One of my clearest memories from my grade six school disco was seeing my social rival, Brydie McFarlane, wearing white Birkenstocks, a mini denim skirt and plain white singlet. I remember looking down at my glittery denim jacket I’d spent weeks convincing my mum to buy for the occasion and feeling a sense of defeat. Her look was simple and chic, and by comparison I felt particularly juvenile. Not helping the situation, Brydie ended up kissing the boy I liked behind the portable toilets. To this day I am convinced her choice in hip footwear had something to do with it.
This was probably my earliest example of fashion-envy. And yet ten years on as I wander around the grounds of Melbourne Uni, which seem to be a veritable playground for every fashion style, that very same envy has been reignited.
The Birkenstock brand of shoes are one of those things people love to hate, and they brand themselves as the comfort shoe for the middle-aged European. By some stroke of genius (or luck perhaps), Birkenstocks have recently wedged their way into the high fashion vocabulary, reasserting their position as the ultimate everyday sandal, and then some. For me, it was when blogger Leandra Medine from Man Repeller.com uploaded a post about the shoe that I felt the fashion world have given the go-ahead for my inner 12 year old to fulfil her footwear wish.
Looking around Melbourne Uni it is clear how high-end fashion ideas trickled down to us mere-mortal students. With the rise of ‘normcore’ and ‘sports-lux,’ it seems to have become easier for everyday people to achieve a look that is normally reserved for those in the fashion industry. It has also made it possible for labels like Nike and Adidas to defy every rule in the fashion book and succeed in the impossible: making runners with jeans cool.
It would be remiss of me to not address some styles pervading the fashion scene that are at times questionable, however. I’m talking skirts over pants (again something Medine condones, yet I’m not sure if I can fully get on board), sandals with socks, sandals with beige socks, socks with heels, baggy boyfriend jeans with heels, and denim-on-denim-on-denim-on-denim. I’ve seen some people rock these looks, and others who have looked like they’ve stepped straight from a bad 90s music video, and not in the cool, ironic way.
It is my opinion that fashion is about rotating concepts and reinstating old ideas in a modern context. We are all about irony these days, hipsters wearing Mariah Carey shirts when they detest pop and donning Nike kicks and sports leggings when the extent of their physical exercise consists of popping the cap off their skinny-late.
And it’s not that I don’t like any of these styles and fashion initiatives, I actually really enjoy the playfulness and subversion of ideas and preconceptions. If someone’s clothing choice can have me questioning broader social constructs then I think they’ve wholly succeeded in being fashionable. We are under social and legal obligation to wear something on our bodies each day, so why not make a statement out of it? Whether this is a nod to a particular decade, a clear indication of the type of music you don’t listen to, or have people questioning if you’re going to an art opening or to the gym.
If nothing else, the questionable fashions of today will give our children something to look back on and cringe, or potentially even use with a new level of irony.
But if my little anecdote of Brydie in the Birkenstocks is anything to go by, fashion will continue its rotation, fashion-envy will continue to affect all those susceptible, and I will continue to attribute boy’s choices of kissing partners as based on their footwear.