Troubling fashion trends
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/07/2015 (2893 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
We’ve all been fashion victims from time to time, but this poor woman was almost a fashion fatality.
We’re referring to a 35-year-old Australian woman who made headlines around the world after spending four days in hospital with muscle damage, swelling and nerve blockages in her legs thanks to a rather unusual health hazard — a pair of skinny jeans.
Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past week, you will have heard about this unfortunate woman, who was wearing a pair of the trendy trousers while helping a family member move, which involved emptying some kitchen cupboards and spending several hours squatting down.
By day’s end, news reports state, the unnamed woman could barely feel her feet and toppled over while walking home through a park. She had to crawl to a nearby road, where a cabbie rushed her to Royal Adelaide Hospital and into the care of neurologist Dr. Thomas Kimber. “When she arrived, her calves were massively swollen — so much so they had to cut her jeans from her body,” Kimber said. “They weren’t able to remove them any other way.”
We suggest you approach skinny jeans with the caution you would use sneaking up on a hungry crocodile, or any of the following Top Five Worst Fashion Trends of All Time:
5) Powdered Wigs
If you get the History Channel or managed to stay awake in high school, you know what we’re talking about. Even the hip website CollegeHumor.com rates this as one of the worst fashion trends in history. “Hey, check out that stupid powdered white wig with the curls and the ribbons and bows!” the cheeky website chirps. “Pretty stupid, huh? What started as a cover for King Louis… of France’s baldness became the look du jour for kings, politicians and aristocrats, including the Founding Fathers. Ugh, how embarrassing for them.” The website MentalFloss.com says the white wigs — known as perukes or periwigs — became chic because of a syphilis epidemic that ravaged Europe in the late 1600s, a time when baldness swept the land. “At the time, hair loss was a one-way ticket to public embarrassment,” the site explains. “Long hair was a trendy status symbol, and a bald dome could stain any reputation… And so, the syphilis outbreak sparked a surge in wig-making. Victims hid their baldness, as well as the bloody sores that scoured their faces, with wigs made of horse, goat, or human hair.” The perukes were reportedly coated with scented powder to mask the foul aromas arising from the wearers. When Louis XIV started losing his hair, he hired 48 wig-makers to rescue his image. His cousin, Charles II of England, is said to have turned to wigs when his locks turned grey. In the late 1700s, young guys started to buck the trend by powdering their natural hair, meaning only old fogeys wore wigs. A 1795 British tax on hair powder hastened their demise, though some judges and barristers still sport them for official functions. And we think you look very dashing, your honour.
4) Elizabethan Ruffs
Arguably the most useless fashion ever was the collar ruff, becoming popular during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Ruffs were those elaborate, pleated collars that made the fashion victim look as if he or she was wearing a ballet tutu around the neck. Consider a scene from the hilarious historical BBC sitcom Blackadder II wherein the titular hero and his pal, Lord Percy, discuss the fashion. Blackadder: “What are you wearing around your neck?” Percy: “Ah! It’s my new ruff!” Blackadder: “You look like a bird who’s swallowed a plate.” In a 2015 articles, Esquire magazine listed the “unsightly human doily that afflicted the necks of William Shakespeare, Louis XIV and any other men painted during the 17th century” as one of the Top 10 Worst Fashion Trends in History. They were, Esquire noted, “an accessory which, at its peak, could be up to a doorway-bothering one foot in width.” The website WorldofShakespeare.com notes these eccentric items, worn by men and women, became symbolic of the Elizabethan era. It was simple: The higher your status, the more outrageous your ruff. “Quality ruffs were decorated with lace, gold, silver, and fine silk,” notes World of Shakespeare. “For the poorer folk a ruff would likely be made of cheap fabric that would have likely irritated the skin.” Some of the more flamboyant ruffs required a wire frame to keep them in place. Sadly, by the mid-17th century, they had fallen out of fashion, although they still come in handy if you want to prevent your dog from scratching a medically sensitive area.
