Thursday, March 09, 2006

Anti-Surveillance as a Fashion Statement?

New York Times

The above link points to a feature I found last week. Although vaguely related to art, it is something that normally resides beyond my frame of reference for this column.

What brought it to mind is a radio news item today which told of an unfortunate pensioner who was denied access to a local pub because her hat was proving an obstacle to their CCTV system.

As I understand it, the expression "Boyz in Da Hood" originally had connotations relating to Amerika Urban youth in their "neighbourhoods" but nowadays seems to have been sperceded by reference to headgear. Here in the UK there was much spirited outrage about "hoodies" on our streets some time back - the same kind of panic created by long hair in the 60s. Missed by these critics was the simple fact that it was and still is simply a trend - a case of mutual fashion and identity for a generation. Some disaffected yes, but hardly all.

More recently of course we have seen increased tension with Islamic culture. Many Muslim women choose to wear headgear (as do Christian "nuns" for that matter) but the symbolism of "hiding something" has not altogether helped fragile relations.

The feature at NYT makes all sorts of whimsical suggestions as to why designers may be taking an interest in headgearn but I'm intruiged for a different reason. If headgear becomes all the rage, it will lessen the unwelcome focus on those who wear it for reasons other than style. It will also make it rather awkward for those who seek to dictate our behaviour for the convenience of their surveillance systems. So, if you don;t feel comfortable with state voyeurism and its implications for privacy, hop on board and make headgear your statement of personality.

In case of emergency, maybe we should urge designers to re-invigorate another old-time fascination - the fine art of the umbrella and sunshade. If this Winter ever ends, a highly styled reflective version of the latter would be just the ticket - loud, unmissible and guaranteed to play havoc with the optical recognition software.


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