We’re What We Wear Wherever We Are
August 24, 2019 12:03 PM   Subscribe

This genius photo experiment shows we are all just sheeple in the consumer matrix — Images from the same exact spot for two hours at a time... Photographer Hans Eijkelboom has spent more than 20 years cataloging the ways that globalized culture manifests through apparel. [From TimeLine by Rian Dundon; related interview (with some NSFW images) at Phaidon]
posted by cenoxo (90 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
I love how different all of these people are, under the superficial resemblance of their clothes.
posted by ntk at 12:13 PM on August 24 [33 favorites]


“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”

How can you? I didn't make this assumption, but he did?
The pictures are fun to look at, but I'm not understanding the message at all.
posted by bongo_x at 12:17 PM on August 24 [82 favorites]


This is very No True Individuality, and my Dad used to harangue me with the same critique when I was a skatepunk teenager. It was a dick move then and it's a dick move now, even when you point it at the mainstream.
posted by rhizome at 12:19 PM on August 24 [87 favorites]


an insufferable turd

Cool pics though
posted by weed donkey at 12:21 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


What bongo said. Fun pictures but the thesis is really deeply unconvincing.
posted by firebrick at 12:21 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


"fashion trends exist" is certainly a novel take.
posted by mittens at 12:21 PM on August 24 [75 favorites]


Yeah, I feel like I kinda get where he's going ("here's the fashion at this point in time, you're not as unique as you think in your flannel/denim shirt/etc") but tbh these seem to be all very populated places where you'd see hundreds of people an hour and yeah you're going to find people dressed alike. Fashion is a thing, no matter if you think you follow it or not -- trends are trends, even when they've trickled down from the runways to the discount stores.

Plus that Shanghai one seems like a total stretch, because those are coworkers wearing uniforms, and linking arms isn't a strange way to walk side-by-side in some cultures.

And I'm vaguely convinced he just stationed himself near the Abercrombie & Fitch store in that NYC one.
posted by paisley sheep at 12:22 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


I don't care as much about the "why" of the photos as I do about seeing humans in patterns. I did buy this book a while back, after looking for more ethnographic photo books of people in their respective cultures and contexts. I'm still looking for more, if anyone has suggestions!
posted by limeonaire at 12:25 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Something that I wish that critics of fashion understood a little better is that everyone who wears clothing is at the mercy of what is available to them. It might be that they are a wealthy fashion student who is limited only by their skills and imagination. It might be that they are a single parent with two jobs and three kids who is limited to what they can afford at the discount store closest to their home. If people could actually wear what they truly wanted to wear, we’d be seeing ballgowns and comfortable jumpsuits and invisibility cloaks and dragon costumes all over the place.

Global distribution of goods means that the same items are available to a larger number of people. I’m sure a good many of these people picked out a shirt and figured it was tolerable enough, not Their Next Personal Statement for All of Humankind.
posted by corey flood at 12:28 PM on August 24 [146 favorites]


It's annoying as fuck when some signature piece of your personal style becomes fashionable for a season, at least for someone like myself who isn't fashion aware.

At first it's great. The item starts suddenly becoming available somewhere besides some little obscure shop three towns over (western Canada three not east coast megalopolis three). Then people start complimenting you on the item (the second time really throws you). Then the item is available everywhere; you are in selection and availability heaven. Sadly that just means the decline is eminent. Soon the item is only available on discount racks. Then practically nowhere and you hope the obscure shop successfully weathered the storm. People start looking at you with increasing sympathy as time goes on with one assumes is pity that you can't afford or are just too uncool to stop wearing item. Eventually everyone thinks you are stuck in 2006 when you've just been minding your own oblivious business since 1970.

Fashion is a thing, no matter if you think you follow it or not

If you don't follow fashion you have no choice but to conform to trends. When you go into the store to replace worn items they generally are stocking only "fashionable" or trendy items. Unless you go out of your way or make your own stuff you'll be clothed just like everyone else.
posted by Mitheral at 12:30 PM on August 24 [29 favorites]


In other news the Canadian Tuxedo appears to be back in fashion [these bozos got nothing on Bing, though,]
posted by chavenet at 12:32 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


If you don't follow fashion you have no choice but to conform to trends.

