2013 Style: A Tragedy In Four Acts

by Anthony Strain

1. He adored Los Angeles

Instagram: @RhondaIntl

Fashion is for either the very young or the very old; style is for everyone in between. I do not function participatorily in any fashion polity, which is another way of saying I live in LA. If you are a dude here, you take one of two looks: Patrick Bateman or Christopher Robin. If you abstain, grown women will come up and ask you if you smell, neither knowing nor caring that style is an outsider’s game.

A lot of what passes for street style here is liminal and kind of en-route in nature, as most of it is confined to the subway. People think public transit in LA is a bunch of bullshit and they’re right, but for the wrong reason: it’s not that it doesn’t work, it’s that it keeps the stylish people — Croatian tourists, African-American skaters, FIDM students — out of visibility. Since you definitely don’t take Metro to yoga, all the style is literally underground. That’s impressive in a year when the underground became a lot less etiolated with the further rise of LA brands like Jeffrey Campbell and Nasty Gal, not to mention Beyoncé’s dancers swiveling in Chromat at the Super Bowl.

The girls I glanced at the most often at Amoeba, which is where the less senescent townsfolk often gather, typically bore the same highwaist-shorts/croptop cross that girls in Baton Rouge and other overseas places similarly hefted, all year long. No ages were exempt from this crisis, and there is no end in sight.

Late in the year Rihanna either caused a stir or stirred a cause by announcing her #ghetto #goth phase. Multiple sources accused her of gripping the term from a New York party called Ghe20 Goth1k (am I spelling that right?????), the business plan of which diffuses ‘very white and very black’ elements of street style into a unified theory of gender-confused social-climbing. I suppose the LA version of this complex is Freak City, a fashion line and occasional record label that fetishizes Fubu, Versace, and the hair and makeup in the A$ap crew’s videos. LA’s most avant-garde party is A Club Called Rhonda, where anyone not willing to fully commit goes in Lime Crime lipstick and designer mesh tanktops instead of alien facepaint or handmade tulle pixie-wings. Rihanna, meanwhile, rocked double denim on Rodeo Drive and cameoed as a moll in the video for “Fashion Killa,” a sort of literal laundry list of highest-end labels. It’s also the year’s most addictive track.

2. Trash Humpers

Instagram: @CollMorr

If you didn’t watch Model Files, an extension of the VFiles brand, you missed a vitally unserious investigative series about a bunch of boys who work in fashion proper but with “Viva La Bam” vibes. A frequent guest star was Cole Mohr, the skater-y Marc Jacobs model whose intentionally shitty tattoos and snide Kevin McAllisterisms slay Korean fangirls on Instagram daily. Mohr and his on/off girlfriend, an art student named Susannah Liguori, are perhaps the bride and groom on top of the NYC trash-scene cake — the NYC trash scene being a personal storm of found objects up to and including cutoff hoodies, puffy jackets with beer logos, and the egregious Adidas slides that, admittedly, Grimes and Miley were seen in well before year’s end.

The kinds of hyphenates who populate the VFiles/Hood by Air locus typically wouldn’t be caught dead in couture; Tyler Benz, senior editor of VFiles, copped a novelty Antiques Roadshow t-shirt and watched the IG likes roll in. You could call them hipsters if you wanted to condescend. Really it’s just original grunge, items so ugly you wouldn’t think to thrift them, and as much real fun as being the brokest person in first class.

Like being paleo or Gwyneth Paltrow, thrifting is a lifestyle. I cannot speak to the New York circuit but in Los Angeles all the good things are at Goodwill, if you’re willing to pay 70 dollars for a peak-period Gucci blazer instead of $7 in the Valley or somewhere deeper. A pinging sensation of itchy glamour attends thrifting in LA; at the various Goodwills drug-ravaged ex-babes can be reliably found thumbing thru the racks, their careers somewhere in the faded furs. There but for the grace of Goodwill.

3. The 90s Called

Instagram: @SkyFerreira

I knew 1998 [because I am old] and 2013, you’re no 1998! 2013 was the year every insolent twenty-year-old girl Netflix’d “Ally McBeal” over breakfast and saw Calista Flockhart’s pajamas as clouds in her coffee — the year cybergoth, grunge’s methadone, seized custody of our children in a dark-neon vise. The most relevant music video to 2013’s purposes, “Ava Adore” by Smashing Pumpkins, turned 15 this year and its lush, bespoke goth was recommissioned by shrewd personalities like Sky Ferreira and Lorde. Hedi Slimane photographed leftover luminaries Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson for his St. Lauren rework; both Manson and Love toured in 2013 but not, sadly, as MansonLove.

Elsewhere, fall television sent Adam Scott on “Parks + Rec” and James Wolk on “The Crazy One”s to Fox Mulder’s hairstylist from 1996 for the tight sides and skinny sideburns my friend’s dad said meant you were gay. Recall that, Knope!

Our never-royal Lorde appeared in a few tabloids with a boyfriend whose race became a thing, for idiots. Nevermind: the choker and tie-dye bikini from the series was so #ninetieskid as to deserve some ridicule, except Kanye went and slipped the same tie-die shades into the “Bound 2” video. I fuck with Ye as much as anyone but no way he was making Lisa Frank net art in 1996. Lorde is at least living those spacy, hypnagogic years in the culture like it’s her first time.

Some of it went too far. For instance, you can wear saltwater sandals but you better be built like Soo Joo. Skechers in all their hobbling forms began to be seen again on the screwed-up feet of the vexed, and there were whispers, rumors, of bleached hair on boys. I wore a snowboarding sweater from fall 1999 to a screening of Interview With The Vampire at Hollywood Forever cemetery and the girl who asked me for a light didn’t even ask if I wanted to go to Taco Bell, which is the most 90s fast-food. So it’s not like everyone gets it. On the other hand, the 1998 Chicago Bulls influenced an entire generation and not even Dennis Rodman in North Korea alters the image of Michael Jordan in a Nike beret.

4. Men And Women Without Hats

Instagram: @Liz_Y2K

The sportswear revival’s nastiest jag was all the overdetermined headwear, which set both genders ablaze in jaunty chapeaux. Every relevant venue was a sea of snapbacks, grouped with big earrings, red lipstick and 501s on girls, hoodies and trainers on boys. But beanies were the worst. There are girls who work fashion retail, when they’re not filling post-structuralist prescriptions in undergrad hell, who I believe would be buried in their Chanel beanies. Rob Sheffield once described N’Sync as dressing like elderly dentists’ wives on vacation in Boca Raton; these girls dress like those dentists’ wives’ grandchildren. Why not throw on cloggish open-toed flatforms with your Adidas track pants? Your beanie that says 2013 on it says it all and nothing much, simultaneously. Unfortunately it is now the dismal practice of the yolo generation not to owe it all to Herbal Essences and their pillow, as did their forebears, but to abdicate all responsibility for haircare. Just wear a hat!

In dire cases, the beanie or snapback served as the topmost quarter of the top half of a football uniform. Girls dressing like boys does not bother me excessively, but I’m not sliding an Atlanta Falcons jersey over the head of anyone. Smells of sweat and liniment are triggers for me, even when merely associative. Women shouldn’t dress for men unless they want to, but shouting out Jamal Anderson is just overkill. The Dirty Bird is yet another 1998 artifact, the burial of which is better undisturbed.

Anthony Strain lives and works in Los Angeles. His Tumblr is Circumswoop; his Twitter is @euphorianth.