I noticed it in hairstyles first. Everyone seemed to have the same one. Dismissed that thought – after all, that is what fashion meant, did it not? That something would be in vogue for a while, everyone would join in, and then it would change. And as it mysteriously morphed to the next season, so would we…follow suit. We see this with clothes all the time.
But put it down to growing up in India, clothes never seemed to be similar. I lived in cities, so there were always some traditionalists, some who would wear the latest cloth and cut, others who would be in the seasons colours (colour as seasonal fashion took years to catch on anyway), and the rest were in sarees anyway. To a child all sarees were either traditional or ‘synthetic’. Of course there was a sameness as fashions came and went – but there were so many thousands of colours, prints and patterns in each that they all looked unique. I’ve never seen a print replicated in the (now) many years that I have lived. I am sure they are, for I see yardage in the shops, and each of us buys only between two and six metres – but the variety is so plentiful and the distribution so widespread that to find a duplicate is tough. Unless one looks at the few shops at the top end that seem to distinguish themselves by offering only a very few designs each year – here, one runs the risk of finding an overpriced duplicate.
This is what I see everywhere – at the posh end, everything looks the same. Look at pictures of people’s drawing rooms. You will see the same things. Soft yellow lighting, pale cream walls. Dark wooden carvings brought in from travels across the world (or picked up from the local market fair), statement paintings that dominate one wall, smaller ones arranged like window panes on another. The steps invariably with family photographs. The balance of light to dark is the same, the proportions identical. The carpets Persian, the sofas geometrical or plain. One could be in any house, and they would all look the same.
For that matter, so would any hotel. At least the tucked away clubby parts of the best hotels. Lounges and restaurants now try to look like homes, and homes try to look like commercial lounges. Easy on the designers – everyone wants to look differently in exactly the same way.
It’s not just hairstyles, or rooms – it is everything. And it is possibly not new. When being fat was a thing, everyone wanted to be fat, now fit is a thing, everyone rushes to join in (surely this is enlightened self development, ya? ya, ok). But then everyone wants to be fit in exactly the same way. It is the fad that counts for most, not the fitness. Or whatever it is that is the norm.
Of course it has to be be this way, by definition. The norm is what defines what is normal. To be normal is to fit into that little box of what other people do. The more people do it, the bigger the box – look, they are making room for you to join them. It is the magnanimity of the mode, it has room for more. The big fat mode in the middle, that, my dears is fashion. Or to use it’s mothertongue – a la modè. This is the party you are invited to, and if you are of the club you will know exactly what will be served, and where it will be placed. Of course, everyone is trying to keep up, to out do others by doing exactly the same thing.
What of those who are uncomfortable wearing other people’s skins? Who are not of the tribe?
Is there a tribe of the untribed? The untribable? Those who will not be tamed, who will not join in.Those who will not utter the next words of the scripted inane chatter, even if they are not shy and know how to play the game. What does one call these people who seek to free themselves from the modal mundane? Who are they – can one even call them by the collective ‘they’? The its. They are the its.
Trouble is, everyone follows the its, copies them, and they are soon the mode. The rage, ah the rage. The race to out-it the (neo)Its (mark the capitalisation) is probably the only real one, it is the only thing that keeps one out of the abyss of the modal w(h)ell.