Or you can, like I have, purchase the exact same jeans and the exact same boots for decades (Levi's 501 shrink-to-fit and Danner Quarry), and so there are no trends. You're buying what you bought 20 years ago. (The jeans I've been buying since the early 80s. They remain basically unchanged in how they fit and how they wear and age. Utterly predictable. Utterly unfashionable. Completely practical and useful.)
posted by hippybear at 12:39 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


People have always just put on what everyone is putting on since the beginning of time. I think the more interesting observation is that the changes in how we make things available hasn't changed our instinct to wear something similar to what we see other people wearing.
posted by bleep at 12:40 PM on August 24


Haha, look at those fools all wearing pants and shirts and whatever. They are basically boring clones.

I mostly wear an old car door. It's not for everyone. It's heavy and has poor coverage, and the twine I use to hold it up can sometimes cut off circulation, and sometimes it's cold, but it's a small price to pay.

Also, those flannels are all different.
posted by surlyben at 12:52 PM on August 24 [124 favorites]


I mean, my assumption when I get dressed isn't that my clothes are unique. I haven't had that thought since I was 16 and also thought I invented both curse words and sex. I bought these mass produced clothes in a chain store that exists on multiple continents--of course there are other people also wearing them.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:53 PM on August 24 [23 favorites]


One thing that I think this critique misses is that often, people don't dress the way they do to express their individuality. Often, they dress the way they do to express their identity as part of a subculture or a group. Sometimes they're doing that subconsciously, but sometimes they totally know they're doing it. It would be a little dumb to take 35 pictures of teenage girls wearing scrunchies, shell necklaces, oversized t-shirts, and crocs and to claim those girls were stupid and clueless to think they were expressing their individuality, because those girls are probably self-identified VSCO girls, and they're actually consulting various instagram accounts to figure out how to achieve the VSCO girl look. Youth culture has always been about group identity at least as much as it's been about individuality, just like middle-aged and elderly culture has always been about stupid critiques of youth culture that just reveal that the person making the critique is a little out of touch.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:55 PM on August 24 [52 favorites]


(And I realize this guy is not just taking pictures of the youngs, but the same thing is true for older people. The businessmen in suits don't think they're dressing as individuals. They're consciously wearing a uniform.)
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:59 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


The businessmen in suits don't think they're dressing as individuals. They're consciously wearing a uniform.

*insert frantic organ music and commuter time lapses from Koyaanisqatsi*
posted by hippybear at 1:01 PM on August 24 [25 favorites]


“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”

The core thesis is just so wrong. Some subset of consumers buy cloths with a primary purpose of "personality" but there are vast numbers that have just the simple prosaic aim of keeping warm.

Or fitting in, or hiding, or minimal social norms, or needing pants and that's the least offensive on the rack, or any number of reasons.
posted by sammyo at 1:07 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


super bummed I missed 2000 bandolier season in the netherlands
posted by logicpunk at 1:07 PM on August 24 [16 favorites]


In other news the Canadian Tuxedo appears to be back in fashion

No, no it was never in fashion. Denim tops or denim bottoms, people, never both!

Also what's with the... are they Louis Vuitton man purses? Is that a thing now?
posted by Justinian at 1:08 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not seeing any interesting insights here. The punchline is supposed to be that the "unhindered flow of global commerce has left us all wearing the same thing." Hmm, ok, here's a crowd scene circa 1900 New York, look at all the amazing diversity!

A much more interesting social commentary on fashion and place are Peter Funch's photos of the same people captured while commuting at the corner of 42nd and Vanderbilt over the period of 2007-2016.
posted by jeremias at 1:11 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


I wasn't just trying to say this guy is wrong, I just found it an odd thesis, and trying to figure out how much is his and how much is Bad Headline Writing, which I assumed at first glance.

As someone said, if you stand in a major city and possibly thousands of people walk by, why wouldn't you expect some of them to be dressed the same? But to make that a sign of consumer homogeneity, I don't get it. Are you saying if you went to a place or time without a strong consumer culture that you would see more variety of dress? I don't think anyone believes that after more than a few seconds thought.

There are a lot of critiques of consumerism that I'm on board for, this one confusing.
posted by bongo_x at 1:17 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


In other news the Canadian Tuxedo appears to be back in fashion

From the link:

Each time someone is caught wearing denim head to toe they’re not accused of rocking a Kentucky Tux or an Alabama Formal – it’s a Canadian Tuxedo.

