13 June 2012

Teddy After Now

Fall/Winter 2012

Following on from my post on the interpretation of national styles, I thought it would be interesting to look at a very specific example of the process in action - the reconfiguration of the Teddy Boy by Japanese brand Lad Musician for their Fall/Winter 2012 collection.  Subcultures by their very nature engage in a re-appropriation of certain stylistic elements whilst reconfiguring, and usually subverting, their original intended meanings.  As the subculture emerges, its aesthetic style, or indeed signifiers of whatever medium, become more deeply embedded within its mode of self-identification.  This image evolves whilst simultaneously becoming more strictly codified to form a common uniform.  Indeed later as the style becomes more clearly defined and recognizable, those on the fringes adopting the style, without necessarily engaging with its original ideas of subversion, give rise to the issue of authenticity.  If I dress in what is perceived as a [insert subculture] manner, without any real knowledge of that scene, am I merely in costume?  Is there any way in which the viewer can perceive a sense of authenticity?  More to the point, does it matter and is authenticity as an idea even applicable?

The image is replicated and adapted, the style spreads and a movement is born.  People begin to take notice.  And so, whether it be a day later or a decade later, from within or without, subculture meets fashion, as designers from whatever background find therein a visual language with which to express their own ideas.  Their interpretation of that visual language could be entirely at odds with its original and subsequently re-appropriated meaning, as they could simple use the existing framework to present a new meaning.  The fluidity of image and style means that a designer, or indeed wearer, can take an element and use it in a way that removes it from its original context to create some new meaning (although whether the connotation of original meaning can ever be truly erased is questionable).  The image, usually recognizable through a specific set of subculturally relevant signifiers, becomes an idea open to reinterpretation and reconfiguration.

Whilst the signifier may be physically and aesthetically fixed - say brothel creepers or drainpipe trousers; in the realm of fashion those items are simply a structure with a pre-existing meaning available for manipulation.  They can become a visual shorthand to reference a whole wealth of meaning without even necessarily being used in such a way as to represent that meaning.  The designer may use them in such a way as to hint at the original meaning (that is to say the subverted meaning the subculture applied to what was then its original meaning), or entirely reconfigure it.  Where subcultural elements have such a long history, there is in those signifiers meaning upon meaning upon meaning.  In such a sense it is open to any number of uses, and the skill of the designer is then is how to make these meanings relevant to the now.  Or indeed, as it is fashion, the moment after now.  Past becomes present becomes future, and suddenly the image exists only as a very specific, but all too fleeting, moment in time.



  1. You always write in a way that makes me think so much more deeply about how fashion relates to the rest of our lives. It's a fantastic talent of yours.

    Love this post.

  2. I agree with what is said in the first comment, you have a fantastic talent to make some kind of editorials.

    Long time no talk, hope all is great with you.


  3. What a name "Teddy Boy"! And that is Japanese brand! (Of course I didn't know that)I checked their HP. I like it.

    Enjoy your essay and tumblr as well.I like voluptuous woman's nude too.Beautiful.