Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Summer 2012:  A second chance
Between about 2009 and 2011 I wore kilts everyday except on mandatory hit and tie days (sometimes that's what's called for). What I didn't do was chronicle the experience.

This time I am not wearing kilts exclusively, but I am intending to document the experience.

Today I got up and put on a stylish pair of skinny jeans.  Then I sat down to write.  My god, I was bound and gagged.  I knew I'd be writing for about eight hours:  Utilikilt to the rescue.

Sitting for a day of research is much more comfortable in a kilt.  Why do men wear clothes not built for their body?  Codes have power, and the power to make "knowledge" (e.g., men wear pants) is the interesting power.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Kilts look great with boots.

Most images found online echo or amplify this observation-opinion.  I usually wear a great pair of Doc Martins (very high with buckles over the ankles).  I found that these boots show off the kilt, my legs and, at the same time, are slightly invisible (while I get complements, they don't call attention to themselves).

 New Rock boots are my favorite; I just can't afford a pair right now.  So, to get a multiple buckle look with beefy souls embellished with metal screws, I found a pair of Tripp boots that I love.  

I was hesitant to wear these to work:  What was too much? I always ask myself that question.  On the encouragement of my wife, I wore them to work Friday, and received both the expected complements, and the unexpected invisibility:  Invisibility does not mean that people aren't talking.  It means that the phenomenon "passes."  I brought them to the attention of my co-worker, Monica, who liked them.  She said they made me look like a cartoon character (in a good way). Thus, we are back to costume over uniform.  While men are expected to wear uniforms to work, the costume is more significant, more ambiguous; they are signs not signals.
Can Gigandet

Signals, Umberto Eco's Theory of Semiotics tells us, have no room for signification:  They are binary (on or off); no room for questions, ambiguity or discussion,

Signs, he continues, points they way they do because of cultural conventions, codes, and are founded on (usually invisible) ideologies and mythologies--food for the meanings, beliefs and values of our lives.

Uniforms may be thought of as signals:  My suit and tie says I am ready for work.  My "kilted self," and all the accoutrements that make up my inscribed body, are signs, and its the codes, ideologies and mythologies that people respond to (not the thing itself).

KozLuvBorg 10/14/11

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Cyberlocks Part II

In my last post I raised the questions, can men wear cyberlocks?, and because the simple answer is, "duh," in what context.  Reading that blog my wife correctly pointed out that women are equally subjugated to dress-codes, especially in the workplace, even if the choice of attire is overall more broad.  

When writing I wanted a purposeful sampling of "cybermen" (but not the kind who appear in Dr. Who).  I finally found some (it took a while).

Sickness Ocean
Personally, I think the look not only works, but I'm going to save up for a wig--as soon as I pay of my debts (which may take a while).

In my broad searches for lived-differences, and lived inscriptions, I find more examples from Germany, Austria, Wales and so on, than I do from the US.  I also get a sense that the fashion scene, like British punk may be small (by comparison to "American" market phenomena, but may be more acceptable after the Rave is over.  I don't know this is true, but I would like to find out. 

Jack Into the Future

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Male Body and Cyberlocks

Artemis Kolakis
Hair that is literally and figuratively an extension of one's self, one's ethos, pathos, logos and kairos (great word; look it up). Hair that speaks intentionally, and realizes that myth today (in a world in which considering discourse best replaces identifying ideology; see the work of David Sholley) is not just a relationship between body (organism), society-culture (environment), and world (Capital W, World), but is an attempt to figure out the relationship between embodiment and technology (i.e., an ecosystem). 

Aesthetics as politics.  Surface as depth.
My question for today, concerns, as usual, my exploration of fashion as expression, consequent perception, and questions the differences such expression-perception continuum's create when sex and gender (and subjugation and objectification) are added to the mix.  The simple question:  Can men wear cyberlocks? The Q is re-articulated first by the question; can women?  Third, by the question, in what context? Raves only? Work?

The art above and ad alongside this text, are examples of cyberlocks.  Essentially, dreadlocks on nanobots:  The spiritual, religious, ideological equations with Rastafarian dreads are different, but the connotation is interestingly similar:  You stand out. You are your own emblem.  You show your allegiance.  You communicate a relationship to society. 

And here's another part of the issue:  Many (far too many) people live at the level of judgement: They don't get to know a person; they evaluate that person on pre-judicial categories, past experiences, and pre-suppositions:  All the metaphors are temporal, and either "then" or "later"--not "now." 

As fashion is concerned I see a repeating trend:  Women have more options than men.  [However, while not the focus of this blog (I have written about this elsewhere), women are brutally and financially subjugated for this choice (clawback is always working).  More often than not, this choice separates women from finances, encourages a sexualization of embodiment, and puts the body on display as an object.  These are all phenomena that takes time and resources away from political action.  However, that is not my current trajectory.]

