Tag Archives: punk

Hindsight Fashion: Phat Pants

24 Nov

Throughout the decades, teenagers have attempted to prove their coolness by wearing questionable accessories, hairstyles and items of clothing. Hindsight Fashion is a section about those trends that, in Hindsight, we probably wish we hadn’t worn.

My teenaged bestie (left) and I (right) sporting our Phat Pants

This week’s Hindsight Fashion is Phat Pants.

Phat Pants (any pant with a very, very, extremely, ridiculously, over-the-top enormous leg width) were a trend that surfaced during the late 1990’s. Originally embraced by the Rave Scene, Phat Pants later became common fare in the Skate Punk Scene as well.

The appeal of Phat Pants was part of an interesting dichotomy. Wearers favoured the style due to its unique nature; Phat Pants did not resemble anything that one could purchase at the local shopping mall. However, wearing Phat Pants automatically identified the wearer as belonging to a subculture, a group of people who all looked remarkably the same. Simultaneously, Phat Pants set the wearer apart and blended them back in again.

The beauty of Phat Pants was their versatility. They could be made out of just about any fabric; the more unexpected, the better. I personally can say that I owned pairs of Phat Pants made out of Fun Fur, Rainbow Bedsheets, and Nylon (with complimentary Reflective Tape).

Though stylish, Phat Pants were extremely impractical. Being a Chilly Canadian Girl, I spent most of my teenaged winters trudging to and from the bus in deep, fluffy snow. Being as wide as they were, the bottom hems would drag on the ground, picking up chunks of snow as you walked. Cold air would travel underneath the pants and upward, encircling your legs in a thin layer of frost. And once you reached your destination and the snow melted, the wet, mucky mess would creep up the fabric, leaving you drenched from the knees down.

Somewhere around 17 I packed my Phat Pants away for good. I believe my Mother might still have a few pairs stashed away for posterity. Perhaps someday my own daughter will discover them and be astounded by the keen fashion sense of my youth. If not, I can always do the Phat Pant Shuffle for her, as a reminder that once upon a time, I too used to be cool.

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If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

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Letter 20: You’re His Groupie, Not His Girlfriend

12 Oct

Dear me at 18:

I don’t know what it is about musicians that you find so magical.

Your parents are musicians. You have grown up with musicians. You understand better than most that the music industry isn’t all champagne wishes and caviar dreams. You understand that most musicians, even those that have experienced moderate success, still wait tables through the week and live in crummy basement apartments that smell like Nag Champa.

So why, oh why are you so impressed with this one?

Okay, okay. I kind of get it. He plays bass in your favourite band. You’ve listened to their music for years. While you took the bus. While you studied. While you brushed your teeth. It’s kind of been the soundtrack to your life. So yes, it’s understandably a bit of a thrill to meet him. And yes, it’s also understandably a bit of a thrill to discover that he is interested in you.

“He said I’m beautiful. We had a whole talk about vegan cooking and leftist politics. He invited me to the after-after party. He said he wants me to come and visit him in California, for Pete’s sake. He’s definitely into me!” you might say.

Sure. He’s into you. I’m sure he does think you’re beautiful, and he probably did enjoy your conversation. But here is the thing: He is into you the way that you are into a new pair of shoes. You buy a new pair and you really like them. You might even wear them two days in a row. And when you’re wearing them, you might even believe they are your favourite pair. But the fact is that you also have a huge closet full of many, many other pairs of shoes. So. Many. Shoes. And although you like the new ones, you also like the other ones, and you will probably like yet another new pair very soon.

Me waiting backstage at the Warped Tour for the object of my obsession. I mean affection.

He might play a show in Toronto once every 6 months, if you’re lucky. And in between those shows, you are sitting around, pining away for him, counting the days until the next Toronto show. Imagining your life together in California. Imagining being married to a rock star. Imagining a brood of little rock star babies. Jumping through the roof every time he sends you an email. Waiting, desperately for him to send another email. Praying To God Above that he will send you another email.

Don’t you ever wonder what he does during that time?

Honey, don’t take this the wrong way. But I can guarantee you he’s not sitting by the computer, waiting for your emails.