Someone has not lived in Georgia. Really only call it Canadian Tuxedo when there are Canadians in the room.
posted by bongo_x at 1:18 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I can't remember the last time I saw someone on rollerblades.
I didn't even know they were a thing anymore.

Ditto with the jean jackets.
All they are missing are song lyrics done in permanent marker and/or a heavy metal patch on the back.
posted by madajb at 1:19 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I read the premise, looked at the pictures, liked them, read the comments, and agreed with the general skepticism of the article's thesis. I am sheeple too, I guess.
posted by hilberseimer at 1:21 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


The rollerblade pictures are from 1997, which is approximately the last time I saw rollerblades. Maybe it's time for a rollerblade revival!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:21 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I agree that the framing in the article is way off, but if you put these pictures on the cover of a sociology textbook, they'd make a basic point reasonably well that who we are is to a great extent conditioned/structured by society--the clothing functioning as a metonym for social roles, social categories, material culture in general, etc.
posted by Wobbuffet at 1:22 PM on August 24


Meryl Streep's speech on how the fashion industry works is proven to be true.
posted by Bee'sWing at 1:25 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


All Dutch people look the same.
posted by snofoam at 1:31 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Or you can, like I have, purchase the exact same jeans and the exact same boots for decades (Levi's 501 shrink-to-fit and Danner Quarry), and so there are no trends. You're buying what you bought 20 years ago.

Well, that's IF you happen to latch onto something that happens to keep getting manufactured for another twenty years. If they stopped making that style of boots tomorrow, you'd have to either switch to something else or spend a bunch of time and money hunting down good used ones in your size once your current pair wears out.

It's like women's jeans. If I don't want stretch jeans, in today's market I either have to wear men's cut, haunt thrift shops or online resellers, or get them custom made.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:34 PM on August 24 [15 favorites]


I dunno, what if instead of assuming that these images argue "you're not so special, sheeple", we assume that they really argue, "you're not alone"? I, a visibly queer weirdo, enjoy seeing people who dress and style themselves more or less like me. Why not be happy that there are other people who enjoy the same things you do?

I'm a lonely person and genuinely, as far as I can tell after four decades, a little bit odd. I assume that many other people, odd or not, feel lonely. Well, now you know that some other person got up this morning and felt like wearing double denim, or that for some reason that horrible little Vuitton bag just totally sent them. You have something in common! Maybe you'd be friends if you met!
posted by Frowner at 1:37 PM on August 24 [60 favorites]


Bee'sWing: That's not Meryl Streep's speech. It's Lauren Weisberger's speech (who wrote the novel). Streep just hit her marks and said her lines, even if very well.

That said, the whole argument, either by Eijkelboom or by Weisberger, is a strawman. If those are the clothes available in shops, then that's a fantastically limited range of options. Many people buy their clothes because that's what's available. They're not trying to "express their individuality." If the palette is limited because of the buyer at the chain level, well, whose fault is that?
posted by aurelian at 1:40 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Just drape yourself in velvet and be done with it.
posted by Dumsnill at 1:44 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


"I saw it in the window and I just had to have it." - Carol Burnett
posted by hippybear at 1:45 PM on August 24 [16 favorites]


Also, I think that queer people in general, because we are used to signalling who we are through clothes, are a lot less worried by "but you're not unique" than straight people. Like, of course my clothes are not unique, they're well within the genre of youngish-but-not-actually-young-young masculine of center arty people, but the serious-romantic variety not the camp-fun variety. There are lots of people who dress like me, because there's a rhetoric of queer clothes.

In fact, why would we possibly ever dress "individually"? Clothes are either about practicality, availability or signaling, and as long as we're signalling we're working with a pre-existing language of clothes. Worrying about this is like worrying about how I don't make up words when I speak but instead use some kind of stupid premade vocabulary.

~~
Honestly, I think these are neat photos, and I think that it's very worth exploring what people think "individuality" means and how we're all produced by our societies (I found the one little remark about documenting affect super interesting and would like more of this) but it's silly to be troubled that we live, as the poet said, in a society.
~~
I thought the first linked piece was fantastic because it did not lead with Ladies In Lingerie. Most articles of this sort, as far as I can tell, lead off with scantily clad women subjects then go to aging, overdressed or fat women subjects (first sexy ladies, then ladies we can hate, because hating ladies is almost as fun for Americans as looking at sexy ladies). Instead, this article led with lots of stuff about men, the unexamined gender.
posted by Frowner at 1:47 PM on August 24 [25 favorites]


As a fat weirdo, it was always my dream to dress exactly like the people around me; alas, some dreams never come true.

