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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Living the B(r)and

Living the B(r)and
Utter the words Iron Maiden or Mötley Crüe and the imagery that first springs to mind may well be of leather-jacketed and hairy all-male heavy metal bands. It makes sense, as that is what they are. But utter these words in the same sentence as Demi Lovato or Lindsay Lohan, and things start to get a little interesting. What I’m talking about is the relatively new phenomenon that is pop princesses and other such glitzy girls (and boys) who have never so much as seen the front cover of an Iron Maiden album being seen out in public wearing t-shirts that would suggest that they are somehow a hardened fan. It’s happening across the board- from Kristen Stewart wearing a The Clash t-shirt and David Beckham in Iron Maiden, to American-faux-royal-wannabe-hasty-divorcee Kim Kardashian channelling her inner (non-existent) ‘rock chick’ in a Van Halen t-shirt.  The list is endless of celebrities who are doing this, with some surprising (Britney Spears wearing AC/DC anyone?) to some which you might expect (gossip-girl-gone-goth Taylor Momsen from The Pretty Reckless in a Rage Against The Machine t-shirt) but the point is the same- how many of these celebrities have ever even listened to these bands who’s t-shirts they are wearing, let alone been to one of their gigs? Asking Miley Cyrus what her favourite Iron Maiden song is would probably yield a similar response to if you asked your grandma to discuss the relative benefits of Apple versus Android. It just doesn’t make sense.

And this strange genre mismatch isn’t confined just to celebrities wearing unlikely band t-shirts; the idea of people wearing or embracing a kind of celebrity culture that they actually have no idea about can be seen everywhere. Teenage girls worldwide have posters of Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn proudly strewn across their bedroom walls, yet I’m willing to bet none of them could name a film in which Marilyn starred, or even what she was famous for, and people wearing skate shoes who have no intention of going anywhere near a skateboard. In today’s postmodern society, it’s all about the brand. People can pick and choose which aspects of media and celebrity culture they want to embrace, as and when it suits the image they want to portray. Of course Kim Kardashian has never had any intention of listening to Van Halen, she just wants to look cool; teenage girls have no idea who Marilyn Monroe really was, they just like the idea of what she represents.

 It seems like nothing is sacred in the world of celebrity, and hardcore fans may feel that everything that a band stands for has been watered down to be accessed by the masses. After all, it always comes down to style over substance.       

Victoria's not-so-secret

This side of the pond we may not actually have a Victoria's Secret store (though wait a year and you can pick up one of their diamond-encrusted bras on Bond St, should you so desire) but  we still seem unable to escape the hype around the famous lingerie brand's pre-christmas fashion show.

There's no denying it's an impressive affair: angel wings weighing up to 4 stone, guest performers who can sell out arenas and over-the-top lavish campiness enough to make the Moulin Rouge seem low-key all prove to us why this is the most talked about fashion show on earth. Strip it all away, and what you're left with is thirty-four undernourished and overpaid models. In modelling circles, it is considered the highest achievement to score a contract to become a Victoria's 'angel,' and every year it generates great media speculation about who it might be this year, but it certainly isn't easy. There's no denying that these models are unbelievable; mile-long legs, bodies that look like they're constructed entirely out of clay and cheekbones high enough to make Keira Knightley jealous al on one person isn't easy to come by.

Details were leaked earlier this year by one of the angels about their gruelling daily workout schedule, a liquid-only diet for nine days prior to the show, and no food or liquids for the last two days before they walked. Sound appealing now? This little revelation caused uproar, with people citing the age-old beauty myth argument and what a terrible example is being set to insecure young girls. This is all completely true and I'm sure anyone who watched the show felt a little pang of guilt at that extra vanilla latte or a skipped gym session, but isn't this all getting a little tiresome? Yes, the models have set the bar of beauty unrealistically high and females of all ages everywhere probably felt terrible about themselves watching them, but that's the whole point. More shocking would be if the show opened and thirty four pretty, average-sized, realistically attractive models appeared on the runway. To see that, you only need to go into Topshop on any given Saturday. The show is so famous because of its other worldliness, the unbelievable flawlessness and models of unimaginable perfection. Who wants to watch a lingerie show of ordinary girls?

