may 6, 1997
design of everyday things
art history 61
t. kaori kitao
||purple with lots of pockets|
when I recently considered ideal clothing, I observed these influences:
army clothes. stout, comfortable, well-pocketed. well constructed - all seams double stiched. downside is solidity of colour and resulting identification; a young person wearing army clothes casually has a bit of perhaps stale counterculture air lingering about them.
Motorcycle wear, with its body-hugging leather sculpted anatomizing; corresponding pads with the joints, lashing and strapping and buttoning for maximum seal.
this is similar to the aesthetic of the movie "hackers," which i admire for its unabashed playfulness, and respectable attempt to frame an informed, ideal computer hacker aesthetic. hackers unflinchingly proposes a multicultural cooperative worldwide computer community, and the fashion reflects that; hackers also enshrines a computer devotee's love of speed, and maximum flashy utility value, and the fashion reflects that as well.
on the hackers movie web site, producer Janet Graham notes, "The costumes reflected a 'found object' approach, with layers of accessories creating a heightened street look." witness new and old japanese, french, american tourist, military castoff, thrift store fashions. most of the movie, the lead characters seem to have just been rollerblading through manhattan (hence the constant breathlessness and body moisture conveyed by the film) so their fashion here coincides with that of the motorcyclist - padded and streamlined. the difference? colour. these kids mark themselves members of the cult of computing with the most vibrant colours. drab black serves best as a background for highly saturated graphics.
where does hackers fashion fail, or fail this assignment? i'm not observing fashion in action, i'm forming my ideal from someone else's, the LA movie machine, no less (but even for the motorcycle rebels, the Hell's Angels, "Hollywood ... provided the name for the group" (Ruth Rubenstein, Dress Codes, page 203). where are the intersections, where hackers's intuition and action match my own; is this a taste or aesthetic that emerges from too much time online? or too much blade runner? the lineage of computer clothing envisioning would likely dwell largely in science fiction, spend some time with super heroes, vanquish a dragon in a dungeon, visit wired magazine, maybe drop some acid with sixties psychedelia - and certainly occupy the thesis statement of another, larger paper.
i wear often highly saturated clothes, and in that regard, have been accused of taking after a mentor of mine, also in the electronic media business, howard rheingold, who is famous for his garish fashion philosophy; as he says, "there's no such thing as gratuitously psychedelic." but where we differ is that critical use juncture - i am no family man, i'm more likely to sneak a laptop into a strip club than i am to present a business plan, and so my clothes should stand more rigorous wear, while they need not span fully to the stuffy side of the gap between formal and fun-ctional (though I must here salute Howard's fearless fashion which has him noticed in any crowd, and yet ramains appropriate (for howard to wear) at most business functions, even on the east coast).
according to Ruth Rubenstein, clothing provides information about a desired social identity (page 191). If this digital age offers mostly fleeting opportunities for power and recognition, then making an impression through stylized dress allows for personal identity continuity (as subtleties denote one's computer-communal context). we might locate certain colors and conglomerated styles at the intersection of media and computers; the precise aspects or codes of the computer style deserve far more depthical study; suffice it to say that there are colors, often flourescent, and a high tech/high speed look, that provide popular visual identification with the creative computing community.
so i propose this pictured: pants and a jacket, purple with lots of pockets. somewhere between work and play, perhaps merging the two (as computing is wont to do).
pants: bluish purple; loose-ish, long. button fly with large orange buttons. Fashioned of stout but comfortable cotton. all stiching is double stiching, quarter inch spaced rows of bright orange thread. the rear and top front pockets are flats of purple fabric sewn onto the outside of the pants, with an inch wide yellow top border. below that, thigh pockets to the side of the pants; billowable, army style - trimmed and fashioned accordingly in varying shades of green. below those pockets starts a two inch flourescent orange racing stripe which extends down the pants, forming a flame design around an aqua blue triangle, of the type found on basketball pantlegs, while lending a loose bell bottom shape. and like those athletic wares, these color strips can be zipped - a heavy-duty zipper starting stripe-top can be pulled down to the base of the pant leg, sealing the stripes closed for a more subdued look (fewer colours), or a tighter fit. the blue flare has its own zip as well, to leave the pants mostly orange and purple and eliminate the open shape of the bottom. there are knee pads, half inch thickness, dark grey.
jacket: bluish purple; loose hanging, thigh or tunic length. Fashioned of stout but comfortable cotton. all stiching is double stiching, quarter inch spaced rows of bright orange thread. Thick orange buttons, inch diameter, spaced six and a half inches apart totaling four along the height of the jacket (not pictured here). average width lapels for folding and buttoning across the trachea in cold weather. a more redish purple are the lapels and the breast covering, above the nipple-top extending back over the shoulders and covering the upper third of the rear. Sleeves are blueish purple again, with similar flame stripe motif from the trousers - orange bright stripe along the arm, flaring around the aqua blue extension of the sleeves' ending circumference. Both the orange and blue stripe/flares can be independently zippered. Each of the elbows has a half inch thick gray elbowpad. Inside the coat, there are two breast pockets, one on each side. On the outside of the coat, just below the purple breast-patches, two small army style pockets, trimmed and fashioned in varying shades of green. below those, two very large purple pockets, with yellow flaps. Each of these pockets are actually two; the type that can be entered from above, vertical, or from the side, horizontal. Accordingly, the pockets are adjusted higher than usual for arms to sit comfortably either way (not here drawn to scale).
certainly urban gear, this colourful computer ninja workmen's outfit would serve best in a city; i imagine consistent motion - places of transit, or a transitional status in other venues. transitional, but enabled - independent, boldly stated, solidly standing. Color use and streamline; someone visibly present, noticeable, doing things, but impermanent; able and likely to move at any moment. the outfit of a self-sufficient technocrat, except that the clothes convey some measure of myth and/or fancy, by color or textu(r)al similarity to clothes of science fiction heroes, or perhaps rock stars.
so whereas previous images of the computer user focused mostly on the unkempt smelly junk food eating brainiac who never leaves his bedroom, a person supposedly avoiding or rejecting social codes, this computing attire proposes that the person wearing it is aware of social codes, and uses clothes and codes to play with and assert their role as a 21st century information broker.