Do you have holes in your head, holes in your jeans, holes in your head AND your jeans?

jeansWith the exception of a brief period of time from age 15 to 24, I’ve never been a fashionista. During my teens and post-adolescence, finding my way among my peers, my attention to fashion seemed mandatory since it occupied a great deal of attention from my friends. Thereafter I focused on family and career, believing that style failed to hold the importance of those other areas.

I don’t belittle women who waste lots of time shopping, reading fashion magazines, and thinking about style. That’s their choice.

But one fad irritates me no end. I find it patronizing and ridiculous. That’s the decision to wear jeans with holes in them. Most frequently in the knee area, but also across thighs, calves, even buns, some with a combination of all three, and a greater or lesser amount of exposure. Usually called “distressed” or “ripped,” you purchase these already hole-y or you buy new ones and cut, tear and wear into the pattern of your choice. They’re usually worn with $400 high heels, leather jackets, and $75 manicures and pedicures.

There’s the rub. Believe it or not, there are people in this country and this world who can’t afford new clothing. They wear pants with rips, holes, and patches, not with self-satisfaction and preening, but with numb acceptance. Perhaps there are some who dress with pride in rags because they are triumphing over their circumstances. They know the importance of NOT defining themselves by the cost or condition of their garments.

Distressed pants coopt, embrace qualities like rebelliousness, individualism, populism. In the 60s and 70s, counter-culturists wore distressed jeans to recycle useable materials, to protest a consumerist materialistic culture, or to express their creativity through embroidery and artistic patches.

Most women wearing ripped jeans now have no idea what their appearance advocates. As they step adroitly out of the way of a homeless bag lady asking for a handout, as they toss money in a high-end store to purchase a piece of clothing that could feed a family in poverty for a week, they make a mockery of the realities of life for the poor. They insult people too broke to buy decent attire. My 12 year old niece might be excused because she’s still trying on personalities and interests. An adult woman? Not so much.

Are they a fashion or a fad? Fashion lasts longer and tends to emulate “prestige groups,” although some commentators see the process as a mutual exchange. Fads come and go quickly and tend not to originate in the elite. They’re ephemeral and follow the pattern of a craze, first exciting and capturing notice, spreading quickly, finally fading into nothingness.

In the case of distressed pants, a slap in the face of every needy individual in the world, we can only hope. You’re not fooling a soul. You’re neither fashionable nor socialist.

I’d Tip My Wig to You, But I Haven’t Got a Wig

eliseMore and more people seem to be wearing hairpieces or wigs. Or maybe more and more people are wearing poorly made wigs. Walking out of a building today, I spotted a man with an obvious hairpiece. The piece was longish, all the same length (like a Dutch boy bob), and dark; but I spotted gray hair underneath where the hairpiece tilted a bit. I know other people with wigs obvious to the passerby. These folks must feel the accessory improves their looks.

But I wonder why someone would go to the trouble of buying a hairpiece that’s ill-shaped, poorly fitted, and whose color is at odds with the hard-earned traceries of time on the their faces.

Must be the wide-spread belief that gray or white hair makes you look older. Are wig-wearers so fearful of growing old—or looking old—that they’ll do anything to avoid it? Then why not dye it? Eleven percent of men and 55% of women color their hair, and you can be sure they’re not choosing gray.

Another option for changing styles are hair extensions, favored by public figures like Britney Spears, and not infrequently bedraggled or limp, and their close cousins, hair weaves. These usually are selected for the “beauty” they supposedly convey on the wearer.

Of course, there are lots of reasons to wear wigs that seem more legitimate than mere appearance: religious, health, diseases. But still the wearers are wearing wigs because they can’t or won’t tolerate nature’s dictates.

I have sufficient reason to participate. A young friend of mine guessed my age to be greater than my older sister’s, partly because my hair’s gray. But excuse me from the group. If I were really intent on fighting time, I’d do something about my hair; but I’m too lazy and too cheap and too devoted to simple comfort.

Not that there’s anything wrong with wearing artificial locks or coloring hair. Humanity has been doing it for millennia. If you have an inclination in that direction, go for it. However, I come down on the side of Chris Rock, whose documentary film “Good Hair” is a close look at black culture and the influence of society on young African-American girls. Natural hair is popularly believed to be unattractive, but Chris feels, and I agree, that natural hair tends to be a healthier, easier, more self-confident choice.

Plus, unlike wigs, natural hair won’t slip down over your forehead.