Monday, September 28, 2015

Extremes of Style - A Too Brief History

Extremes of Style - A Too Brief History, by Brandy Larson There is a love/hate relationship with Extremes of Style. It's a condition of the - times. Old School - "don't go to extremes." The Roaring Twenties, my first example of the past 100 years, was an era of extremes. WWI rearranged a society reeling from the carnage and terrible new technologies of the day. The traditional values of moderation in all things morphed into the "new extreme styles" - the era of jazz, booze and maybe even cocaine. Hemlines shrank, women apologetically wore make-up in public, even Great Aunt Iris, the product of a Seventh Day Adventist home, became a jazz trumpeter. Her sister, my Grandma Gladys probably became a flapper! But what goes up, must come down. With the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the ensuing grind of The Depression, for most people in America, extremes of desperation, not style, marked the daily struggle for survival. Then WWII bent people's minds in new and extreme ways, but also lifted the US out of the economic pit. Americans were hunkering down, coping with the horrors of an ever more powerful war machine and national rationing of gas, sugar and meat. One extreme was women wearing pants and entering industrial production in the factories of the war economy. Once the smoke cleared, The Fifties were born. A new optimism prevailed, along with the Baby Boom. Women were whisked back to the home. A more mobile society, suburban "don't rock the boat," the nuclear family, aprons, Doris Day and Pat Boone were the spirits (?) of the day. Extremes, it seems had gone out of style. Once Elvis hit the airwaves and the Ed Sullivan Show (I remember seeing him on our tiny black and white TV as a young kid), and teenagers got behind the wheel of the family car, things would never be the same. In The Sixties Rock n' Roll morphed into the British Invasion, then Hard Rock and the Rolling Stones, and "the mini-skirt's the current thing - unn-ha" (Nancy Sinatra. Panty hose were born. And "the pill." The Civil Rights Movement can't be called a style, but long overdue - shook things up. There was widespread teenage rebellion born of affluence of the new middle class and the daily tragedies of the Viet Nam War morphed into mass political protests of the "Anti War Movement," the Hippie Era and mind expanding drugs. Seen as EXTREME, and certainly a Style. Huge sectors of society were turned upside-down with the" turn on, tune in and drop out" frame of mind. And the reinventions of Feminism (former wave of the Suffragettes of the early 20th Century and finally voting rights in1920). Bras were burned, there were women's consciousness groups (what are they talking about in there?. Women got college degrees and "good jobs," they were elected to office and started their own businesses, they waited to get married. And the Black Power Movement, a part of Power to the People. Modern Extreme Style became ever more the norm, rather than the "other form." We are the product of our times. Somewhere along the line my youthful freedom and optimism got lost, as well as my ability to keep up with the happening trends; the Yuppies, the New Wave, the Punks, Gen X/Y, Millennials and Helicopter Parents, etc, which sometimes seem like Extreme Styles in every way. Extreme Style is an attractor of the affluent, the arty, and as ever - the young. It is a challenge to the creative and the entrepreneurial classes that feed the desire for something NEW, fresh and exciting (did I say profitable?) Old School will NOT do. But, once again - what goes up, must come down. The Extremes of digital technology have totally altered our world and our attention spans. What Andy Warhol once described as our little corner of "fifteen minutes of [individual] fame," has become 15 seconds - about twice the current average attention span - and a new selfie every twenty minutes - Style. A recent trend was to get "unplugged," which is how I spend my vacations. Parents of young children are advised to avoid "screens" for the kids until age 3. (I never saw a TV until I was 5!) There are still things that transcend the ever-present hunger for Extreme Style, like last night's Super Moon / Blood Moon / Full Lunar Eclipse (9/27/2015). The cloudy sky cleared at the very last moment to reveal this wonder to Madison, WI. The last time this occurred was 1982 and the next time will be 2033. I loved to see the moon slowly changing back from red to silver, peering cooly down our frantic world. On this finally clear night the eclipsing moon appears the same to me as it did the the pre-Celts of Stonehenge and to homo sapiens wandering out of Africa. For a shining hour or two, I'll escape - Extremes of Style