You rationalize it to yourself like this: Even if this is just a silly fling, you’ll be able to say that you had a silly fling with a member of your favourite band. Bragging rights.

True. You will be able to say that. But you won’t want to say that because you will be so embarrassed about the fact that you had a silly fling with a member of your favourite band. Because ten years from now you will mention their name and people will say, “Who?”. Because there really is nothing sillier than having a silly fling with a musician. Because silly flings are really just that: Silly.

Here is the good thing: You will only need to learn this lesson once. You will have your silly fling and realize that the whole silly fling thing doesn’t make you feel very good about yourself. You will realize that it doesn’t feel good to spend your time waiting around for someone who doesn’t really care to throw you a bone and pretend that they care. You will realize that when you meet someone, and you are wearing a t-shirt with their name on the back, you’ve already lost in the realm of power dynamics. And you will move on to bigger and better things.

So no. I’m not saying that you need to throw away their albums. I’m not saying that you can’t wear their t-shirts anymore. I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t go to their concerts. You can do whatever you want, provided you have the strength to draw the line with this dude.

But the next time you run into Mick Jagger or Jay-Z or Justin Bieber or whichever rock star professes their love for you next, just do me a favour: Politely thank them, smile, and walk away. Believe me, you’ll feel much less silly in the long run.

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If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 11: Teenaged angst is not just your thing.

9 Aug

Alison writes:

Dear me at 16:

Get over it. You’re not hardcore. Not even a little bit.

You’re sixteen. No one understands you or your music. That’s a universal thing, sweetheart. Teenaged angst is not just your thing.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I fully support you exploring music outside of the Top 40. Listening to alternative and punk, though, does not mean that you are punk. It’s not a free pass to wear those bleached and ripped up jeans from Salvation Army. It doesn’t mean that you can forgo showering five days out of the week. It doesn’t mean that you should wear a men’s band tee Every. Single. Day.

I understand that you despise the mass-produced clothing and music idolized by so many of your classmates. I understand that your classmates aren’t socially conscious and ignore you when you climb on your soapbox about women‘s issues or various obscure third world countries‘ violations of the UN‘s Bill of Human Rights. Is it necessary for you to write poems for English class criticizing them for worshipping the Abercrombie gods and their chronic overuse of perfume and cologne? Different strokes for different folks, dude. Just because you’re marching to your own drummer doesn’t mean that everyone else has to. It doesn’t mean that you need to criticize them for taking a different path.

photo courtesy of alonegrg

It is possible to be an individual without filling up your frequent customer punch card from Hot Topic. So, please, put away the torn up Converse you so artfully graffitied with song lyrics. You are perfectly capable of asserting your individuality without following your friends to punk shows and thrift stores. Take some time and figure out who you are rather than jumping at who other people want you to be.

Also, you may want to tone down the soap box routine a bit. Being labeled a “feminazi” will not help your case in any way.

P.S. Remember all those times the DARE officer warned you about peer pressure? Remember how you are (and will remain) a sucker for peer pressure? In a couple years, your friend will suggest that you do something, and you’ll go along with it. Don’t. For the love of God, DO NOT LET ANYONE TALK YOU INTO DYING YOUR HAIR HOT PINK. The box will say it’s “semi-permanent” (ha!) and will only last six weeks (haha!). Really it means that the dye will last through two years and five hair cuts. Put the box back on the shelf and walk away. Please. Your hair follicles will thank you.

A rural Michigander, Alison splits her time between college, a job that involves handling raw meat, and blogging it up at http://literarycrap.blogspot.com/. Despite regrets over her high school fashion choices, she definitely still trots out the obscure band tees and Chuck Taylors when she’s not going out in public.

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 9: What are you wearing??

26 Jul

Candace writes:

Dear me at 17:

What are you wearing?  Oversized anything is not what’s best for your frame.

The author (right) and I (ugh...left) in our phat pant heyday

‘Phat’ pants are not cool.  They were never cool.  They will never be cool.   They don’t make you look good.  In fact, they make you look exactly like your mother told you, a “garbage lady”.  Those extra-large hooded sweatshirts don’t hide your extremely thin frame, but only make you look even skinnier.  I’m going to go all the way here and say from the back (and side) you look like a boy.  A smelly, garbage boy.  Showers or not, your pants are smelly.

