Messages from my clothes

While on holiday, I noticed one day that most of my clothing had little bites of text on tiny labels – not slogans for passers-by to see, but small notices only really visible me as the owner. My shoes have a label on the insole saying LIVE WITHOUT DEAD TIME. A t-shirt I got in an outdoor shop has a label at the bottom saying DO WHAT YOU LIKE – LIKE WHAT YOU DO (a sentiment which Aleister Crowley, St Augustine and the Marquis de Sade might endorse to some extent, though the smiling cartoon of a mountain walker suggests this isn’t the vibe they are going for.) A jacket has a label inside the collar saying BE BOLD AND MIGHTY FORCES WILL COME TO YOUR AID -GOETHE (if the label was a bit bigger they could have put a full Harvard reference.)

It’s interesting that my outfit is urging me on to some kind of extreme, non-stop adventure. I mean, they’re just clothes – if I were seeking continuous peak experiences it wouldn’t matter what I was wearing. (As an aside, I don’t think 24-hour ecstasy is a viable aim – a lot of life needs to be filler and ‘just stuff’ – it can’t all be walking Striding Edge and watching a baby’s first steps.)

This kind of existential statement seems to come from all kinds of products and services at the moment – while writing this Vodafone’s ‘Make the most of every moment’ ad was on the TV. It all implies that there’s a kind of hyperlife we can participate in, living fully and bravely (with the right products as part of the scenery.)

Universities aren’t immune to this; there have been a lot of existential, big-adventure slogans on prospectuses in recent years. Though actually higher education probably is a life-changing adventure (at least compared with wearing shoes or hanging up a jacket.)

Ethical clothing

I recently wanted to buy a pair of plimsolls, as (not doing sport) I don’t like wearing trainers. These ended up coming from the Vegetarian Shoe Shop in Brighton, a pair of Blackspot Sneakers. These are a sort of social activist venture, with a hand-drawn copyright-free (anti-)logo, made from hemp and recycled tyres by unionised workers. So I wasn’t just buying footwear, but ‘joining a movement’, becoming a shareholder in an ‘anticorporation’, and helping ‘transform the sneaker industry, and indeed capitalism itself, into a more diverse grassroots affair.’

They’re certainly comfortable! And the merry pranksterism of the Adbusters folks is all good stuff.

Ideally I’d recast my entire wardrobe on ethical lines (no more branded shirts made by indentured workers in sweatshops from strands of depleted uranium and the bones of endangered species, and airlifted thousands of miles… instead hemp, organic cotton, things made in ashrams.) However this would be expensive (such clothing tends to be priced rather high) and to be honest tends to make me look like a kidult, festival-refugee or pretend surfer.

At the back of my mind is the idea that buying secondhand clothes would have even less environmental impact, so look out for me sporting some large-check sports jackets from charity shops in the near future (the Jim Rockford/William Burroughs look.)

My serious point is that a mainstream ethical clothing market would need to be less subcultural…

Edge Hill Short Story prize

Excitement is building following the announcement of the shortlist
for Edge Hill’s new award for excellence in the short story. Neil Gaiman,
Jackie Kay, Nicholas Royle, Colm Tòibìn and Tamar Yellin are in line for
the prize, to be announced at an award ceremony at the Royal Exchange
Theatre, Manchester on 20th July 2007.

Full story

Neil Gaiman refers to the prize in his blog saying ‘this is a good award: there’s not enough attention paid to short stories. They’re seen as trivial, or not as good as novels. They have that whiff of unreality about them that means that people who only write short stories are always being asked when they will be writing a real book. I’ve not seen another award given to single author collection regardless of genre.’