3.17.2012

armored up

thrifted women's red rubber rain boots for sale here

The other thing that struck me about the Bill Cunningham documentary was his comment—when asked how he could spend his life photographing NYC high-society and street clothes when there are so many other, more weighty things a person could focus a camera on, starving children in Africa and all that—that clothes are the "armor" we wear to weather life. I'd never thought of clothing quite that way before—protection from rain and temperature and prurient eyes, yes, but not as daily armor, with its connotations of scaly metal and leather, the stuff of samurai and the Crusades and dragons.

Cunningham is most interested, he says in the film, in characters—those individuals who are completely fearless originals, like the former-Nepalese diplomat who had a suit made from his former, floral-brocade (or so I remember it) sofa, or "the dandy" who thickly line-draws his eyes and eyebrows and is never seen in public without a hat.

I will never be dedicated like Cunningham or Scott Schuman to the study of human armor, but I did consider, before choosing to study English, a career in psychology, archaeology, anthropology, or interior design. So no wonder I'm now blogging about all these things in a close-up, local-is-political, homebody sort of way. For me, clothing is, if anything, camouflage, a way for an introvert like myself to blend into a crowd, protection from predators, the most dangerous of whom, as some of us remember from grade school, being other, warped humans. However, I suspect that the extroverted characters are in a way also hiding, their flamboyance a clown mask of sorts: Look here, over here, not there!

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