By Colette Fitzpatrick
Taste is a funny thing. It changes with age, time, context, and from person to person. It is completely fluid, though we sometimes don’t want to admit that.
My tastes, personally, have drastically changed as I’ve grown older, largely due to the fact that I now let myself like what I like. As a teen, I was very strict about repressing my desire for things that I thought might make me look uncool. I was anti-trend (or so I thought, but we’re all victim to trends no matter how much we try not to be; it’s a part of being a member of society), anti-conformity and anti-girly. And I didn’t like pink, I promise. If the sixteen year-old version of me could see my trend-loving, cutesy, streetwear-embracing ass now, she’d be horrified.
I’ve also re-examined some things that I never thought could be salvaged; things I was sure could never be stylish because the cycle of trends made me come around. I remember deeming nineties denim an abomination but even I have been convinced of the merits of a well-fitting Mom jean in a (I can’t believe I’m saying this) light wash on the right person (note: still not on me, though). I relegated neon to bad teen disco flashbacks but have now have a baggy neon orange tee that I think is pretty damn cool. And none of this is because of divine inspiration, it is part of a larger cultural movement where trends that we had decided were ugly – those “never again” looks – eventually came back around again, were reimagined, restyled, put into a new context and made work. Maybe we’ll look back again in a few years and wonder what we were thinking once more but, for now, they’re good.
Of course, it’s not always that we decide something is no longer ugly. Sometimes things are merely the right kind of ugly and Fashion loves the right kind of ugly.
Sometimes “ugly” gives balance, like when the nineties paired floaty floral dresses with bulky combat boots to play a game of contrasts. Other times “ugly” or “untasteful” is an aesthetic of a culture or community that is reexamined and embraced by the fashion industry such as the recent vogue for a very specific kind of Russian aesthetic that favours football-inspired garments and accessories, nylon tracksuits, shaved heads and sharp features on unimpressed-looking, pouty-mouthed youths. Or “ugly” might be a palate-cleanser, a search for something new or more complex or a challenging of our very idea of wearability.
Oftentimes, fashion presents us with “ugly” and either doesn’t want most of us to get it or waits until we do, as if to say, “I told you so.”
It can be hard to predict what will suddenly be the right kind of ugly but it’s a good rule of thumb in life, and in fashion, to never say never. The unpredictability is half the fun and, maybe you won’t always be swayed or agree but the circus of half the people losing their mind over things and the other half losing their mind at the lack of taste that could allow them to do so, is rather amusing.
It’s quite amusing to see brands charging over a grand for a silhouette of runners that we all admonished the older men in our lives for wearing mere months ago, to see the high street adopt it so rapidly and to see this writer anxiously await the arrival of her own pair.
Ugly is in the eye of the beholder and sometimes it’s simply the right kind of ugly…
If you’re interested in current fashion trends, check out our report on street style at Seoul Fashion Week, and Emma’s coverage of beauty’s hottest product, lipgloss.