Tuesday, June 14, 2016

BEAUTY: Clothing--Miharayasuhiro

Swiss photographer Karlheinz Weinberger (1921 - 2006) documented a fascinating moment in cultural history in post-WWII Switzerland, capturing marvelous images of the outrageous young men and women who imitated American "rebel" style (previously here). The Swiss called these kids Halbstarke, meaning "half-strong." Fueled by a love for the kind of music that was changing and revolutionizing America in the 50s and 60s, especially that of Elvis Presley, and American films and "rebel" figures James Dean and Marlon Brando (for his work in "The Wild Ones"), these kids forged their own look. This homemade DIY ethic manifested in large pieces of sheet metal cut into ovals or circles, pasted with images of Elvis, James Dean, or painted with rock 'n roll slogans, serving as enormous belt buckles or necklaces. Jackets were embellished with vinyl fringe, fur, studs and chains, and, curiously, bottle stoppers! They wore mortar shells, squeeze horns, keys, and horseshoes from their necks or on belts. But the most peculiar, provocative, and sexually charged affectation was the removal of zippers on jeans... which were then replaced by ball chain, leather lacings, or even bolts!

These kids, like their American counterparts, were rebelling against a culture that seemed to them to be stiff, stifling, inflexible, bleak, run by arbitrary rules, and scornful of what could be considered the freer, more liberated elements of life. But what appeals to me in these documentary photos is that these kids were creating something for themselves that did not exist. Their clothing and accessories did not come from a mall, they did not sport the "must-have" accessories of the moment or outrageously priced common sneakers, and they did not have their ideas packaged and handed to them via television or the internet or some record label. It is true that what they were doing was not entirely "original" since they were essentially imitating their American counterparts (as were the Teddy Boys of Britain during the same time period), but (like the Teddy Boys) the way they interpreted the message, the look, the style, the sound, and the sense was entirely their own. I admire that.

Apparently so does Mihara Yasuhiro who based his Spring Summer '17 collection shown at London Collections: Men on the Halbstarke. He set his runway presentation in an actual bowling alley and models, near-fey silk scarves tied around their necks like the original Halbstarke, used the lanes as the catwalk. And where the original Swiss youth wrote the names of their musical idols on the legs of their jeans--Elvis (Presley) and Vince (Taylor, a British version of Elvis and Gene Vincent)--Yasuhiro created his own gang for this collection, the No Club Lone Wolf gang. And we can clearly see "Lone Wolf" on the legs of the first model below. Elsewhere in the collection the actual "Elvis" and "Vince" slogans are covered with denim patches. It's all pretty straightforward except for one little conceptual moment: where the Swiss boys removed the zippers from the flys of their jeans, Yasuhiro returned them to jackets, but ballooned to enormous proportions, fitting in nicely with the oversized plate metal belt buckles, and horseshoes and license plates on chains!


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