Friday, April 28, 2006

Principia Aesthetica

Fashion Week continues here in Slimboland:

Matt disputes my claim of "aesthetic neutrality":

"But what can 'aesthetically neutral' mean besides 'neither beautiful nor ugly'? (cf Switzerland: neither on one side nor the other.) You clearly don't believe your shoes, for example, are neither beautiful nor ugly. At least, you'd be wrong if you did. I think you must mean that your shoes and attire achieve their particular beauty through plain and simple means. But that is 'aesthetic simplicity', not neutrality."
I understand your point, Herr Professor, and you are not the first to dispute my claim. Perhaps I would do well do adopt a less contentious term, but indulge me for a moment, and allow me to explain my intended meaning.

First, I use the term "neutral" in the literal sense as it applies to color. I love the browns, and blacks, and greys, and blue (this last is not technically neutral but may be treated as a de facto neutral for fashion purposes, particularly when it is the blue of blue jeans). Certainly, a little red or orange here or there, a bit of pattern, all of that is quite lovely and desirable, but I find it most beautiful when set against a backdrop of the quieter colors.

I also intended "neutral" in a broader, more metaphorical sense. The Beautiful/Ugly axis is one criteria against which a wardrobe may be measured. And true, I don't believe my attire is neutral in this regard. I believe it is beautiful, though not excessively beautiful. But there are many, many other criteria against which a wardrobe can be measured:
  • trendiness
  • skimpiness
  • preppiness
  • trashiness
  • gothiness
  • dorkiness
  • geekiness
  • nerdiness
  • Eighties-ness
  • Nineties-ness
  • Oughts-ness
  • phat-ness
  • shininess
  • resemblance-to-the-attire-of-Liberace
  • quantity of lace
  • quantity of spandex
  • Teeva-ness
  • etc.
Together, I imagine these as forming a sort of n-dimensional fashion-space in which any wardrobe can be plotted with reasonable precision:

Due to the limitations of the human intuition and the two-dimensional screen, I cannot depict fashion-space in all its multi-dimensional complexity, but instead, schematically represent it in simplified form with only a handful of the most critical axes.

I prefer to stay relatively close to the center of this fashion universe, wearing items not overly identified with any particular time, trend, or scene. I don't claim to inhabit the absolute origin ('cause that's Dullsville, man, strictly Dullsville). Certainly, I've got a touch of the retro, a modicum of geek, a splash of the prep, a little bit country and a little bit rock 'n' roll, but it is all, I hope, in moderation. Nothing "too too." Nothing très très.

Neutrality? Simplicity? I'm easy. I care not what motto is emblazoned on our banner, merely that the banner flies and that we rally around to defend it. As for your claim:
"[I]n the pitched battle between the beautiful and the ugly, the faction of aesthetic simplicity might be one of the most partisan and bloody."
'Tis true. 'Tis true. I would gladly spill a river of blood for our noble cause. Vive la révolution!


  1. Anonymous12:43 PM

    That clears things up alot. I still wonder if the fashion-space model is a good one. Could anyone see their own look as at the zero point between various undesirable contraries? If so, that suggests to me an overly mathematical way of looking at the issue. That's why I think your look should be defined and contrasted with others according to its content (restrained use of pattern, subdued colors, etc), not according to its relative magnitude in fashion-space.

    Didn't many of the Bauhaus designers think of themselves as advancing a sort of zero-style? But this only made sense if you granted that design-space was made up of various axes of 'ornament', increasing in all directions. Now I think its clearer that Bauhaus was its own sort of style extreme (and a beautful one, I'd add).

  2. Matt, I stand humbled and awe-struck before your massive intellect, and am left speechless.

    Well, actually not entirely speechless (you should be so lucky). Yeah, I don't know how well fashion-space stands up to rigorous examination, but you've got to admit it's a fun place to visit.

    I'm imagining the corner of the universe occupied by people with high positive values for both dorkiness and resemblance-to-the-attire-of-Liberace. Who are they and how did they get there? How many of them exist? What do they eat? How do they breed? So many questions.

    And yes, Bauhause is awesome. I really like their hair.

  3. Gosh...I want to live in "Fashion-space"!!!

    Your theories are brilliant.

    Can I attend the same school as you?

  4. My roommate back in art school was a conceptual artist (bullshitter). I looked in his closet one day, and found ONLY black jeans (in stacks), and white tees on hangers. He ONLY wore black jeans with white t-shirts. Where would he fall within "fashion space"?

  5. Um, actually I think he might live just down the fashion-street from me.