This week, I’ve been thinking about authenticity and the cultural relevance of clothes. Well, some of the time. Before I fool myself into thinking that I’m an intellectual powerhouse, I have to admit to that more time has been spent thinking about Facebook, the lifespan of a pair of dirty socks or how I’m possibly going to avoid That Guy at That Party next month.
Sometimes, I think about nothing in particular. This morning I was up at 5am thinking about the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, which is as flamboyant and aquarium glass-crackingly terrifying as it sounds. The Mantis Shrimp has such advanced eyes that it see colours that we can only dream about perceiving. Imagine that – one shrimp can see more than any human ever will. At 8am, I put a picture on Facebook.
This week, The Great Gatsby arrives in cinemas. A Baz Luhrmann extravaganza, a riot of sound and colour and a confusion of costumes that aren’t quite Roaring Twenties will hit the screens – but not literally. In the meantime, the 2013 costume exhibition ‘Punk: From Chaos to Couture’ has opened up at The Metropolitan Museum in New York. At the opening gala, the Met Ball, famous attendees were invited to interpret the theme in their own outfits – which they either didn’t bother doing or liberally misinterpreted. The most punk thing that happened that night was Jennifer Lawrence lampooning celebrity culture by photobombing Sarah Jessica Parker.
When it comes to the past, interpretation isn’t always open. But, for Gatsby, the inauthenticity works, while at The Met, it does not. Why is that?
Careful planning for one. Not being a vacuous clotheshorse with very little to say for herself might also be a factor. But really, the Roaring Twenties was about putting on a show. East and West Egg (where The Great Gatsby is set), a facsimile of Long Island Sound, is full of replicas of Tudor houses and Normandy villas. Nothing is real, everything is fantasy. It makes sense that elements of the costume include the Thirties as well as the decades preceding it. The characters of The Great Gatsby are staring into the sun of a brand new era – one that is not nearly as bright as it seems.
Punk, however, is all about realness and a lack of intellectual fakery or political sleight of hand, as well as anger, aggression and Vivienne Westwood. The ersatz costumes at the Met Ball, as well as the dialogue created by the exhibition within, would have caused derisive snorts from even the most casual weekend punk of the King’s Road.
The Mantis Shrimp, which sees all, probably knows more about authenticity than we do. I’d like to think that it sees the faults that humanity is blind to – that’s why it’s such a violent creature. The reality though, is that it’s batshit crazy. If you had that kind of sight, wouldn’t you be?