The art of the scrunch

Before: the innocence of 2011
After: Power hair, power suit, power earrings of 1986

I first learned the womanly art of hair and makeup in the mid-late ’80s – around ‘86 and ‘87 when I was 11/12. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom practising, and I came to the realisation that I could probably still do those things.

Big in the ’80s (for the ’80s were big) was scrunching. This involved squirting a ton of mousse in the hair and then scrunching it as you blow-dried. This is pretty much the complete opposite of straightening with GHDs, as the end result was that of someone who’d woken up after falling asleep in a park on a humid night.

As for the makeup, it was all big and bold, complete with sideburns of blusher. If you blushed naturally only on the side of your face, you’d probably see a cardiologist. Because blue frosted eye shadow doesn’t exist any more, I had to fake it by mixing blue with silver. Hey, u have blue eyes – the frosted blue eye shadow will make your eyes look really pretty!!!

End result? I look like a man in drag. Or I look like a 50-year-old high-powered business woman. I want those reports on my desk asap. Either way, this is not a look I want to sport on a daily basis. Evidence that only women with delicate features can get away with strong makeup. I am thankful I was never an adult in the ’80s.

The tyranny of eyeglass fashion

It’s been about a year and a half since I experienced the special combination of razors and lasers and sedatives and painkillers that made up the Lasik experience, and it’s really good not having to wear glasses any more.

It’s not a hugely life-changing thing, but rather its benefits are made up of lots of little things – not getting fogged up in humid weather, not having raindrops obscure my vision, being able to lie on my side on the couch and watch DVDs, and not being pressured by the ever-changing world of eyeglass fashions.

Cos spectacles seem to have a faster fashion half-life than clothing does. I’m guessing it’s because that while clothing tends to wear out and is cheaper to replace, spectacles last longer and cost more, so get replaced less often.

But even though a pair of glasses bought 10 years ago might work just as well as they did back then, it doesn’t mean they will be any less fashionable than some late ’90s-style clothing ensemble involving cargo pants, a backpack handbag and a pashmina.

I know of a guy who wore the same pair of glasses for about 10 years, all of which were lean student years. Over that period he gradually became known as “the guy with the big glasses”. He finally upgraded to a pair of fashionably slim frames, but I wonder if in 10 years he’ll have become “the guy with the narrow glasses”.

Another example is “Goldstein“, the New York banker star of the ASB Bank ads. He’s been in the ads since 2000, and is usually dressed in a business suit and sports a pair of those big round glasses that were only fashionable in the ’90s.

Here’s his look, as seen in the window of the Mt Eden ASB:

Goldstein's old glasses

He’s probably being kept in the same tired old specs from 2000 because updating his look would cause a ruckus amongst the telly-viewing public and detract from the promotion of ASB’s banking services.

But in the real world, Goldstein would have visited his optometrist at some point in the past seven years, had his vision tested, and decided that as well as getting new lenses, he ought to get some new frames as well – probably something with narrow black rectangular frames.

And when I look at the pair of glasses, which served me from 2000 to 2005, they now look gigantic. When I bought them, I remember how tiny they seemed. They were Gucci and they cost over $300 and I did not want to give them up until I absolutely had to.

But it appears that the interweb may have a solution for people financially caught in an optical timewarp. Websites like 39 Dollar let you buy prescription glasses online for cheap. You need to get your prescription details from your optometrist, but once you have that you can get some relatively cheap cool frames, to finally drag your facial fashion look into the new millennium. The Glassy Eyes blog has lots of good consumer information and reviews for buying prescription glasses online.

Or you can keep wearing your old specs until they come back into fashion again.

The Zen of metaller fashion

Back in my day, metaller guys wore those slim-fitting black orange tab Levis, even if they were fat (especially if they were fat). Now I see that metaller fashion has got with the new millennium and that metaller guys are now wearing great big giant trousers, which, back in my day, metallers would have scornfully described as homie pants.

The thing is, a teen metaller (or worse, an early 20s metaller) wearing big baggy black trousers and a big baggy black Slipknot t-shirt along with the classic long frizzy hair (or the growing-out short greasy hair) and bad skin, just looks like a great big black blob. At least the metallers back in my day had a clear distinction between above and below the waist – at least there was some indication for the ladies where the fun was at, yo.

