Rant & Rave

By Warren Kaneshiro

Tuesday, October 22, 1996


Today it’s what you wear,
not who you are

WEBSTER defines fashion as "the current style or mode of dress." Try telling this to a testosterone-filled lad, generations back, and you would've likely gotten a "Fashion? Ha!" with a scoff.

Well, times have changed - and it doesn't take a fashion czar to note that. What with fellahs sporting the fad hip-hop look a couple years back; the outre body piercing, vividly tinged hair look; and the current "designer syndrome" look, one ought to concede that fellahs have been henchmen to the avant-garde and escapees of the not-so-avant-garde apparel. (Does this mean fellahs possess a brain cell that's dedicated to this fashion hoopla? Say it ain't true!)

Heck, even those who are thought to be in the dark when it comes to what's swanky note that times have changed.

"Gone are the days when young guys would throw on any kine brand jean and shirt," utter the elders.

"Yeah," I reply, sighing. "Gone are those days."

See, instead of your "any kine brand jean and shirt" dress code of decades past, the '90s fellah confronts a task that's more bothersome, er, challenging: culling jeans and shirts from the likes of such architects of exorbitant threads as Mossimo, Nautica, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, to name a few!

Then there's the motto: Accessories make the man - or, ahem, young man - which doesn't make things any more facile. Take, for example, the rash of designer scents, from Egoiste Platinum to top-seller Tommy; shoe styles, from burly Doc Martens to fly-like-Mike athletic shoes; shades, from Oakley's Straight Jackets to RayBan's Gridlocks; and lastly, timepieces, from unadorned to ornate. This, folks, is what I dub the "designer syndrome" look.

Am I affected by this look? Well, yes. But don't tell anyone. Oh, and as far as the so-called accessories go, it's strictly Egoiste Platinum, thank you.

Now, about the prices of these designer articles: It could set a fellah - or a fellah's hapless parents - back hundreds of bucks. The question here is, why are those designer articles so costly when they're geared toward young consumers? My conscious retorts, "It's all about an image, Einstein. If the prices aren't up there, the image ain't either!" Oh, OK.

I can picture it now, designers celebrating with flutes of Dom Perignon, snickering, "Suckers!"

And designers should be celebrating, according to Linda Spratt, human resource director for Liberty House.

"The young men's department has become more designer-driven, more collection-influenced, with clothes from Tommy Hilfiger, Mossimo, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Guess?" said Spratt.

Does this mean that young men are purchasing designer clothing?

"Oh, yes." she replied.

All evidence aside, why is this designer syndrome look so chic?

Says Herb Barringer, professor of sociology at the University of Hawaii: Because "this is a materialistic society in which conspicuous consumption runs rampant.

"As David Reismann pointed out many years ago, modern urbanites use exterior symbols to represent themselves, rather than to emphasize their individual characters," he said.

When one drives a powerful, fashionable car or sports designer threads, it's like saying without words, "I am what I wear and what I drive," said Barringer. My, how shallow!

Well, I can only conclude by saying that fellahs will continue to make Bill Gateses out of designers (I'm talking moolah wise), and ourselves, penniless souls - that is, as long as we carry on with our shallow, overly image-conscious ways (yes, I admit to sometimes being shallow, but hey, for fellahs, this ain't no revelation).



Warren A. Kaneshiro is 18 years old.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature allowing teens and young adults to serve up fresh perspective. Guys and girls speak up by fax at 523-8509; by answering machine at 525-8666; snail mail at P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, HI 96802; or e-mail, features@starbulletin.com




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