Fashion & Fame: Anti Fashion Becomes Fashion

Fashion & Fame: Anti Fashion Becomes Fashion

In today’s society, it’s not uncommon to consider a young man sporting a lumpy, moth-eaten jumper as fashionable. It’s also not uncommon to see a grungy plaid shirt draped around the hips of a painfully hip young female. But these items which are now so ‘in’ were once the epitome of anti-fashion. What’s changed? Just add fame.

The mid 1980’s to early 1990’s saw a growth in grunge music, with bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam enlightening youth and fanning the flames of teenage rebellion. Grunge was not only a musical genre; suddenly the more anti-fashion you dressed the better. Girls wore their boyfriends’ shirts and no one washed their hair. Grunge was about not caring, not conforming and was about as anti-fashion as one could get. In 1992, Marc Jacobs designed an infamous grunge inspired collection for Perry Ellis, attempting to draw inspiration from the moody youth – but to no avail. His superiors hated it and Jacobs was fired from his position. For grunge, the move from anti-fashion to fashion needed a little more time.

Now, enough time has passed to allow grungey plaids, ripped denim and wild hair (albeit staged) to reined on the catwalks. In an inevitably ironic twist, fashion girls now style themselves for hours in an attempt to look like they have just slept in their clothes. Countless hair products are sprayed onto models to recreate that no-maintenance style so favoured in the 1990’s. Functional, slept in, anti-fashion grunge has become one of the biggest fashion trends of modern day.

Another example of anti-fashion pieces being seen in a new light stems from 1983, when The Smiths performed their first performance on BBC’s Top of the Pops. Before they were due on stage, a member of BBC staff was shocked to hear that they wouldn’t be changing out of their casual attire. Old knitted jumpers would have been presumed an eyesore for the programme’s audience, yet this style has now made its way into mainstream fashion culture. Thanks to The Smiths and other 1980’s indie bands, vintage and Geek chic has been a strong trend for menswear, and it’s wearablitiy keeps it grounded in mainstream fashion. This one famous performance in 1983 changed the way we see knitted jumpers, so much so that they have become a popular symbol of vintage fashion.

Morrissey has always been pictured in a pair of big, clumsy glasses. Type in ‘Morrissey…’ on an internet search engine and the top search will display ‘Morrisey glasses’. Yet these glasses Morrissey wore which are now so desired, were seen as very unfashionable at the time. In the 1980’s, Morrissey’s standard NHS 524 glasses were the cheapest and most unfashionable glasses you could get as a working class labourer. It’s unclear whether or not in his early years Morrissey even needed glasses, but it’s almost certain that he wore them as a sign of his working-class status, his disassociation with jock-types, and his overwhelming association with being a social outcast. Ironically you can now buy imitation Morrissey frames from the nearest high street clothing retailer, and walking through Shoreditch in London will see you brush shoulders with plenty of boys in Morrissey’s famous specs, who only associate themselves with the fashionable and cool. It’s an ironic shame, really, that Morrissey’s romantic, flung-from-society image is now one of the most popular trends in men’s high street fashion and can bought for around £60-100 in Urban Outfitters.

The resurrection of fashion’s far flung and forgotten pieces have shown us that anti-fashion can easily be reincarnated as a fashionable piece and become accepted in mainstream culture. Despite how hard the original pioneers of anti-fashion tried to rebel against the mainstream system, they have now become icons in their own right. Morrissey will forever be regarded as the chicest among 1980’s indie pop band frontmen, and while shunned at the time, Marc Jacob’s grunge collection of 1992 is now reflected on in admiration and awe. It seems any anti-fashion piece can soon be slotted into fashion’s mainstream culture. All you need is enough exposure to the fashion industry, a couple of decades to mature, and most importantly an overwhelming stench of nonchalance.

Written by Laura Beckwith

Visuals by  Adrian Bialasek and Denise Marcotte