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Whats Distressing About Distressed Clothing

Time:2016-12-29 14:00Shoes websites Click:

clothing about Whats Distressing Distressed

To be fair, “Lmao wait one minute” is an apt response to this particular pair of sneakers. A grungy pinky-gray shade reminiscent of worn pointe shoes, these sneakers resemble a Twinkie in that they look not so much made as extruded. They’re scuffed and grimy, and they’ve got these dull burnished silver strips of duct tape wrapped fore and aft; their frayed laces, knotted like lies, promise to snap. Coming from Italian company Golden Goose, the sneakers are brand new. Barneys New York was selling them for $585, believe it or not.

All the IG famous are wearing the “distressed look;” it’s the hot way to greet the Tyler Durden apocalypse that glimmers on our collective horizon. Kim Kardashian was spotted wearing a cavemen-hemmed denim mini skirt; Gigi Hadid was caught wearing jeans that are more holes than fabric; and Justin Bieber was throwing the shaka sign in a shredded houndstooth jacket. Everyone who’s anyone is “distressed.”

Fashion writers are committed to calling this school of fashion “street.” Slashed, repurposed, mended, patched, and abraded — these clothes, magazines would like us to believe, are simultaneously authentic, elegant, and easy. It’s clothing that’s not supposed to look as if it costs $900, which is the price of the Fear of God jeans favored by Yeezy and Russell Westbrook, and it’s fashion that’s not supposed to read like it’s $1,450, the cost of the patchwork Vetements jeans that are sold out, like, everywhere. But selling capital-F Fashion is never as simple as a price tag, a label, or even a silhouette, and there’s a mass political weight hiding beneath the visible marketing tip.

Kim Kardashian in a distressed white dress with Kanye West.

Photo: Josiah Kamau/Getty Images

It costs a lot to look fashionably wrecked. Givenchy’s $1,000 ripped hoodie (sold out) is a fitting irony for the end of 2016, the king trashfire year of all trashfire years. It’s not merely that this torn and worn sweatshirt costs twice as much as the average retail worker makes in two weeks. It’s also that clothing this processed often take a huge toll on the environment. One pair of jeans famously requires about 2,900 gallons of water, about 1,800 to grow the cotton and the remainder to weave and dye the fabric (a process that requires multiple iterations of synthetic indigo dye) and craft the fabric into a garment. This water-print is bad enough, but the cost to the environment mounts. Most denim is made in China or Bangladesh, not hotbeds of environmentalism. Xintang, the Chinese town that is the denim capital of the world, makes about 300 million pieces of denim clothing a year. The river runs blue with dye, the pollution so intense that the town literally cannot give houses away.

It gets worse, of course, because things always do. While some makers of distressed clothes use fairly environmentally friendly lasers to tenderly burn holes or strategically slit knees, most use sandblasting, a technique shown to cause silicosis and other fatal lung diseases. Organizations like the UK’s Labour Behind the Label, Sweden’s Fair Trade Center, and the Clean Clothes Campaign have been studying sandblasting’s effects on its workers for the past decade, and the news isn’t good. Those artfully worn and soft-as-deer-noses jeans are a lot less pretty when you discover that the (underpaid, often migrant) workers who made them suffer from chronic breathing ailments. While Turkey now bans the practice, it has moved to areas with less oversight, and while some jeans makers like Levi’s, Gucci, H&M, and others have publicly banned sandblasted jeans, others don’t. Pretty clothes have never meant pretty processes, and expensive clothes have always cost more than money.

These emperor’s new threads have a long, frayed history. “New arrivals have always had two ways of certifying their superiority over the hated ‘middle class,’” Tom Wolfe wrote in 1970’s “Radical Chic.” The first, Wolfe suggests, is to gild themselves in the lilies of aristocracy, a Trumpian endeavor of columns and servants and conspicuous wealth. The other, Wolfe says, is the “gauche thrill of taking on certain styles of the lower orders,” a practice he roots in the British Regency period when nostalgie de la boue — literally, a yearning for the mud — was “very much the rage.” As Jane Austen wrote her delicate, ironic fictions, new Regency money dressed like tavern wenches, fought like street pugilists, and generally lavished in déclassé decadence. Time passes, yet the only thing that changes is the beat.

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