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Chanel tracksuits exist. The haute couture fashion house—started by a woman who said that the opposite of luxury was vulgarity—has released the item that is the distinction between respectable people and heroin addicts. Would Coco Chanel be spinning in her elegant Swiss tomb? It’s hard to tell; she also said that fashion is made to become unfashionable. Coco Loco!
Newsflash: she’d have a lot of company. Tack is a pricey commodity. I’m not just talking about the shiny hell that is Guess bags. Rather, this is part of a broader and increasingly pervasive phenomenon that clever people the world over will be fixin’ to mine: the capital placed upon looking cheap.
Rolex watches that actually look like C-3PO prototypes. Pink hummers that look like Mattel products that have been stretched with heat. Tacky fake nails encrusted with tacky fake diamonds. A new years event hosted by Fergie. Anything by Vivienne Westwood. The list of expensive tack is nearly endless, even after you weed out the subtly different category of ‘cheap flashiness’, which applies to aspirational investments like those Gold Coast canal-style developments where eeeveryone gets a waterfront!
Why, in a world where good taste is allegedly valued—IT HAS ‘GOOD’ IN ITS NAME!—are people willing to pay so much for things that by all rights should have cost them much, much less?
Before we can get into that, let’s deal with the ol’ trash/treasure biz. One man or woman’s tack is another’s kitsch (which is def better). You might think I’ve paid a million dollars for something that Ke$ha would rather swallow a grenade than be photographed in, but I think it’s great as long as you approach it with the right amount of iiiirony. And you might think this guy looks like an idiot, until he tells you about the context from which he’s approaching his decision to wear a lego necklace. Then at least you know he’s a well-educated idiot. Wait, that’s probably worse. Regardless, you now know enough about him to realise that you can distract him with a laconic and useless discussion of Derrida while your accomplice steals his expensive necklace and splits the profit with you. And you can sell that necklace to someone just like him, for NINETY AMERICAN DOLLARS.
Or BITCOIN. Is that still a thing?
Blah blah blah, we know that context is everything. We’re all sheep. Knowing that someone has paid a lot for something is enough for us to reconsider our initial assessment of their awful choices. “Oh, they clearly really believe in that choice!” Couple this with an ill-advised blanket respect for people who believe in things, then the circular logic of respecting the things that are being believed in, and suddenly both the person and the thing they own are elevated from objects of derision to objects of awe.
Does this make sense? No. Is it everywhere you look? Yes.
Art is like this. You’d probably spend a small fortune on a fucking Miro sooner than you’d buy my 2-minute forgery of a Miro—even if they look the same—because you know about art and know that it’s better to have a REAL Miro. Similarly, I could probably make an ugg boot identical to Jimmy Choo’s, but I couldn’t sell it for $1000 (except maybe on regretsy where they’re still stupid).
But take my advice. BUY my Miro forgery. Your friends will think you’re crazy, but stick to your guns. Then they’ll begin to think you’re onto something. “He/she/they paid for that!” they’d whisper to each other just out of earshot. They’d get into debates with each other. Fallings-out would occur. Blood would be spilled. But before long I’d be rolling in street cred and art dollaz when all of their friends begin to buy my shitty art. And you? You’re the fucking trendsetter, baby!
So what have we learned? For those playing at home:
ONE: Pulling off ‘tacky’ is just a matter. of. conviction. This is what’s so premium fresh about the musical genre ‘low-fi’, which justifies basic production values as intentional and definitive. But
TWO: if you lack the energy or intelligence to defend your choices to everyone who gawks at you in stunned silence, there is nowhere better to get the appearance of conviction than from money. When respected fashion houses like Chanel decide to make a goddamn tracksuit, people pay attention. And Dolly Parton was more right than she knew when she said “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap”.
Let’s bring it back to me. All I really want to do is make it acceptable to go out in public in a bathrobe. I am fucking sure that I can do this with the most inexpensive of the comfortable bathrobes if only I attach some haute couture logo to it. “Did he pay $12,000 for that?” they’d whisper. “Or is it ironic?” Either way I’m in the clear, baby.