My new dream is to wear a black turtleneck every day, a completely original idea that I'm sure no one has ever done before.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:47 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


I used to make this argument about houses, too. People would try to tell me suburbia was what people wanted. No, it was what was available, it was what was constructed. And the fact that price indicates demand should show that what people want are dense, multi-purpose cities far more than sprawly, mono-culture suburbs. Basically, you have to put suburbs on discount.

But this is similar. People aren't buying these clothes necessarily because they're what they want. It's because they go into the shops, and that's what's there.
posted by aurelian at 1:48 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


And I'm vaguely convinced he just stationed himself near the Abercrombie & Fitch store in that NYC one.

Yes it turns out that if you stand on 5th Ave at 56th St in Manhattan for any amount of time, you'll see a lot of people with Abercrombie & Fitch bags. And probably a few with Prada bags. Genius experiment.
posted by theory at 1:50 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


"you're not alone"

a.k.a. consciousness of kind.
posted by Wobbuffet at 1:51 PM on August 24


The only fashion advice I seem to remember from my teens was: Never wear jeans and and a dungaree jacket in the same colour. You will look like a member of a very silly and very white British hip hop band.
posted by Dumsnill at 2:01 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


No, no it was never in fashion.

jean jackets and jeans? in the early 70s they were in fashion, possibly the late 60s, too

then came polyester, but i went to flannels

yes, i am the original slacker
posted by pyramid termite at 2:02 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Back in the early 90’s I was standing on Haight street here in San Francisco. It wasn’t that there were a lot of people wearing the same thing. There was a lot of variety. What I noticed was that if there were two or more people walking together, they were dressed the same. Goth, punk, hippie, flannel shirt and jeans, whatever. Intimate social group conformity. But there was a quite colorful variety of groups. But in the Castro there was definitely the Castro clone look, crewcut, flannel, denim. Loads.
posted by njohnson23 at 2:06 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


I don't disagree that due to globalisation there are transnational style hegemonies happening, but you don't need a coffee table book for the proof , just browse AirBnB listings for a bit.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 2:07 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I wonder what the photographer was wearing when he took these utterly unsurprising shots?

Just drape yourself in velvet and be done with it.

George Costanza? Is that you?
posted by Paul Slade at 2:25 PM on August 24


I would switch to an all-caftan wardrobe but it wouldn't fly in my office.
posted by emjaybee at 2:25 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


"There are 10,000 people just like you" just means you similar to about .0001% of the population. Which is not that similar.
posted by sideshow at 2:39 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


impressed by the photo collections that point out that many women wear spaghetti strap tops when the weather is very hot and many men wear rainjackets when the whether is very rainy
posted by grandiloquiet at 2:39 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


I love clothes and I find fashion fascinating. I work hard on my personal style. It's fun for me.

I recently bought these pants because I am now back to working in an office. And I actually love when I see other people wearing these pants. I feel a kinship with them. It makes me feel less alone about going into an office job. It's a shared experience.

What we wear says who we are but also who we belong with. I think that's important. I don't think that's something to be mocked.
posted by darksong at 2:55 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


"There are 10,000 people just like you" just means you similar to about .0001% of the population. Which is not that similar.

Yes, but you all live in the same neighborhood.
posted by hippybear at 2:57 PM on August 24


Practically every sensation and emotion and thought and action and choice in this life will have been experienced by someone else previously.

Ironically this article and photo essay also have nothing new or original to say.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:05 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


I used to be totally anti-fashion, and I ended up wearing fleece sweatpants and ratty T shirts. It's OK to buy what other people are buying. People are always looking for some excuse to shit on each other, but even that's a trend -- oh yeah, you're the one guy to notice that people dress in similar ways. Or to put it another way, how can you be so naïve to look at people out in public, to judge them thinking your superficial observations equate to some deep insight about individuality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:06 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


It's like women's jeans. If I don't want stretch jeans, in today's market I either have to wear men's cut, haunt thrift shops or online resellers, or get them custom made.