But, oh yeah, that’s right. It’s not about fashion or sex appeal; it’s about the music, man (and pissing off your stepdad).

The centuries that taste forgot

I came up with this in one of the discussion forums. It’s about how we tend to look back at the bad old and good old days. Stuff goes in and out of fashion, then comes back in again. And really, how many decades “that taste forgot” can we get away with having?

Here’s the template. Apply it to any year.

10 years ago – too recent to have many fond or negative feelings about.
20 years ago – horribly embarrassing. “The decade taste forgot”.
30 years ago – new appreciation for the styles previously laughed at.
40 years ago – a golden age of innovation and style.
50 years ago – groundbreaking creative period, the likes of which may never be seen again

Update – August 2015

I didn’t know it at the time, but this is basically Laver’s Law, a theory of the cycles of fashion that English art historian James Laver created in 1937. His is stages are much more insightful than mine.

10 years before its time – Indecent
5 years before its time – Shamless
1 year before its time – Outré
‘Current Fashion’ – Smart
1 year after its time – Dowdy
10 years after its time – Hideous
20 years after its time – Ridiculous
30 years after its time – Amusing
50 years after its time – Quaint
70 years after its time – Charming
100 years after its time – Romantic
150 years after its time – Beautiful

Besides, I wrote that original post 12 years ago so therefore it is now hideous.

My fashion moment

The Face magazine has a regular feature called “My Fashion Moment” where a reasonably styley person supplies a photo of themselves wearing something that defined a kind of fashion moment in their past.

I was trying to think if I had a fashion moment and was almost going to declare that I had no fashion moments, when I remembered this photo:


It was taken in 1991, when I was 16. There are two important elements to this photo.

1. Yes, I am voguing. I jumped on the voguing bandwagon when Malcolm McLaren released his 1989 album “Waltz Darling”. His attempt at mainstreaming voguing didn’t work, and it slunk back into the gay underground, only to be gloriously and triumphantly resurrected the following year when Madonna released her superb dance tune “Vogue”. So there I am, standing in the kitchen, striking a pose.

2. Check out the top I’m wearing. Yes, it’s a hoodie, but more importantly, it’s a baggy hoodie. This was about a year after the Happy Mondays had released “Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches”, which included the song “Loose Fit” and along with frontman Shaun Ryder’s personal style, created the baggy culture. Incorporating elements of rock and rave cultures, baggy fashion had even made it to Glassons. It’s probably also worth noting that that top is the only yellow item of clothing I’ve every voluntarily owned.

So, punk svengali Malcolm McLaren, pop high priestess Madonna and lazy pop poet Shaun Ryder. These three icons have all, in their own special way, helped mould and shape me into the person I am today.

Only, I didn’t actually know that back in 1991.


A couple of weeks ago I bought the newly released paperback edition of “What Not To Wear” and it has simultaneously ruined and enhanced my life.

The book is based on a BBC series where two fashion ladies Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine bluntly tell people exactly what not to wear. Their philosophy is that there is no such thing as natural style, that style is, in fact, something that anyone can achieve, it just takes a bit of effort.

“We roll our inexperience in comforting excuses – there’s the kids, the overdraft, no time, nor inclination. Clothes are immaterial, because you can rely on your fabulous personality and your partner is blind to you looking like a tramp, because he loves you just the way you are. At the end of the day this is bollocks.”

The book is, as the cover blurb says, brutally frank. There’s no bit where they celebrate wide hips or boney chests or somehow pretend that having a huge arse or no tits is actually a really wonderful thing.

I love the blunt language. For example, this is from the “Big Tits” section:

“Unfitted sleeveless shell top: Udders take on a lumpy quality like badly made custard.”

Or this from the “No Tits” section:

“Anything too fine and low: The gossamer fabric clings to the skin, creating a wet t-shirt effect, clutching raisins as opposed to peaches.”

But as well as all the advice of what not to wear, there’s also the flipside, the kind of clothes that will look really good on a fat arse, or make tiny titties seem bountiful. And the best thing about the book is that it’s not about making everyone dress the same. There’s room for total individuality within the guidelines. You can spend $3 or $300 on a top, but be able to buy a top that doesn’t make your arms look like two fat sausages.