I still feel the need to make sure, with my wife, friends and even co-employees and supervisors that, in the panopticon, I can indeed wear my kilts, boots and so-on, to work.  I am privileged to work at an institution of higher education where boundaries are quite progressive and broad, but conservatism is the air we breathe; university pedagogy changes very slowly.  While some insecurity is mine to own, some is reasonable.  Now, looking at cyberlocks I see another way to integrate my life, as a professor of new computer-mediated communication technology, with my clothes in an overtly political fashion (I must be a closet journalist because I love bad puns).

Of course part of the issue is also the relationship between costuming and, well I want to say "conforming," but the category is...uh..this is a blog, and right now I forget.  The thing is, work clothes are already, but not always, costumes.  Thus, we have competition.  I can always wear a suit and tie, and go to work anytime.  Moving away from that costume, in higher education, is easy because, we academics can wear "clothes" that are not "costumes."  Jeans.  Button shirt.  T-shirt. Sneakers.  Boots.  It all works.

But cyberlocks? Think about other deviations.  There was a time when a tattoo could keep you out of a good job. While there are limits, tattoos are quite acceptable.    This semester (Fall 2011) I'm seeing more dyed hair than ever before (I've bought some red and blue have not used it yet).  I imagine that will become more acceptable in some, if not many, careers.  Why not this?  Why not for men?
by DJColdfire

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Night at the Theater


Some days are just longer than others.  Some weekends shorter.  Some nights longer.  The phenomenon of time has been written about extensively, so what concerns me here is simply the embodied time of the fashioned mind.  

The past Saturday was for me one of those longer days.  Moreover, since I am in the middle of an "experiment," considering the correlation of outward and inward appearances (and again I don't have photos), I needed more time to consider clothing, and to make "changes" (although that's a pretty bad pun).  I have dedicated myself to the task of what we might call "an intentionality" of apparel.  Intentionality is usually thought of as the condition of consciousness (your awareness is always an awareness of something).  However, Merleau-Ponty noted in his phenomenology of language and communication that intentionality must be rethought not as a transcendental nexus, but an in-the-flesh, act of embodiment. Now, because of the relationship between subjects (intersubjectivity) intentionality becomes as much a hermeneutic, semiotic and phenomenological endeavor; my clothing is not a pure expression of some idea, but is open to interpretation, and subject to ideologies and mythologies--whether I like it or not.

My musical peformance of that afternoon went well (see previous blog).

So, after band practice, I came home to get ready for a night at the theater--Candide.  Long story short.  My wife, who was in a terrible car accident a few weeks ago was in too much pain to attend, and I wanted to see the show--which was nearing the end of its run.

I wanted to dress up for the theater: I wore a Black kilt with black leggings and tall belted Doc Martins boots.  My shirt was a pleated tuxedo shirt with ivory studs and the coolest cuff links I've ever seen (really, they are very cool).  I topped this with a thick black velvet jacket from Gap completing a clean black and white look (you know, I really need to learn to take pictures; I always forget, and putting those studs in took forever).  

Now, if we want to talk about power. Let's consider how odd it is for a man to describe his outfit.  [I remember this beer add in which men, using direct address asked questions such as, "do these pants make my butt look big?"  The ad was hysterical because of its perspective by incongruity] Too make matters worse I'm contentedly heterosexual.  I need to write an entry on heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.  For now, consider that I'm secure in my sexuality (secure enough to wear a skirt in public).

So, I'm dressed and ready to go out.  If I may say, I looked great and that did help me to feel great. Why is it that looking good helps us to feel good (let's talk about psycho-graphics later).  Perhaps there is more to the phenomenology of clothing than the semiotics suggests.  Perhaps, however, I'm just wrapped in conspicuous consumption and the nature that appeared as culture appears now as nature and I'm essentially lost...I hoped you followed that one (no time to spell it out, but it's important to note that I'm not not just dropping lines here).

Too many words...last point tonight.  So, I'm decked out in basically a mix of kilt and tux and after buying tickets I need to put my wallet back in my sporran.  The sporran, I hope you know, is a type of purse (that's many enough, huh) that hangs over one's so-considered privates--which are much more sexualized when there's a big black leather bag making that penis and balls a lot more conspicuous than the kilt does; phallic culture indeed. Even when wearing a kilt properly, what do they call it?  military?  commando?  regimental?  Right.  That's it.  The word purse means pouch...well, enough of that.  So, as I try to put my wallet back, the leather ties are tangled and as I work to untie them (while walking to toward the theater--and believe me, you're never quite invisible in a kilt) I hear two girls saying, "what the HELL is he doing?"  

Now, perception, hearing for example, is very subjective, and it is very possible to hear what you think is important, but also possible to know when someone is in fact talking about you in a crowd.  Room for error--sure, but here I am digging in my...purse..while walking across the hall.  It's easy to see how conventions, like pants, are invisible.  I was rather taken back and while not embarrassed, I do wish those ties were not knotted.  I wanted to draw a very different image than I might have in that case.  At the same time, were kilts "normal" nothing would have been made of what could have been an insignificant moment.  What is significant is that wearing a kilt, a skirt, and fumbling with my sporran, was really pretty offensive to these women.  I need to keep in mind that if I want to help "normalize" men's unbifurcated garments, I need to take care with my actions, take command of indication and association.