So weird, I was in a store a few days ago looking at men's jeans and 90% of them were stretch denim, which I'm sure was not the case just a few months ago.
posted by bongo_x at 3:20 PM on August 24


Farm and Ranch stores, if you can find one, are the place to shop for jeans. Old fashioned work denim. Yes, stretch options too (Wranglers have always been stretch), but the prices are better than regular retail and the selection is straightforward and dependable.
posted by hippybear at 3:24 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


An interesting thing about the photos, and a point seemingly missed, is that fashion is in the details, truly. In the first second you can tell which ones are not taken in an American city, and some of them just seem odd, though not radically different.
posted by bongo_x at 3:25 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Practically every sensation and emotion and thought and action and choice in this life will have been experienced by someone else previously.

"Original thought is like original sin: both happened long before you were born to people you could not possibly have met." - Fran Leibowitz.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:28 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


An interesting thing about the photos, and a point seemingly missed, is that fashion is in the details, truly.

And it's funny how you look for difference in the backgrounds, since this piece spends so much effort removing subtlety and nuance from an analysis of fashion. "If you ignore the details, everything everywhere is the same. I mean, when you get right down to it, they're all just nouns."
posted by rhizome at 3:34 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


It’s not that there isn’t enough variety in style. It’s that there are too many people.
posted by skyscraper at 3:36 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


People don't buy fashionable clothes to be unique, they buy them to fit in. A nice haircut and trendy clothes are the world's best camouflage.

If you really want go stand out, dress in something that is out of fashion. Not sweatpants or jeans but like MC hammer pants or polyester leisure suit.
posted by fshgrl at 3:42 PM on August 24 [6 favorites]


“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”

Sometimes you just need a fucking jacket, asshole, and all they have is red.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 3:43 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


Ah, the red Member's Only jacket of the 80s... good times.
posted by hippybear at 3:58 PM on August 24


The interview in the Phaedon link is amusing for the interviewer asking Eijkelboom about how his photos compare to those of a different photographer who does much the same thing. Eijkelboom makes a big point of differentiating his photographs from the other in terms of how they read and then mentions a number of other photographers who also take the same kinds of photos to slightly different effect, all without seeming to notice how all of that comments on his work and narrow view on fashion.

The fashion antagonistic always like to focus on some quasi-macroview of clothing as proof of its failings or limits, when that is the least interesting and meaningful element involved. Yeah, men in much of the world tend to wear pants and a shirt, except where they don't and all dress in some other broadly similar kinds of clothes, but that's obviously not all that's involved as even the pictures in the main link show. The photos grouped as they do seek to draw attention to the like elements which obscures all the unlike elements that also are a part of the individual style.

It ignores context, how clothes don't communicate in the abstract but on a body, as part of a larger whole and are seen in motion as part of a larger communal setting that informs how we understand them and the "message" they send, clothes are an accessory in communication that works with who we are and/or who we see ourselves as being as part of a community, clothes don't "say" much of anything by themselves without an informing context. Individuality doesn't have to be seen as an absolute as most of us aren't interested in total isolation from others, but both accepting we are part of a larger community while saying we have our own idea of our place within that larger group that may or may not acknowledge subcultural representation or a sense of connection to a variety of different interests within the culture.

It's no different than music or anything else, hell, back in my high school years wearing a band t-shirt was common enough, but which band was an important signal of self. In the same way a person in their fifties leisure dressing exactly like a kid in their teens is sending an entirely different message that almost no one would mistake as being the same. The whole attitude of antagonism about fashion for some who seem not to want to think themselves as invested in it is really vacuous.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:16 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”

I want to hear from the guy who genuinely has never realised this.
posted by Reyturner at 4:24 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


For some reason, I can't help think of The Dungarees vs. The Suits.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:26 PM on August 24


These are most interesting because they capture specific moments in specific places and times: one of the things about moving or traveling to different cities is realizing that there are certain articles of clothing or styles that are a trend *in that particular place*, often for that particular season. These sometimes have something to do with larger/macro fashion trends, but often they're just unique to that particular city, items that are locally popular. Everyone is wearing vintage furs; everyone has this style of purse. Sometimes it's one item, like the guys in Paris who are all carrying a LV pochette or the Dutch guys who are all wearing a particular colour of red Columbia jacket. Sometimes it's stuff like long-sleeved t-shirts under short sleeved t-shirts. These aren't 'high fashion' items or even the particular look of a particular season -- but they're part of a local and pervasive fashion culture, a street style that isn't particularly 'street'.