3) Hammer Pants
Let’s get one thing straight right off the hip hop — We are talking about (bad word) Hammer pants, which are not to be confused with parachute pants, which were those tight, shiny pants made of synthetic material (like the stuff they used to make parachutes) and frequently featured multiple zippers. In contrast, Hammer pants were loose-fitting, ultra-baggy trousers that made you look like you were wearing your living room drapes, because they were billowy in the crotch and tapered at the ankles. Originally known as harem pants, they became synonymous in the late 1980s and early 1990s with rapper Stanley Burrell, better known as MC Hammer, who became a global phenomenon dancing around in these pants in videos wherein he would sing, and we quote: “(Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh) U can’t touch this/(Oh-oh oh oh oh-oh-oh-oh) break it down/(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh/Stop — Hammer time.” For reasons no one understands, that song and these droopy drawers became a huge hit in the ’90s. “If there was ever a trend that deserved to stay dead, it was harem pants,” sniffs the website smashinglists.com. “Pioneered by MC Hammer, the defining characteristic of the harem pant is the excess material in the crotch… If anyone can tell me why this is cool, I’ll give you some kind of prize.” And if anyone is thinking about buying a vintage pair online, let’s not forget what Hammer advised over and over: “U can’t touch this!” Enough said.
2) Sagging Trousers
Yes, we are talking about the obnoxious trend wherein hip young dudes wear pants so (bad word) saggy that the top of their trousers hangs below their waist, revealing their choice of underwear to a weary world. Esquire magazine suggests this style originated in the U.S. prison system in the 1990s, because belts were prohibited to prevent them from being used as weapons or suicide tools. “It didn’t take long for the wear-your-trousers-beneath-your-underwear look to spread, predominantly via crime-glorifying hip-hop,” the famed men’s style magazine laments. “Accordingly, since the 2000s, sagging pants has been the go-to expression of misplaced bravado for adolescents across the Western world.” Fashion historian Tanisha Ford of the University of Massachusetts Amherst has disputed whether “sagging” began in prisons, but there’s no doubt it was spread by hip-hop artists in the 1990s. Critics hopefully suggest the style is dying out, but there’s not a huge amount of evidence to back that up, especially if you’ve ever had an unexpected glimpse of Justin Bieber’s backside. In 2011, for instance, Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman for the famed American punk rock band Green Day, was booted from a Southwest Airlines flight because (dramatic pause) his pants were sagging too low. When a flight attendant said “Pull your pants up!” Billie Joe replied: “Don’t you have better things to do than worry about that?” Which is when the singer was evicted and had to book the next available flight. On the upside, if you are ever being chased by a gang of people wearing really saggy pants, relax, because they can’t run very fast.
1) The Leisure Suit
We’ll be blunt — if you are going to be at leisure, don’t wear a suit. It’s kind of like eating sugar-free chocolate and convincing yourself it’s actually chocolate. The idea of a casual suit consisting of a shirt-like jacket and matching trousers reportedly originated on the U.S. West Coast in the late 1930s as summer casual-wear for the wealthy. But it only took off in the mid- to late 1970s with the creation and popularization of materials that don’t exist in nature. The idea of a cheap, casual, synthetic suit seemed perfect for a culture that was beginning to reject formality. With their eye-popping pastel colours, they were the symbol of the era’s disco culture. They even spawned a legendary video game series, Leisure Suit Larry, featuring a leisure-suit-wearing, balding guy in his 40s who (surprise) has a hard time attracting women. For the most part, the leisure/disco suit has been consigned to the closet of history. “Despite the best efforts of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the casual jacket and trouser combo in matching pastel shades never made it out of the early 80s,” sighs Esquire. “Instead, the disco suit quickly became consigned to American kitsch and was made synonymous with clueless dressing. The disco suit’s resurrection should be feared just as much as the next ABBA reissue.” Piles on Glamour magazine: “From ’70s polyester versions to ’00s velour tracksuits, no one could possibly feel comfortable in this conspicuously geeky look, no matter the trend’s comfort-seeking intentions.” For the record, we never owned one and, no, you can’t look in our closet.
The fashion point we are trying to make — and we do have one — is that you cannot be too careful when deciding which trends to follow and which to ignore. Sure, a pair of skinny jeans may not send you to the hospital, but there’s a good chance they’ll make you look stupid. Mind you, they just might work with one of those powdered wigs.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.