not to mention the graphic novels and years and years and years of comics and serials and TV shows! How utterly tasteless and juvenile.

So there you go, America is stuffed, American popular culture is derelict and reprehensible, and it's all due to denim.

It reminds me fondly of the time I was told by a Toorak loon that opera shouldn't be subsidized so common people could attend, because it was a waste of money, because common folk couldn't understand or appreciate it. Something to do with their genes. His solution? Charge rich folk more, keep it exclusive, standards would improve and all would be well (and best of all he wouldn't have to mingle with common folk).

Will urges his fellow Americans follow St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians and St. Barack's inaugural sermon by putting away childish things, starting with denim, while Akst demands that the Obama put a hefty sumptuary tax on the stuff.

I've often wondered if deep down American conservatives hated popular American culture, and now I know. They do. They're so good at hating, show them anything and they'll show you how to hate. Even a humble pair of jeans.

Well I guess it's okay for Wills to command his folks to follow him out of the valley of fashion despair and dress like Fred Astaire. But maybe other folks wear jeans because they're cheap (half the price off the rack than in Australia, even allowing for exchange rate issues) and they don't have a wardrobe department fitting them out for a dance in Central Park with Ginger Rogers. 

Ah well bugger off valley girls, we're sooo over you. All you're good for is some idle humor from a conservative prat. Yep poor folks is just such a rich, ripe source of comedy, as conservatives chortle at their ugly, hideous ways.

What troubles me now is that Hal G. P. Colebatch missed out on the real reason Britain's become a totalitarian state. Denim!! Smuggled in from America and adopted by foolish young people who dress like Maoists!

Henceforth when visiting the outer western suburbs, I think I'll shout "Satanist" at anyone wearing denim. It should result in a profitable discussion about why civilization as we know it has come to an end, and with a little luck, we might just be able to turn around this Titanic, and steer it away from the iceberg of fashion follies.

Thank the lord for conservative American columnists. What would we do without them? Coming next week? An explanation of how denim and ugg boots led to McMansions and the collapse of suburban life in Australia? Who's up for it? Just keep it light and amusing and iconoclastic, but make sure you send up the western suburbs shitless ... how we hate them for causing the GFC with their insatiable lust for denim.

(Below: Levi Strauss, the satanist who started it all. And where's the jeans? No jeans here! You working class, burger eating, Indie loving suckers, his company's just using you).

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