During intermission I was sought out by friends who noted that I was pretty easy to spot in a large crowd.  There are benefits.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hip Hop

Celtic bands and Rockers are not the only musicians to sport kilts.  Take a look at these Hip Hop superstars:

Here's the challenge.  In picture number one, Snoop Dog, clearly establishes his cool, his sexuality, and perhaps race by embodying several codes which signify Hip Hop.  These signs, that is, scantily clad women, being surrounded by women, the homogeneous shape of the women's bodies, the positioning of the bodies, the bling, the lighting, perhaps even the Converse All-Stars certainly signify several things, but when we view the picture as a whole, Snoop Dog has either offset any questions about his authenticity as a Hip Hop artist, or, we might even suggest, the picture can be "read" comically--a level of cool by not taking oneself so seriously while working very hard to maintain star status at the same time.

Diddy pictures, captured at a performance, raise the questions Snoop Dog appears to offset.  The Coco and Creme fashion site captioned the picture, "is this OK?"  Obviously wearing a kilt is questionable.  The commentary goes on to say, if so, "we blame Lenny Kravitz."  (the commentary on Kravitz, who pictured in a leather kilt; "I’m sorry but Lenny was wrong for that ensemble a few weeks back. Dead wrong").  So, we have a "we."  Who is this "we?"  Moreover, the comments (available on line) clearly make this a "black" issue. Even within the Hip Hop fashion world, there is no escaping being perceived not as an artist; you are a black artist.  This reinforces and reifies white invisibility and hegemony.  A white rock star, such as Sting, when posing in a kilt, has challenged neither his masculinity or his race.  The commentary on Diddy's image ends with this quotation:  "This is perfectly fine for Scotland…but he better not bring that kilt state-side!"

So, we have a talented performer chained to the social subjectivity of race, perhaps gender, perhaps sexuality, and then he is threatened based on a non-rigorous  geographic audience analysis by an audience member.  When we remember that people get beat up and even killed over these issues, we see that not only are we not living in a post racial world, but wearing the wrong clothes subjects you to threats. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Do the Clothes Make the Man?

The experience was transforming.  I did change.  I felt it in my body.  It was not the kilt.  Kilts may have magic; I'll have more to say about this later.  But I am not depressed anymore.  I am again joy.
As directed, I went to play with the band--the Rhizomatics.  Two of us were available (Tom's son played bass and drums for a while but had to go to work), so dug and I set up some prerecorded loops in Abelton's Live.  We played and recorded over these tracks.  At certain moments we hit that magic that improvisation makes possible.  dug played the best solo I have ever heard him perform, and I listened, really listened, and picked notes with effects (I love echoes more than anything else; read my book on music video [shameless advertisement]).  

After an hour or so, like in deep meditation, we were in tune.  This is an important moment in the musical experience of communication; is the band actually in tune with each other?  When we hit that moment, my body responded.  I stood up straight and tall.  I could feel myself growing and receiving from the sounds the power and force (I have read so much on these metaphors that, like many educated people, I feel like I know less and not more.  So, I will use force, like "the force" of jedi lore (so I'm a geek, deal with it) and Power to refer to discourse.  If you do read my older blogs you may see that this use is not consistent; will you, reader, bother reading on with this thought flowing from my fingers, edited by my mind, and sent to the world by the web? I hope I do not bore you with these details that I believe scholarship deserves--even in a blog).

Kilted.  Red and black tartan with red t-shirt and black sweater--at least I think that's what I wore.  It was an entire day ago.  But when the music swelled I felt again that masculinity that I have only felt when kilted.  At some time I will blog about my recollections of early experiences, but know here that the clothes make a difference.  They do make the man.

So, do the clothes make the man?  Like many hackneyed phrases, this is weak.  However, when the music lifted me from this depression (I have had some moments of relief in the past two weeks), I found that re-adopting my preferred dress (well, really a skirt;  that's a joke) allowed the moment to rise, the body to rise with a connection to the force in which bodies and musical expression were tied in musical expression in a circularity that we call communication. This is where Merleau-Ponty seems to have been going with his discussions on art.  It is where Vivian Sobchack, Richard Lanigan, and my own work have gone.  So many phenomenologies written in the spirit of Merleau-Ponty focus on perception (for indeed his work in this realm is supreme).  Algis Mickunas wrote an excellent essay called "The Primacy of Expression" that stood along side Merleau-Ponty's "Primacy of Perception."  Even the book I just bought, "Perception and the Phenomenology of Music Experience," by Harris M. Berger, which I am trying to make time to read, focuses his title on perceptionI will argue that perception and expression do not have a battle for "primacy," but instead, when seen in an unending circularity, are what we call communication.  Indeed, I dedicate my life to this probelmatic. 

So, at the end of the day, Kilt Guy is feeling good, and going home to get dressed for a night at the theater.