Friday, July 31, 2009

Imperialism Is the New Chic

I am all for movements which seek to resurrect the art of the past, but there is a difference between acquiring things for their aesthetic value while ignorant of their history, and creating a living history through art. And no, I don't think decorating your Williamsburg flat constitutes "art." The New York Times, however does, thanks to its glowing portrait of hipsters who have a fetish for turn of the century antiques.

Granted, one of the lads profiled in the article does participate in learning how his fetish objects of choice were created: “I like to cook, I like to sew, I can fix things with my hands.” However, the pinnacle of this it seems is finding satin with the right selvage.

I may be nitpicking, but is is probably because there there is also a classism that is not being addressed - though that is no surprise considering the article was published in the NYT's. Restoration and creation are two very different things, and often the former is far more expensive.

This expense is underscored by the articles quick turn to the shops a few of those profiled are opening in hip sections of the city with designers that the author can name drop. This seems to be the point of the blog that one of the sisters whom the article revolves around, since she likes to discuss what was worn to an outing at Yale:
Details on Porter's outfit: Amish leather suspenders from ebay, boys' shirt from Rugby, tie from J.Press (purchased minutes before at the original location at 262 York Street), Equi Comfort riding pants from Dover Saddlery, shoes and bag, Prada.
I'm so glad they let us know that it was purchased it from the original store. However, this seems to refute the NYT's chosen expert (from the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology) who believes this aesthetic comes from rebellion:
“Authenticity is such a fed-up idea...But collecting these old things, it’s like there is an aura attached to them. It’s not some prepackaged product being foisted on you by a big corporation.
Whew! Good thing they are keeping away from those big corporations like Rugby, J. Press and Prada.

Moreover, they seem to be completely devoid of any deep understanding of the culture they are co-opting. In speaking about one of the shops, the proprietor says:
“The idea was to make this clandestine Colonial tavern,” he said, “the sort of place the founding fathers would have conspired in.” The look, he added, reflects his assumptions about their tastes, as refined Europeans living in a rough new world: “Taxidermy was a symbol of that wildness.”
The founding fathers were sexist, classist, racist bastards. Just the sort of lot I do not want to emulate.

But this ahistoricism isn't surprising considering the article describes the apartment of two sisters as echoing "W. Somerset Maugham’s last days of colonialism, Victorian memento mori and the Edwardian men’s club." It also has "a taxidermy collection that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud."

So,we have the epitome of insecure masculinity which would set the tone for United States nationalism, time periods which relegated women to the private sphere and confined them in clothing that would lead to an early death (which explains the memento mori), and the last gasps of widespread institutionalized racism and exploitation. Lovely.

Also, not surprising is the NYT's is incorrect in asserting that wealthy young New Yorkers are setting this trend.

1 comment:

  1. Love it! I read the Home Section of the NYTs every week and am appalled at some of these home trends. Absolutely ridonculous. I assure you that the antique furniture in my home is not my wild obsession to return to the colonial days but rather an appreciation for quality made goods. Fracking upperclass New Yorkers...they kill me.


be nice.


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