Down and Out of Fashion

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If your sole point of reference were the style pages of a magazine, you would never be aware of the sad state of industrial America. From head to foot, it is haute couture to dress down. From the designer steel helmet for the woman whose entire construction resume is the rouge on her face, to the t-shirt that, sans sequins, might last have adorned Stanley Kowalski. To the de rigeur denim jeans, effortlessly pre-stressed and pre-ripped to avoid the need to actually visit a trench. And lastly, to the tres feminine suede boots that, except for the four-inch heels, are only a steel shank short of being able to deflect a cinder block.

These are not clothes you can buy at Joe's Army Surplus. These duds cost hundreds, and if they have a pedigree, thousands of dollars. So that those who make six figures up on the 30th floor can look like they're on their 30th week of collecting unemployment.

And it's not just the clothes. We go to gyms to develop bodies that will persuade others we've been chucking steel all our lives. In contrast, take a look at a photo of the pre-spandex, television Superman, George Reeves. He appears to be wearing long johns, while with his unbuffed body it is easy to believe he truly is Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan website.

Not long ago, I got angry with my gym for not rewarding me for lifting 18 million pounds with a silver tank top to show off my unripped muscles. I donned my un-pre-stressed, non-ripped jeans and took out my deep disappointment on the leaves in our yard. That exercise made me feel better than I ever have leg pressing 200 pounds.

The truly delicious irony of this inverted fashion phenomenon is that reality has caught up with art. Whereas it's still "in" to dress to dress down, and to look as if you can't afford to comb your unruly perm or shave the manly stubble from your face, many who do so now really are poor! And those with blue-collar bodies would consider themselves lucky to find a blue-collar job.


With a Perspective, I'm Richard Friedlander.