Music and fashion are not strongly linked anymore. As a result, almost all physical manifestations of belonging to a particular group are gone. No occasional sighting of a skater with baggy jeans or a punk in black leather jacket can change that fact. We live in different times. Today it is more important to all look more or less the same than really stand out. Even the algorithms driving my Spotify account agree with me. After many years of listening in to the music I like, the application still is so dumb it can only: (1) create proposals for playlists of music I already have; and (2) try to sell me music I would never listen to.
Artificial intelligence is real, and dangerous but we, the average user of applications and platforms, are more often confronted with simple and crude attempts to sell us the same universal product and lifestyle, and harvest our data on the back of it. Sales is so much easier with a uniform consumer.
But…I always thought the desire to be seen is one of the most universal in Western (Pop) culture. If we all look the same, talk the same, and listen to the same music, how do we then stand out?
Some sort of answer came when I passed a very young girl in very tight and short hotpants on the street. Fashion moves in cycles, was my first thought, directly followed by: we live in extremely sexualised times. Only a couple of minutes later I realised the mismatch between style and attitude. This girl looked very uncomfortable, almost unhappy. She passed me like a ghost, staring down at her feet, not provocative at all. Isn’t provocative clothing supposed to come with a provocative attitude? Or is that also a thing of the past?
But then I realised something else. As a teenager of roughly the same age, I wanted to wear a torn leather jacket. I wanted to spray ‘No future’ and ‘Anarchy’ all over it. I also wanted Dr. Martens, ripped t-shirts and spiked hair. In the end, all I got was watered down versions of my real desires: black boots, black army pants, an oversized sweater, and hair that could, at most, be called New Wave.Going all the way made me feel too uncomfortable, so uncomfortable I didn’t even try. So this girl in hotpants was literally light years ahead of me at that age. It made me smile. Now she only had to find some provocative music to match the outfit.