If you're anything like me (a hot guy with a bad attitude), I'm sure you've spent countless lonely nights wondering how fashion magazines manage to make reprehensibly lame stuff appear so much more "on trend" than whatever painstakingly assembled combination of sack and string you've decided to wrap yourself in.
Well don't despair, you have only one thing to learn: you're not adhering to what's chic. See, the world of fashion is incredibly stale—how many more times are we expected to applaud miniscule changes to an Oxford shirt, amirite?—so editors cheat. They take something that one person's doing, like bohemian-revival or heroin, whack "chic" on the end of it and create a snappy new umbrella trend that suddenly includes anyone who ever wore ratty shoes or an old fur coat. (Sorry to crush your expectations of the fashion industry, BTW. I promise that's absolutely the only shady thing going on.)
According to Wikipedia and the Daily Mail website—both gleaming beacons of The Absolute Truth—Nazism is the most recent thing to have been turned chic. Apparently Third Reich threads are all the rage with teenagers in areas of east and Southeast Asia, which I think beats out every other "chic" genre of the past in terms of contradiction and utter fucking stupidity. Let's laugh at some of the idiotic stuff that's been passed off as cool because it had a French word added to the end of it.
Fashion owes a great debt to Hitler—that's a given. The severe, ice-bitch look? Hitler's idea. Punk? Hitler's idea. Everything with a Boy London logo on it? Hitler's idea. The thing is, all of that stuff gently alludes to the Nazi aesthetic, without going full Galliano and trivialising one of the most despicable human acts in history. For whatever reason, people don't like it when you do that. Case in point, the Thai and South Korean teenagers who have started cosplaying in SS uniforms, wearing Hitler T-shirts and sieg heiling their way into school. Supposedly the look is so popular because, "teenagers just find it funny," which totally settles any reservations I had. All you Jews and socially-conscious citizens out there can just grow a funny bone and stop getting so offended, teenagers just find it funny!
This is how some fashion magazines quantized that horribly embarrassing period where everyone was wearing keffiyehs. I'm guessing members of Ansar al-Islam and Lashkar-e-Taiba were beyond thrilled that their look was taking off after years of carefully coordinated color-matching and choice moments of heavily-styled exposure on leaked terror tapes. "How fabulous!" I hear Abu Abdullah al-Shafi'i shriek, as he sees Rachel Bilson wrapped up in a Keffiyeh in his imported copy of US Weekly. "Our mission is almost complete. All we need now is Mischa Barton in a jihadist headband and we've made it. Paris, Milan, New York—here we come!"
Too much high fashion gets pawned off as military chic—Balmain S/S 2010, Dries Van Noten S/S 2011, etc., etc.—when it's not particularly military, just mud green with some toggles and double-breasted buttons. Real talk: hypebeast morons and streetwear camo-nerds are where the military chic tag needs to be applied. You know, the guys who actually know what strain of lurid pink camouflage they're buying, and spend half an hour explaining the sartorial benefit of Woodland Digital Camouflage over Disruptive Pattern Camouflage (before your brain starts crying blood out of sheer boredom). I think it would piss those guys off to be described as chic, and God knows we need something to shut them up.
This one was arguably the breakthrough moment for journalists taking something edgy (urgh, I promised myself I would never use that word), putting "chic" on the end of it and suddenly making it, like, totally the hottest thing around. Rudimentary common sense and a one-hour DARE lesson in eighth had me believing that heroin was destructive and dirty, but one Calvin Klein advert turned my life around. Oh, it's cool to look like you've spent the last three months in a doped-out haze, on your way to complete emaciation, huh? Shit, sling me a teenth and sign me up, bro.
I almost feel bad taking pot-shots at the conceited, pseudo-worldy people who align themselves with the eco chic thing, because they're already doing a good job of it themselves. I once heard a woman describe some vegan wellington boots she'd just bought as "très eco-chic." I'm almost 100 percent certain I've never heard anyone utter something that made me want to want to redecorate the garage Cobain-style as much as that.
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jamie_clifton