The most interesting one is the guys on rollerblades -- there's hardly any clothes involved, just the skates and shorts, but the men all sport a particular uniform body type -- muscled, shaven, slightly tanned -- presumably produced by gym workouts. Fashion doesn't just dictate clothing, but hair, body modification, the ways you walk and stand.

It's fascinating, and the photos are really interesting, but not at all for the reasons the photographer thinks.
posted by jrochest at 6:15 PM on August 24 [21 favorites]


And by British hip hop I meant Stereo MC's
posted by Dumsnill at 6:57 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality...

How can you be so blinkered to think everyone uses clothes to sum up their personality?
posted by tclark at 7:27 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


It's fascinating, and the photos are really interesting, but not at all for the reasons the photographer thinks.

Yeah, it can be really interesting to take a commonality and then use it to get a sense of the differences between those sharing the common element and/or the difference between "there" and elsewhere.

Just looking at the pictures of flannels, for example, you can get a sense that the people wearing them have some diverse ideas about who they are or at least how they seem to think about their image. In the first five pictures, the three guys all wear the shirts in their own fashion. The third guy wears it like a light jacket with his emphasis being that of a Laker's fan in his t-shirt and hat with the flannel just keeping the look grounded and not overselling the importance of Magic Johnson shirt and Lakers hat in a really casual way.

The first guy, with his rolled up sleeves, tighter pants with hanging suspenders and close cut hair, and the second guy, with his more involved hair do, tucked in and partially buttoned shirt showing a crisp white tee and with well fit jeans both show some more invested care in the look they are sending, but not in quite the same way. The same kinda thing holds for two women in that row, with the first having a much more composed look than the second. You can note similar sorts of variations in all the likened groups.

That's all just to agree that the post is interesting and welcome, even if the way the articles talk about it are as compelling.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:41 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it can be really interesting to take a commonality and then use it to get a sense of the differences between those sharing the common element and/or the difference between "there" and elsewhere.

Absolutely, and while the article doesn't go there, there's a school of thought that says differences are most apparent the more identical two things are. Sometimes nothing is so annoying as a quirk in someone with whom you have a lot in common. Couples break up over this!

Just looking at the jeans+jean-jacket group, there's a lot of meaningful differences. The black guys are the only ones wearing shoes of any distinction, the white guys almost uniformly wearing Dad Sneakers. The popped collar of the guy in the top row vs. the guy's in the bottom row with the red shirt. The hoodies of the black guy in the top row vs. Fake Liam Neeson in the middle row. None of the white guys have JNCO-baggy legs. I think these things say something about different peoples' idea of the Canadian Tuxedo.

If you take these things as representative, are white guys less comfortable with a YSL manpurse? Seems possible from the evidence so far, and at any rate they make it up in plaid flannels, flannels which look 300% better on the women. Why do rollerbladers, of all people, seem so averse to leg day? Do rollerbladers really divide cleanly into "short hair" and "shitty hair?" Do any brown people wear red sailing parkas?

These are questions despite the overview, not raised by it.

His photo series, shot during two-hour sessions on the street in Western cities over the past twenty two years, captures people as they truly dress: not with the individual panache so often dreamed of in clothes shop dressing rooms

Well yeah, when you excise the people out of their contexts. Some of these photos of identical people could be decades apart! That's a pretty abstract herd.

Do you think people will ever realise that buying fashionable clothes doesn't actually make them look different or special?
I’m not sure. I think there’s an interesting development happening. I think people are regarding it increasingly important how they look on the street, and more important how they look online...


Ded.
posted by rhizome at 9:06 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Absolutely, and while the article doesn't go there, there's a school of thought that says differences are most apparent the more identical two things are. Sometimes nothing is so annoying as a quirk in someone with whom you have a lot in common. Couples break up over this!

Absolutely! And often times it's intentional, a difference to be understood by a subculture while not noticed at all by the larger culture. To go back to my earlier band t-shirt example from high school, to many adults of the time the difference between one band t-shirt and another might be virtually non-existent while to teens the band could be a signal of a much wider range of value differences.

It's almost hard to believe the photographer doesn't get this. It'd be like taking audio recording equipment around the world and marveling at how one can hear similar vowel sounds or the occasional same word while not understanding there are different languages involved.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:18 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


Also, I think that queer people in general, because we are used to signalling who we are through clothes...

