Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hick-Chic in Milan?

If I were living my perfect life I would’ve spent all of September gorging on front row runway footage and blogging from my living room about my excitement and delight.  Sadly I work a real job, and get distracted by real problems, so my observations trail behind.  But I can’t let this season pass by without rambling on about what Dsquared2 did for hick-chic.

I am going to start with a personal diatribe.  I am from Wisconsin, a state best known for its football team and its dairy products. I live in its’ largest city, but I grew up in its second/third largest: Green Bay. Green Bay is a big town trying to be a little city. It is a middle class oasis of suburban sprawl amongst an Eden of verdant fields and healthy soil. Green Bay dutifully provides the rural population of northern Wisconsin with cultural services like shopping malls and stadiums. But despite a university, more than one performing art center, and handfulls of appropriately trendy coffee shops and used book stores, the only people who think Green Bay is a big city are people who live on farms.

I want to get the politically incorrect terms out of the way, because I can’t write this without them: hicks, rednecks, and white trash. In my youth I tried to reclaim the term “white trash” as a term of pride, like some feminists did for bitch, and my gay friends did to fag. And although my clique of clever adolescent friends appreciated the irony, my mother definitely did not. It was hard to find an acceptably incendiary way to claim pride in a heritage that included many hardworking, undereducated, poor farmers of European descent.  I have many Wisconsinite friends who understand.

My childhood contains all the prescious gems of midwestern "low" culture.  Growing up I spent a lot of time at my great uncle’s bar: Party Marty’s Polish Palace in Pulaski. The adults drank cheap beer and the kids ate cheese curds. More than a few of my uncles sported Mullets long after the hairstyle passed out of style and into comedic infamy. Neon orange was not a gift of eighties revival, but a consistent presence in the wardrobe of rural men who killed animals, ate the meat, and put their carcasses on their living room walls (as long as their wives consented).

The thrift stores of Green Bay are still an overflowing cornucopia of Americana and kitsch. And middle age soccer moms evolve their fashion sense slowly, so that vintage items will arrive at the local St. Vincent de Paul just as they come back in style after decades.

That miniature memoir is, in fact, totally relevant to fashion now.  All that personal history is precisely why my reaction to the Spring 2010 collection of Dsquared2 is totally effing different than every successful fashion journalist who reported from that runway in Milan. I could replicate that entire collection by spending a few hundred dollars in the thrift stores of my hometown.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the creativity and vision of the Dsquared2 collection. There’s something deliciously subversive about rich people paying to look like white trash. And although most of this season’s looks made me want to bathe in chiffon, this collection inspired me in a totally different way. My boyfriend has been hot on the “hick-chic” thing for a while, and local hipsters are no stranger to the trend. Dsquared2 wielded a fad already present on fixed-gear bicycles, in smoky dive bars, and on the often referenced “streets”. And what can I say? It feels good to know that I liked this stuff before it was cool.

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