Saturday, October 31, 2009

the early 90's are definitely in the air

ok so i bought several flannel shirts the other day, at Uniqlo. why does this matter? i'd like to discuss.

recently i gave a portrait assignment to my photo 2 class. on tuesday durn g our preliminary crit we were discussing the difference between the photographer dressing up the model for the shoot, the model dressing themselves up for the shoot, and the model just being shot as they were a that moment. how do these factors add/detract from the sense of "portrait"? but anyway thats a whole big can of worms and not really where i was going.

one student directed her roommate to dress in a certain way, tough she said it was in a style the roommate would wear. her model was wearing a red flannel shirt, black spandex-y paints, and those girly faux combat boots. the student photographer said she was gong for a "my so called life" aesthetic, and so we discussed what that meant to all of us, me being in my late 30's, my TA being 30, the students being in their early 20's.

which, in my head, led me back to the buying of flannel shirts. my initial motivation was because Jersey, who i used to work with at Cooper Union, was wearing them and they looked good on her. i suddenly remembered they used to exist in my life too. She's the one who initially told me about the Uniqlo store on Broadway (big Japanese clothing store, men's and women's clothes cut very unisex. their women's button down shirts fit me and that never happens). so i went there recently and lo and behold there was a large selection of flannel shirts. so i bought 3. (and ok, they only have like 2 stores in the US, so they aren't really a trend but they def. can be starting one, though i think its started already where it left off maybe in 1994?)

NOW....Jersey is 25. she grew up in Italy. grunge was happening when she was like 10. i was there. you did not buy flannel shirts, you acquired them. "New" was not cool, used, preferably with holes in it, was. and of course baggy baggy baggy.

but now is not baggy at all, but slim. and come to think of it while re-reading this, my thoughts on this topic really didn't start with Jersey at all, but Alannah last semester, a Cooper student who i noticed wearing a red flannel shirt, who's style is kinda rather on the other end from Jersey. Alannah is rather fashion forward though. hm.

then on Wednesday night i had a chat with my TA again, this time about what the hell happened exactly in the mid 90's......when did the shift happen, where did grunge go? also earlier in the week i had a chat with Simone at A.I.R. about riot grrl, so the early 90's are definitely in the air.

so in my aged state (haa) i've started to look back at the early 90's with a different kind of filter than i would have when i was living in them. (Simone kindly asked me if i was able to discuss this because i was listening to all these BBC documentaries about music and, well, yes, but the truth is i'm old enough that i was actually there.). what things were in place to make grunge happen, and why did it fizzle out so completely by the mid/end of the 90's?

american radio has always been the blandest of the bland (i mean compare to British radio). why i just don't know. but there was a time in the late 80's when we had a syndicated alternative radio station, all over the states. it wasn't quite college radio, but it was rather radical compared to most. here you could hear the cure, siouxsie, echo and the bunnymen, and a host of lesser names making what was, arguably, kinda crappy late 80's overproduced music, but still, it wasn't milli vanilli. we had 120 minutes on MTV and Night Flight on USA (someday we'll have that discussion Terri). and as much as we might have thought it was ours individually, we were living in a countrywide "i have cable" (and its new) cultural moment. this stuff was being made available on a level it had never quite been before.

what i'm not 100% sure about is why. Reagan was in power, so everyone had something to rebel against. then it was Bush Sr. I remember being at an election party in NY when Clinton won, and it was joyous everywhere. The world changed, the economy changed, people changed. but as soon and the country equilbrisallized (ok thats not a word but, whatever) and there were "good times" (i.e. people being able to pay me to walk their dog, park their car, and eat lunch....i.e. artist assistant), the music situation turned to crap. the rein of grunge ended (its been touted as an anomaly anyway in terms of "popular" music if you read any theory). so i wonder why, with Bush Jr., we didn't see a resurgence (or did we and i missed it)? what kept mainstream music bland? i know the way music "happens" now has changed radically with the internet and all, and that probably no one really listens to radio at all anymore (i know i plug my iphone straight into the car, though when it crashed one night i was very pleased to be able to find Providence College radio playing some "Future Sounds of London" tracks at 12:30 AM).

which brings me back to flannel shirts. and "my so called life". we have had a large dose of the 80's revived over the past few years, though happily its been all mixed up, so much to the point that all the meaning has been drained out of it (pennyloafers and oxford sweaters on grungy art boys with bad mullet haircuts is just kinda funny and wrong). so what's going to happen now in popular culture now that that "reality bites" and "slackers" might be back, and Pearl Jam has reformed?

i'll keep you informed. since i'm working at a university now and not an art school, i'll be experiencing a larger demographic of students. we'll see how they morph......

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