Y E P. This is absolutely one of my favorite parts of queer culture. To name just one example of billions: the Bi Pants Cuff. Cuffing your jeans way above the ankles has reached running joke/memetic status in bi circles. "But straight people cuff their jeans, too", sure, but one must take the signals in aggregate. You can express pretty detailed things about your sexuality and gender through these signals, when worn in queer spaces especially. Super helpful as expressions of solidarity and for attracting the like-minded.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:53 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


madajb: I can't remember the last time I saw someone on rollerblades.

ArbitraryAndCapricious: The rollerblade pictures are from 1997, which is approximately the last time I saw rollerblades. Maybe it's time for a rollerblade revival!

I saw the owner of this old pickup truck sitting on the tailgate, putting on rollerblades, about a year ago. I didn't get a picture of that, because it felt a bit intrusive.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:48 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


If we look at pics of, say, New York City in the mid-1800s everyone looks the same then too.

Even the working class immigrant men all wore button down shirts with three button vests and a jacket. It was what was available.

Pictures and the early “street view” videos show tons of women all wearing long skirts with button boots and hats at tilt with feathers on top.

Granted those clothes all lasted a lot longer and were repaired and handed down, but mainstream fashion has always been mainstream fashion.
posted by sio42 at 12:55 AM on August 25


The word "genius" is doing a lot of heavy lifting here.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 2:33 AM on August 25 [3 favorites]


The last time I was on rollerblades was the summer of '99. Hit a big crack in the pavement, lost my balance, fell, and broke my hip. The ambulance that took me away got broadsided on the way to the hospital, which resulted in the ball of my femur snapping off in the socket. I was on the orthopedic rehab ward four weeks after the surgery (through which I'm told I belted "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" along with the OR radio. Doc said in 10 years I should have the joint replaced. Broke the same hip in two different places falling on the ice a couple years ago. Still haven't gone in to consult about the replacement because I'm a big chicken, bok bok bok.

I guess my point is that even though the 20th anniversary of the original accident happened just recently, whenever I see someone on skates I still immediately want to get a pair and go zooming off into the sunset.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:11 AM on August 25 [7 favorites]


“Sheeple.”

“Matrix.”

Garbage headline, garbage thesis.
posted by tantrumthecat at 5:12 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


^Good grief, Underpants. What rollerblading fashion were you wearing at the time? ;-)
posted by cenoxo at 5:47 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Well yeah, when you excise the people out of their contexts. Some of these photos of identical people could be decades apart! That's a pretty abstract herd.

I think while the photographer has been taking these sets for a couple decades each set of pictures is from just two hours on a single day in a single location.
posted by Mitheral at 6:16 AM on August 25


^Good grief, Underpants. What rollerblading fashion were you wearing at the time? ;-)

A head-to-toe ensemble of inadequate padding.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:14 AM on August 25 [6 favorites]


“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?”

I don't usually buy clothes to "sum up my personality." Was I supposed to be doing that?
For work, I buy clothes to specifically fit in with the unwritten but obvious dress code of my profession.
For recreation I buy clothes that keep me comfortable and safe, usually as cheaply as possible.
For dates with my spouse I buy clothes that I think that she thinks will make me look nice.

I don't even want my personality summed up in a two-second glance to check out what I'm wearing.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:44 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I can't remember the last time I saw someone on rollerblades.
I didn't even know they were a thing anymore.


For me it was the day before yesterday - a young woman, probably a student on her way home, rolling past my house. I live near a university and the students have adopted a lot of different non-car/non-bicycle* modes of transportation, though various types of skateboard (manual, standard electric, and single-wheel electric) seem more popular than rollerblades.

* Bicycle theft is a big problem here.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 10:13 AM on August 25


The author seems to take on premise that most people want their clothing to be some sort of individualistic statement of personality. I think that's a bad assumption and the photos are, in fact, evidence that people are not doing this. At least not it's not the dominant factor in their choices.

Clothing is more often a statement of group membership; the individuality is in the details, encoded in a way that is targeted to other members of the group. The photographer fails to see this, presumably, because he's not the target audience, or doesn't care to look.