Let's face it, extreme unbelievablilty is what sells. We all need that little corner of the universe where we can escape to somewhere else. If we want to see something ordinary that reflects our own lives, we wouldn't need to turn on the TV. The reason the fashion, film and music industry is what it is is because we want to glimpse and experience something outside of our own lives. Surely that's the same with the Victoria's Secret angels? We all watch so we can see something extraordinary, because that's what it is, extra ordinary, not ordinary. It's a show to be enjoyed for what it is before we all return to our hideously imperfect lives, not a dictation of what we should look like or aim for.         

The Knitwear Revolution

As the winter season is once again upon us, there is the usual influx of cosy couture all over the high street and catwalk, and the Christmas jumper is once again the star of the show. Last winter saw many of us dabbling with a fairisle knit here and an ironically-worn fur hat there, but this year the knitwear is well and truly here to stay.

Three years ago, no self-respecting human under the age of seventy would be seen dead in an oversized cable knit aran cardigan and gifts of such home-knitted creations would be dutifully worn on Christmas day before being cast to the back of the wardrobe or used as a dog blanket. Now, it’s all about the ‘grandparent chic’ and one doesn’t have to go far at all to find the perfect pleated midi skirt to team with their reindeer-embellished jumper and brown brogues. At a recent Halloween party, a group of my friends decided to go out dressed as pensioners, and the most alarming part of it was that none of them had to buy anything new. Worn slightly differently and my friends’ on-trend and edgy items made for worryingly convincing outfits of their Ethel and Maude Halloween alter-egos.

The sheer volume of quirky knitwear that is now so readily available really does make one wonder if the fashion powers that be are just having a bit of a laugh. Personally, I fully embrace this recent development and am the first to pull out my oversized Aztec print cardigan as soon as the temperature drops, but I often do wonder if all this is supposed to be done with a hint of irony. The fairlisle print leggings that are this season’s must-have, despite them being somewhat reminiscent of the ‘80s, seem to be going down pretty well, as are animal print jumpers; again a few years ago, if you saw a twentysomething in a trendy bar sporting a sheep-print chunky knit you would be well within your rights to question their mental health, but alas, this is no more. Nowadays, sheep-print guy would be the source of much ‘oooh I love your jumper, I’ve been looking for something similar’- type flattery; we are indeed entering a new age of what’s cool.

With many of us having to cut back on our unnecessary spending (and let’s face it, replenishing a winter wardrobe isn’t strictly classed as ‘essential spending’), the knitwear revolution couldn’t have come at a better time. Much less do we need to pay a visit to Topshop to update our wardrobes, than just make a visit to your Grandma’s attic, where all your knitwear dreams will come true. The moral of the story here is, next time your grandma buys you an item of clothing for Christmas, don’t dismiss it too readily because you never know which direction that this thing we call fashion might move in.     

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner...

London. Everyone wants to be here, and everyone wants a piece of it. Each year thousands of fresh-faced, enthusiastic new graduates gravitate towards the bright lights of London Town to make all their dreams come true. But what is the reality? Telling your mates and your proudly on looking parents that you’ve got a placement/internship/job in London seems like the ultimate achievement. However, actually being here presents quite a different reality. Extortionate tube fares, horrendous commutes and the horror of no longer qualifying for student discount can sometimes make you wonder why you bothered when your best mate is getting along just fine working in her local Asda. However, it’s that moment that we, as a collective fresh-faced enthusiastic graduate all live for that keeps us going, when you get the email/phone call/letter to say they liked you, or your work, and they’d like to offer you the position. That’s when the 5.30am wake-ups and the endless coffee runs and tube-related anxiety attacks all crumble into insignificance and you begin to think you may make it after all.