Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Poor People and Ridiculous Fashion Statements

When you're poor, there's a lot of shame that comes with that. Trying to look NOT poor is important to you. There are easy ways that poor people can work to make themselves look not poor- many of these methods develop into trends, which ironically becomes a signifier of poorness rather than a mask of it. But I digress.

When you're poor, the way you cover up poorness has to be visual and extroverted. You're living in a shit neighborhood, or in the projects, or in a trailer park. You can't make that look good, so looking good for you is outside the home. You make your clothes and your car look good. So, the hats- People like wearing hats. That's the start of it. But how do you designate a nice hat from a not nice hat? Most baseball caps get the tags ripped off, the stickers removed, and people bend the bill to make it fit more naturally. What does that mean? The hat is worn-in. It's used, even if only used by you. A hat that still has the manufacturer sticker and a perfectly level bill? That's a hat that was bought new. And you keep it in that condition as long as possible to SHOW people that you bought it new. Damage the hat or remove the holographic-stamped, custom stickers? Maybe you bought the hat at Salvation Army, or Good Will, or it's a hand-me-down or a hand out. But a perfect, straight-from-the-rack untouched hat? That's a SIGNIFIER that you're able to buy a hat.

I know it's hard to understand, but it's a pretty deeply engrained cultural statement. Why did Elvis wear white clothes? Because he was poor as shit growing up and he wanted to show people he could wear something white and expensive and not be worried about stains. Gets stained? Buy a new one. Wearing white shows you're rich. It's why Elvis wore white, it's why yuppies wore khakis rather than jeans, it's why Don Draper's costume designer gave his a pale trenchcoat rather than a dark one early on, it's why rich people have "white (clothing) parties"... And for that matter, it's why Johnny Cash wore black.

The white clothing thing is an old trend of showing affluence, used both by the rich and by the poor who wish to look rich. The hat thing is a new trend. Maybe it'll stay, maybe it'll go. Poor men who became rich- especially rappers- keep wearing their hats that way. As such, middle class and upper class youth copy it. So maybe it'll become engrained as a symbol of wealth. Or maybe it'll fall away. Pristine Air Jordans have been a symbol of wealth amongst poor communities for 20 years now, and who'd have thought that would last?

Orignal post by adam_frankenstein

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