Fashion designer Christian Audigier died last Friday, at the age of 57. His sudden passing reminded the internet about the two trash-fashion brands he helmed to great success in the 2000s: Von Dutch and Ed Hardy. Both brands pushed the sort of gaudy, expensive looks so intrinsically tied to a specific time and place that it would have taken an act of God to allow them to age well.
But who knows? Fashion is cyclical. Trends hit, then go out of style. A few years later, they return in a somewhat mutated form, like a bent-up boomerang. This happened when bell bottoms made a resurgence in the early 2000s as "flared" jeans. It happened again when baggy jeans got killed by "skinny jeans," although for the most part, the new skinny jeans were just the old jeans that actually fit. So even though shirts with glitter and skulls haven't been cool since James Blunt was tearing up the pop charts, who's to say 2015 isn't the perfect time for a trucker-hat comeback?
We live in a society in which, for better or worse, we define ourselves online through commodities. The music we talk about on Twitter, the TV shows we GChat about, the articles we post to Facebook, the brands we associate ourselves with, etc. As the internet has made us more and more performative, the easiest way to establish yourself as an iconoclast is by aligning yourself with stuff that most sensible people hate. This is a super tempting thing to do, both because it's really fun to argue that, say, Con Air is a better film than anything Fellini ever made, and because if you're forceful enough in your arguments about why something is good, you might actually influence people to start thinking the same way that you do.
Ed Hardy is the Con Air of menswear. The clothes are, for the most part, ugly. Like, really ugly. They are to the eyes what Axe Body Spray is to the nose. Still, the brand hasn't been cool for so long that there's a certain ironic distance that can be drawn between its heyday and now. In the 2000s, Ed Hardy was the rhinestoned battle flag of electro bros and jocks. Now, it represents no one in their right mind. If you're looking to prove you're too advanced for reality, you could do worse than mining the unforgotten but unloved fashions of the early 2000s, especially if you're one of those dudes who is into dressing aggressively normal (i.e., following the dreaded "normcore" trend).
"A 'cool guy' wearing True Religion tees and Ed Hardy hats on Instagram in 2015 seems to be consciously taking the normcore look a step further," says Lawrence Schlossman, editor-in-chief of the men's fashion site Four Pins. "Normcore is an easy look to ape if you're lame and broke with no taste, so the supposed 'tastemakers' of this set evolve." There are two types of coolness at work here: There's being ahead of the curve and figuring out what's going to be the new hotness in a few months, and then there's submitting the curve to your bidding and dictating what's next.
When someone like the rapper/videographer Uzi wears an Ed Hardy T-shirt in an Instagram photo or rap socialite Ian Connor decides he's going to start wearing Skechers, it's an act of hubris. Extremely hateable brands are unclaimed territories in a sense, which allows cool kids to stamp their own personal brand and attempt to revive them through sheer force of will.
Still, Schlossman says, "Keep in mind this is all happening within a bubble within a bubble." Beyond a few weirdos wearing this stuff as an ironic goof, it's doubtful that something like Ed Hardy could ever make something resembling an actual comeback in fashion. There's just too much left to be explored. At some point, even the coolest kids have to find something new.
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