Remember those snowy winters wearing those 36″+ pants?  Do you remember the salt stains, the frozen denim to the knees, the smell?  Oh the smell… It was as though you trapped two poor rabbits in each pant leg during a winter’s walk and they perished a horrible, phat pant death.

Remember Halloween when that kid asked you who you were dressed as, and you weren’t in costume?  Your shaved head, suspenders and ripped chord pants were the giveaway.

Why would you want to look like a raver anyway?  Are you trying to look different from everyone else?  Well, you don’t.  There is a whole group of you that all look exactly the same.  Including the smelly garbage people who do drugs.  And no, it’s not cool to associate yourself with drug addict, delinquent teenagers.

By the way, pull up your pants… I can see your boxers.

Candace Forsyth is a 27-year-old artist from Toronto who is currently studying at Pratt Institute in New York City.

Letter 3: On Being Cool

7 Jun

Dear me at 17:

Okay. I’m going to give it to you straight: You look like you’re trying really, really hard to look like you’re not trying.

Let’s take this back a few steps: Sometime between puberty and grade 8, you came to the conclusion that you would never “fit in”. You had been trying unsuccessfully for many years, but no dice.

At first, you kept at it. You bought the roots track pants. You learned the Macarena. You listened to Our Lady Peace. You convinced your parents to let you ride the subway downtown and back. You experimented with using the phrase “sweet”. But unfortunately, your stocks never rose. No matter how hard you tried, you still couldn’t penetrate the circle of cool at Windfields Junior High. In fact, the only thing that your trying proved was how desperately you wanted to fit in. And everybody knows that nothing is less cool than desperation.

Then, like the glow of headlights cutting through a thick fog, you heard a song by a band called Goldfinger. And in a moment of clarity, your life changed. It was the late nineties and you had discovered ska music. They had spiky hair and frosty highlights. They wore jewelry in strange places on their face. They looked nothing like the popular kids at your school. And yet, they were still cool. Not cool in the conventional, “MuchMusic says” sense. Cool in the “I really don’t care what MuchMusic says” sense. And you knew you had found your niche.

Your hair got shorter. Your pants got baggier. Your face got pierced (and pierced and pierced). You met new friends who knew nothing about your status as the resident loser in your regular social circle. You had been given the opportunity to reinvent yourself! Best of all, to the popular crowd, you no longer looked like you were trying to fit in- they really didn’t know what to make of you. In a way, you finally felt cooler than them, because you knew about a whole scene, a whole lifestyle, that they didn’t even know the word for. In fact it’s two words: You fancy yourself very, very punk rock.

This is an excellent time in your life. But even though you feel infinitely cooler than you did before, you still feel like you don’t quite hit the mark. You feel like maybe the next piercing, maybe the next concert, maybe the next hair cut will bring you there. But the truth is, it won’t. You may have quit trying to fit into the mainstream, but you’re still trying to fit into the sidelines. You no longer desire to be accepted by the Many, but you’re still desperate for the acceptance of the Few. Here’s the biggest lesson of all: You’ll never be cool until the only acceptance you need is that of yourself.

The fact is, you will never be “cool” in the conventional sense. You will always be a little socially awkward, your hair will never quite do what you want it to, and you will always leave parties replaying in your mind all the silly things that you said. The good news is that there is something super cool about being uncool: It’s earnest. It’s honest. It’s not pretending to be something else. It’s about knowing exactly who you are (awkward, silly, gullible, whatever) and accepting that person anyway.

This lesson will take you a few more years to learn. In University you will read voraciously in an attempt to be accepted. After a tireless effort you will feel “well-read” but still lacking status as a genuine, card-carrying “intellectual”. You will never read Chaucer without falling asleep, you will never see the genius in Anne Marie MacDonald, Nietzsche will always confuse you and the concept of Postmodernism will always escape you.

But here is the thing: you don’t need to be an intellectual. You don’t need to be a punk rocker. You don’t need to be the hippest kid at Windfields Junior high. The only thing you need to be is yourself. And that, my dear, is enough.