Personally, I dress in a way that's meant to blend in, be basically nonthreatening, ease my interactions with other people (i.e. appear "respectable", not poor but not flush with cash, etc.), be comfortable, and easy to maintain. Which is what a lot of other people are doing, too. Not exactly shocking that people end up wearing the same thing, even setting aside the obvious economies of scale that make mass-manufactured clothing cheap.


I also think the photos have something of a... creepy surveillance quality to them.

I'm not saying that street photography isn't a legitimate tradition, but I question whether many of these people would have wanted to be photographed, if they'd had an option. I'm particularly fond of the woman's expression in the top row, center of this collection; one person's "genius photographer" is someone else's "weirdo creeper that just took a picture of me".
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:54 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Street snaps style comes to China:
What’s On Weibo > China Celebs > Faking Street Photography –Why Staged “Street Snaps” Are All the Rage in China by Manya Koetse, June 25, 2019

Staged street photography is the latest “15 minutes of fame” trend on Chinese social media.

It looks as if they are spontaneously photographed or filmed by one of China’s many street photographers, but it is actually staged. Chinese online influencers – or the companies behind them – are using street photography as part of their social media strategy. And then there are those who are mocking them.

Recently a new trend has popped up on Chinese social media: people posting short videos on their accounts that create the impression that they are being spotted by street fashion photographers. Some look at the camera in a shy way, others turn away, then there are those who smile and cheekily stick out their tongue at the camera.

Although it may appear to be all spontaneous, these people – mostly women – are actually not randomly being caught on camera by one of China’s many street fashion photographers in trendy neighborhoods. They have organized this ‘fashion shoot’ themselves, often showing off their funny poses and special moves, from backward flips to splits, to attract more attention.

In doing so, these self-made models are gaining more fans on their Weibo, Douyin, Xiaohongshu, or WeChat accounts, and are turning their social media apps into their very own stage.
...
Both the latest street snap trend and the staged video trend are all part of China’s so-called “Wanghong economy.” Wǎnghóng (网红) is the Chinese term for internet celebrities, KOL (Key Opinion Leader) or ‘influencer.’ Influencer marketing is hot and booming in China: in 2018, the industry was estimated to be worth some $17.16 billion. Being a wanghong is lucrative business: the more views, clicks, and fans one has, the more profit they can make through e-commerce and online advertising.
All new style takes are looks and a whole lot of money.
posted by cenoxo at 12:55 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


I went hiking with a friend yesterday and it was pretty funny when I went to pick him up to see that we were both wearing grey hiking pants and red t-shirts. We had independently decided that red would stand out the most and went with it (great minds think alike right?). We probably looked like we were on a team of some kind.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:56 PM on August 25


Is the idea that the person wearing the outfit makes it unique insidious garment industry propaganda?
posted by Selena777 at 7:53 AM on August 26


I mean, the set of shots from Shanghai from 12 Oct 2005 are literally of women in work uniforms. You can see their name tags. I dunno where he was going with that one.
posted by mhum at 10:30 AM on August 26


My first exposure to Eijkelboom was for a photo show that we put on that included him, Arno Minkkinen and Edward Burtynsky. The context of the Eijkelboom gallery was specifically comparing the similarities of clothing in three cities - Paris, New York City, and Shanghai. He was exploring the idea of these big cities that served as the cultural capitol at one point in time. (Paris was for the 19th century, NYC for the 20th, and Shanghai as the 21st century) that look very similar because of globalization flattening out what and where clothing is produced and sold. It seemed to be something he found fascinating, without the "sheeple" hostile edge to it?
posted by PussKillian at 1:00 PM on August 26 [3 favorites]


The most interesting one is the guys on rollerblades -- there's hardly any clothes involved, just the skates and shorts, but the men all sport a particular uniform body type -- muscled, shaven, slightly tanned -- presumably produced by gym workouts. Fashion doesn't just dictate clothing, but hair, body modification, the ways you walk and stand.

This is such an amazing little time capsule. And it made me think, if Gabriel wants to rollerblade, Gabriel rollerblades.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:10 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


I always get excited when I see other people wearing the same thing as me because it is pretty rare, with the exception of my blue-and-white-gingham-shirt phase. Once I started seeing that on every other WeWork tech bro, it made me sad.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:34 AM on August 29


Me too, but I seem to have taken longer than lots of people to realize that exclaiming "twinsies!" at strangers isn't received quite the same way as when I was younger.
posted by rhizome at 11:34 PM on August 30 [1 favorite]


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