Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Pros of Germ-X: peripherally on personal hygiene, mainly on sterility in Berlin street style

I’m digital again after a yearlong (to the day, and you thought I was sloppy) hiatus that saw the so-called Buttercup Curls of Sex, oil paint-induced highs, and sixteen hours of cumulative sleep if you count the time I spent reading Roland Barthes. TLDR, college as man-swallowing whale archetype. Also I was just kidding about Barthes. His cacophonous-word-to-sentence ratio is even more titillating than mine, and to that I nod my Again-Brown Curls of Getting To Second Base And Then Playing The Curfew Card. 

Anyways, now that I'm fresh out of theses about the loneliness of mortality as expressed in American Civil War portraiture to impose on profs who may have already experienced it in their lives without phrases like "bloodless in visage" to make it worse, I want to talk about clothes again.




*takes stump*
I’ve been in Berlin for four months and will be here till September. 


That means “surprise," a nod to the iconic Kinder egg with a piss-poor quantity of chocolate in one side and a toy of unknown merit in the other. Before you supplicate the matronly google translate voice for a pronunciation, it sounds like EWWW-bear-rash-uhng, and I nominate my general accountability as an unsustainably-packaged mystery in its own right.

You now get the disappointment privilege of unwrapping it.
To be transparent, this post has been a draft decomposing in Word since late March, and, unlike Pinot or Jennifer Aniston’s triceps, it has worsened with age. What you’re about to read is the self-indulgent fingernail clipping pile that is my now-outdated first impression of street style in the capital. It has since been extensively reviewed, hotly contested, and, finally, severely qualified by several thirty-somethings with unwashed skinny jeans and finger tattoos sitting--not with their ankles resting on the opposite knee while cognac wingtips jiggle languidly in the air, but definitely crossed neatly in pants-pissing prevention style a la the established male celebrity milking a televised dialogue--in the smoky back room of a secondhand bookstore-cum-salon.* This exchange will unfurl in posts to come.

Not pissing.

Not pissing.

Not not pissing.
*It was actually just me. 

I thought about writing a nice transition between my equally self-indulgent intro and the aforementioned pile, but then I just put quotes around the whole thing.

After a week here, I’m sold on sterility as the predominant feature of Berlin street style, as well as the mantra of what it has ever meant to be cool, ever. Sterile means apathetic. Toxic, devoid of humanity, allergic to enthusiasm. It means that if Californians like their jeans to hug, Berliners limit interaction with their trousers to a terse nod from across the room. It means wearing accessories as if for each one a fairy somewhere drops dead. It means exposed scalps. Black stuff. Upper frenulum piercings.**

 (**the first one of which I encountered in the unassuming gums of a counterintuitively smile-prone student while auditing
 a class in the art hist. dept. @ Freie Universität, a strong case for the wellspring of Berlin's hipster population. Image found here). 

From the no-makeup look to the no-torso-nor-upper-thighs look (see: black rapist trench), Berliners cultivate a harrowingly precise barrenness in their style that I find so cool because it both communicates self-sufficiency and, by extent, argues the existence of an immutable self that I want to know about. It doesn't want or need more than it is, which seems to be an abstraction of what Berliners believe it means to walk their streets, ride their trains, wallow in their dive bars. It is leather, dusk, and New Balance in very picky permutations, and its aesthetic of exclusivity begs a tourist-like inquisition into just what kind of separates make it into the proverbial Berghain that is a Berlin-based wardrobe.


Berliner Swagengeld, or swag money, candid via Le 21ème. Can confirm the trashcans look like tic tacs and spend time on poles.

Since I’m as of yet too intimidated by this ethos, however, to pop a Scott Squat roadside and solicit pics, I’ll try instead to describe a sweaty handful of the individuals that have caught me staring at them. The first jelly donut to impress me was buying deodorant.
Two days in, local interaction thus far limited to a taxi driver, a hotel receptionist and my 78-year-old homestay mother, I was highly impressionable to fashion in any form and encountered it reaching for the Dove underarm spray I have since learned does not smell like armpit but does smell like ass.

Its vessel, a scrawny girl my age, was clearly a subscriber to the no-torso-nor-upper-thighs look. Her black boiled-wool coat fell past her knees in a slow arc, as soy milk into müsli, a naked couple from a garden, or an ass from its youthful tautness, its curvature rendering her form more than slightly reminiscent of a turtle. But, like, a hundred year old turtle that has seen aquatic tragedies you could never imagine. Her black jeggings clung to her calves not unlike bae of 2011, and her Apollonian white Nikes brought the visual essay to a gratifying conclusion. 

Accentually, A sleek black box of a backpack levitated between her shoulder blades, and her hair was bleached spaghetti pulled into the most languid of topknots.
I here denote a languidness comparable to Cleopatra collapsed on a chaise lounge after leg day. It looked like it was concocted with both hands tied behind her back, maybe the coincidental occurrence of rubbing her head in a bowl of particularly autonomous hairbands. It was like a brussels sprout on the cusp of decay, the Enchanted Rose the Thursday before the Beast's 21st birthday bar hop. Actually, I think the most apt way to describe this topknot would be a photograph of a koala I found while browsing National Geographic the other day:

By National Geographic, I mean @fuckjerry's insta. 

Any fewer fucks and we'd have another form of retroactive contraception on the market.

Anyways, from the jacket's indifferent levitation around her body to the untainted theme of functionality uniting her nonetheless formally successful separates, homegirl's ensemble was the word I’ve been carrying around with me ever since like a barcode scanner and holding up to everything that moves for confirmation: sterile.
But the more I comb the streets for free wifi, the more storybook this sartorial narrative of sacrificial utilitarianism, of riches-to-rags, so zu sagen, admittedly becomes. The sleeved body bag, the geeky footwear of yesteryear, and some leather receptacle more formally akin to tupperware than what Gucci churns out are the uniform of the residential female twenty-something, and its manifesto of solitude is diluted en masse. Can minimalism become basic? 

Yeah, okay, COS, better question: Can a feeling--like the intangible quality of sterility that gives rise to minimalistic outfits--go the way of something fleshly like the Birkenstock fish, arbitrarily washed into the Mainstream, doomed to eventually encounter the Waterfall of Wedundancy? Or is there really something secret, inborn, and untouchable in Berliner taste that is not a trend but will always stylize the way trends are worn?

Because I do continue to sense the novelty of nonchalance in other details around here, like in canvas sneakers so rekt they must be catching bump residue from above, or the in Immutable Undercut of the German Youth, touched up between snacks and, behind Hefeweizen, the city's second largest commercial export (Myaß, 74). So maybe the word sterile and its connotation are staying, its denotation undergoing construction. 

The takeaway for now is that this city pares way down, and I was late to note that it works.

But only this past month arisen from the backwoods intellectual fermentation of Palo Alto, hungover on visions of yoga capris, North Face quarter zips and plush polyester onesies--any and all clothing that propagates the Western self-narrative of sexy-while-active, ready-to-fuck-on-our-next-camping-trip, etc.--can you blame me for being floored by an aesthetic that maintains it's cooler to look like the tent?


Wigwam vibes via Scott.

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