I’ve also started paying attention to what other people wear when I’m out. Yesterday I noticed a lady wearing a pair of high-waisted, tapered jeans with a baggy, unfitted t-shirt. “Ha,” I thought to myself. “The high-waisted jeans increase the amount of fabric covering her bottom and belly, drawing attention to its size! The tapered leg emphasises the difference in width between the narrow ankles and the wide hips! The baggy t-shirt creates shapelessness and extra bulk!” Fortunately I had the self-restraint to keep those comments to myself.

Having read “What Not To Wear,” I now feel that about half the clothes in my wardrobe (actually, strewn on my bedroom floor) are totally inadequate, but I have more confidence in being able to buy something that looks good. I’m just glad that I’ve never gone through a Lycra leggings stage.

A Selection

Ah yes, it’s that time where I magically tranform my notebook full of maniacal scribblings into a page of witty prose. Here’s a selection of interesting stuff that’s happened to me in the couple of months.

Poster art

I went to an exhibit of rock poster art. It’s really frustrating looking at a cool poster that’s advertising a really good band line-up. Like, there was one designed by Gary Houston for a Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Sleater-Kinney concert. Yes, please! And the Chris Shaw designed poster for a triple billing of Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill and The Amps. Drool. You can’t dance to a poster.

Punk arse fashion

Waiting for a train, I spied a young punk arse wearing a t-shirt with “JESUS IS A CUNT” printed in really big letters on the back. No one around seemed particularly shocked or offended by him wearing it. I guess all the Christians were probably happy in the knowledge that he would suffer an enternity of firey torture in hell, and all the non-Christians had little to be offended about, anyway. Instead he just seemed like a dickhead who might as well have been wearing a t-shirt that said, “LOOK AT ME! I SUCK!”

Big Brother doesn’t care

I was getting a Victorian driver’s licence (that’s a driver’s licence issued by the state of Victoria, not a driver’s licence from the late 19th century. Oh, as if anyone thought that.) and the guy who was serving me made a comment that he was pleased that I had brought all the neccessary ID and documents required. He said that some people just show up with no ID or anything and say to him, “oh, can’t you just look that up?” It’s like they think that he has this super computer system that allows him to pull up details on any driver’s license from any country in the world. There are even people who expect that he can access their bank details, or passport information. Big Brother might be watching, but he isn’t watching that hard.

Security guard

There was a guy with a jacket and he was scribbling over part of it with a black market pen. His friend asked him what he was doing. He explained that he’d bought the jacket at a second hand shop. It was a nice thick warm jacket, but had a label with “SECURITY GUARD” sewn on the front. He’d thought it would be pretty cool to wear around, but he discovered that when he went out people actually thought he was a security guard, and he’d get strange looks, and a few times people actually asking for his help. So in the end he figured the best thing to do was black out the label and just be a normal guy.

Shop girl

I was in Ikea and there was a girl nearby holding a bunch of coathangers that she was going to buy. An old lady walked up to her and asked, “excuse me. I think I’ve seen this one with a lighter coloured wood. Could you tell me if you have that available?” The girl furrowed her brow in confusion for a few seconds then realised what’d happened. “Oh, I don’t work here. You should ask someone who does.” The lady asked her who worked there. “I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve ever been here. I’m from Adelaide.”

Under-age cage

At the Melbourne Zoo there’s an old cage that’s been kept as a reminder of how animals used to be kept in zoos. A sign at its entrance says, “A red brick structure built in 1927, it reminds us of how animals were housed, displayed and viewed in the 19th century.” Is this an attempt at revisionist history, or did the sign writer think that the 1900s were the 19th century?

Where’s the bikkies?

I was on a ferry and there was a really fat lady wearing a couple of hot air balloons that had been turned into trousers. She waddled over to her friends sitting across the aisle and said to them, “Where’s the bikkies! Where’s the bikkies!” And her friend chucks her a half-full bag of those shitty peanut brownie biscuits, the kind they always had on school camps. The ones that always taste salty and never chocolately. Biscuits for people who hate food. Anyway, Karen, for that is the name of the fat lady, starts chucking biscuits out the window at some ducks. One of her slightly less fat friends sighs, “Oh Karen, we thought you were going to eat them!”


Some graffiti I saw read “ANTI-CAPTIALIST” and then the anarchy symbol. I was thinking that if you were a really hardcore anti-capitalist, you could write in all lower-case. But that would mean that instead of the anarchy symbol being a capital A in a circle, it would instead be a lower case a in a circle, which would look like this: @.