in which the naked chimp is unmasked, his machines debugged, and his bugbears debunked

Monday, August 06, 2007

Codpieceface (What did you say?)

As a child I was frightened and excited by a lot of things in Labyrinth. It wasn’t just Jennifer Connolly’s peach-fuzz moustache or the soft whorls of her unplucked eyebrows, although these things did stir a primeval longing I’m still dealing with… But more than Connolly’s budding charms, the Bog of Eternal Stench, Hoggle, or ‘Dance Magic Dance’, the thing that left the deepest impression on me as a child was David ‘Goblin King’ Bowie’s tights, and the magic lunchbox they carried. In the cinema, where I was first ‘exposed’ to its glory, that crotch was ten feet high. There was something truly monstrous about those tights, something that revealed more of their contents by ‘hiding’ them in sheer grey nylon than any kind of ‘revealing’ would have shown. All they did was cling, but with this one simple act they proved that some kinds of clothing are capable of producing something more naked than naked… a kind of supernudity.

Flashback to ‘93, and everything’s cut of a decidedly different cloth. These are days in which it is conceivable to have an undercut, an ear-ring and a goatee and still be just behind the curve of the cool. Cobain was still alive, JJJ still played interesting music, and Porno was for Pyros. In ‘91-‘92 there were Stüssy beach pants (which my music teacher called ‘harem pants’) which produced in the wearer two very pronounced buttocks and a soft whooshing effect when walking. By ’93, people were still wearing them with Doc Martens and flannies in some horrible condensation of ‘Big Audio Dynamite’ and ‘The Year that Punk Broke’, but by this stage, skate culture had already claimed more than a few hips (and cracks) with baggy jeans, which reached absurd proportions with rave-influenced atrocities like Kepper and Cross-Colours. It was a great year for those of us with stubborn paunches and stump ankles. For skinny people, it was a disaster. Whole groups of people seemed to flail in their clothing like panicked children trapped in a collapsed tent. Fat pants peaked somewhere in the Western suburbs in ’95, but the influence of their bluntness traveled down the pantlegs of the culture so that, by 1999, people were wearing skate shoes like Osiris that looked like the wearer had on a scuffed pair of Audi TTs. And looking back, I can’t help but wonder whether a whole generation were living in a fashion universe whose bagginess was conceived due the repressed trauma of seeing David Bowie in tights.

But now we’ve come full circle. In the past week I’ve seen two young gentlemen wearing pants tight and tapered enough to make David ‘Goblin King’ Bowie wince and grimace, showing his teeth in characteristic fashion. One guy appeared not so much restrained as propelled down the street by the pants themselves, as if the tightness had passed a critical threshold beyond which a constant elastic effect meant that the duds walked the wearer. He looked proud and helpless. In the 70s, Bon Scott and Robert Plant faced the daily dilemma of ‘which way to pack’, but the tightness of some of the latest pants is far beyond the old-school simplicity of ‘to the left’ – I can only imagine they require the absorption into the body cavity of a young man’s delicate parts, a technique filched from sumo wrestlers and the Russian ballet and whispered into eager ears at point of purchase. Comfy in our ‘harem pants’ in a ‘94 classroom, we tittered like pre-teen Japanese school girls at the in-class presentation of Franco Zeffirelli’s production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ - we called each other ‘codpieceface’ with the confidence of total security. We thought, ‘no, it could never happen here.’ Then on the weekend, we took comfort watching a Clockwork Orange smugly imagining (from the warm, voluminous folds of our baggy trousers) that a world in which men wore tights was nothing but the crazed imaginings of film directors from a bygone era. Tights? Hah! The neck ruff seemed an equally plausible contender for ‘most unlikely fashion comeback of the century’.

But this is another century, and in 2007 on High St in Westgarth I saw a young man having to clamber onto a tram as if he had prosthetic legs and his pubic-hair super-glued to his inner thighs. Such, such was the tightness. And now the girls go one step further, and actually wear leggings. And ladies, I’d really think twice about that. If you’re white, that means you have cellulite, even if you think you don’t. In fact, unless you’re a black and field athlete or a pro cyclist, I’d recommend the following: never, ever ever wear leggings. No buts. But maybe you can’t help it, maybe it’s a similar trauma at work in your world – maybe you’re part of a generation of baby brothers and sisters who’d stood by helpless as their skinny elder siblings allowed themselves to be totally engulfed by baggy trousers and round-toed skate shoes. So now you’re imposing the revenge fantasy on their stump-legged others. Or… you don’t honestly think it suits you, do you? Maybe you need to admit that you’re the victim of something. That you’ve survived something awful, codpieceface… sorry, no it’s not just you. Maybe we’re all victims. Come to think of it, maybe it’s the experience of childhood horror like this that is the true beginning of all fashion.

© Peter Chambers 2007


Jessie said...

hahaha omg i have seen a huge amount of girls wearing leggings as if they were legitimate day time clothing recently. Its sad, you know, they must think they look like Sienna Miller... but they don't.

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PC is an animal of the antipodes believed to be related to a gibbon.