Sometimes we realize that fashion can be hard to understand. Lots of things are hard to understand. Chekhov. Metro North time tables. Cereal boxes. A reader alerted us to a recent shopping review in The New York Times’ formidable Style section. She found the review dense, confusing, and devoid of any actual information about clothes. As a public service, we the editors took it upon ourselves to offer up a translation of the offending article. It’s a little service we like to call J.Cruel Into English™
“I’ve always admired the astringent fashion rules of my childhood friend, Lord Relentless Ha. Discriminating San Francisco hoodlums favored a certain heavy twill, bomber-cut “Derby” jacket. Mr. Ha thought that the crisp industrial angles of a new Derby jacket were gauche, so before presenting one as a gift, he put it through a rigorous set of tortures, which, I believe, began with dragging it behind his mufflerless (“loud ’n’ proud”) late-model Cadillac. “Then I marinated it in the bathtub in beer and cigarette butts,” he said. “Then I tied it up in rope and let the ocean chew on it for a while.” A proper Derby, Mr. Ha maintained, required a certain history of abuse.”
When I was young, I had a friend who wore a jacket. He wore it in his car. He drove over it with his car. However, when he did this, he did not wear it. It did not smell good. It smelled like a whale. And not like a whale wearing a jacket.
“Ocean chewed,” is the couplet that sprang from the back to the front of my mind when trying to describe the look and feel of Bird’s new location in Williamsburg. Opening the door from the unbeautiful street, one is practically knocked backward by a refreshing gust of cedar, an aggressively relaxing surplus of softly lighted space, and mellow acoustic indie rock. It is like being suddenly hit in the neck with a Klonopin dart and transported to Wellfleet.”
This store is named after a bird. It is called Bird. But there are no birds in this store, only clothes. When I enter this store it does not smell like clothes or birds. It smells like trees. I am very confused. I feel like I am in a coma.
“On the very first racks, both male and female, the store’s ID establishes itself. I characterize the Bird person as a Bennington graduate whose quiet weekends upstate have evolved into a full-time escape from Manhattan for the explicit purpose of writing divorce poetry. It’s a thoughtful, slouchy, post-Cedar Tavern, Disillusioned Preppy Unisex look, still accustomed to intense, status-minded fashion scrutiny, but overcoated by a spalike, de-stressed and soul-seeky note I’ll call Reprioritized Values or The Benefits of Acupuncture.”
These are not clothes for fat people.
“The colors are muted and nostalgic; diaper-soft cotton button-down shirts by Steven Alan ($170) are wrinkled and sun-bleached, as if wadded straight from grandma’s clothesline. Cross-dressing is heartily encouraged: women may buy the men’s French sailor shirts; men may take a liking to the skinny feminine neckties. Tiny gold earrings by Giles & Brother, shaped like handlebar mustaches, may be worn at any bar in Provincetown.”
I know that men and women wear different clothes because they have different shaped bodies. In this store men and women are wearing the same clothes. There are clothes for grandmas, the French, babies, and gay men in Provincetown. I am none of the above and yet all of the above.
“The jeans, like the Current/Elliott Boyfriend style favored by starlets caught Starbucking in daylight ($210), have been expertly ravaged to appear as if they have endured many train-hoppings and boating accidents but are now safe at the family vacation home, tanned and comfy, reading Doris Lessing and responsibly refusing their third glass of wine.”
These are jeans that are worn by your boyfriend. He died in a boating accident and you became an alcoholic.
“I must bestow a particular honor on Bird’s owner, Jennifer Mankins: She holds the title for my all-time favorite dressing room. The rooms are perfect replicas of saunas, with everything but dry heat. Another olfactory blast of cedar aromatherapizes the mind, with the bonus addition of generous mirrors; enough bars to really hang your clothes on; good, soft light; and a nice bench — an excellent place to take off all your clothes.”
Dressing rooms are not for dressing. They are for undressing. They too smell like trees. Now I am cold.
“I had no idea what to expect from the silk jumpsuit — silk pants attached to a blousy kimono top — but it was quite smart; very Yoko, circa 1979. To wear it really well, I thought, you would need to be a sexually liberated woman with lots of hair and strappy gold platforms, sashaying around the infinity-pool party with large wooden jewelry, terrorizing your husband’s business associates by being obviously naked underneath. I personally found it far too comfortable to be evening wear, but it would really be spot-on for the 18th wife of Bob Evans.”
I am wearing a human parachute. Because this is a piece of clothing I am naked underneath. This is a nice outfit for a dinner party with whores. I am no longer cold.
“I loved the jodhpurs, but Bird didn’t have my size. I predict that despite a trend overdose, we haven’t seen the last of the neo-jodhpur variations; they seem to be quietly prevailing as a real look, as if to say, “Relax, dear, we are not the Gaucho.”
I asked for horse pants but the store did not have the pants or the horse. I have a very real fear of becoming a gaucho. I am cold again, and without pants.
“Much of the clothing at Bird appears to be recovering from its too-adventurous lives. To live vicariously through the scars on one’s casual wear is an interesting kind of psychic trompe l’oeil, suggesting that one has been more kinetically active than one really has. It seems a bit perversely bourgeois to demand a patina of robust character from our clothes in an economy in which garments bearing the marks of age are not an elective style choice for so many. But if your leisure is too demanding to damage your play clothes through the rigors of actual motion, Bird poses an interesting conundrum.”
I did not buy these clothes. They are very expensive and confusing. I am scarred by the experience of looking at them.