“The single desire that dominated my search for delight was simply to love and to be loved," wrote Augustine in Confessions about his misspent youth. “I traveled round the world / Looking for a home / I found myself in crowded rooms / Feeling so alone,” sings Madonna in Drowned World/Substitute for Love, ending with the observation that her "religion" is her "substitute for love.”
And this search for connection is what is behind the peculiar strain of ultra-spirituality-meets-mythic-warrior'ness that is a thing these days. A huge thing.
(I do love the way JP Sears spoofs the whole phemon in his fun "instructional: video: How to be Ultra Spiritual.)
Rather than some lofty but bloodless philosophical search for an abstract "god", this quest is intensely personal. "It is born of broken relationships, laced with realism, poignant with need," explains David John Seel, Jr. in an insightful essay on spirituality in pop culture. "It unmasks the fear of abandonment as well as the loss of meaning. It is the cry for an embrace, the passion for intimacy, the longing for fidelity at the deepest levels of the heart. It is the longing for a love that will not leave in the morning light."
Which author Tom Beaudoin sums up in Virtual Faith: The Irreverent Spiritual Quest of Generation X - exploring how we find meaning in a world dominated by fashion, music videos, cyberspace a pervasive irreverence for institutions - by noting that the central "religious" question for youth today is:
Will you be there for me?
In critiquing a photo-essay published in The New York Times Magazine back in 1998 documenting American Millennials just entering their teen years, editor Charles McGrath observed: “The really powerful feeling here, the emotion animating almost all these pictures in one way or another, is not so much physical desire as simply the wish to connect: to belong, to fit in. It may not be too much to say that all these kids are looking for surrogate families, for people who will take them in and accept them without question, and what’s fascinating is how much the process is reduced to symbols and uniforms.”
And these symbols and uniforms showed up decked out in dramatic monastic-warrior attire on fashion designer Gareth Pugh's runway for Fall 2015.
Inspired by football, the most "tribal" of rituals in his native British society, Pugh sent out looks that he felt showcased being "part of something meaningful, being part of the game." However, the austere attire and crude red St. George's Cross makeup brought the mythical warrior-queen Boudicca to mind for Style.com's reviewer, the awesome Tim Blanks. "The models walked with faces painted in a red cross like football fans," he writes, "their hair pulled back into a horse's tail... Pugh gave them clothes that were scaled up for impact, and protection: black capes, face-framing funnel necks, a jacket and skirt that were as voluminous as a wrapped duvet, a Mongolian lamb coat in a silhouette-warping shag, flaring dresses that swept the floor." Something that "one of the Other Four Nominees might wear to the Oscars," he adds, "their dark, grandiose volumes suggested magnificence for a lost cause...Picture fashion's middle point between Shakespeare and Clive Barker."
(Like I said: Tim is awesome.)
Being "part of something meaningful." Feeling "part of the game." Fashion - like music and art and autobiography - explores the most basic questions of identity: Where do I find security? and How do I find significance?, notes Seel. In other words: where's home? and how do I "make a name" for myself? Or, hip-hop: “finding blood” and “getting big.”
- Lesley Scott
The warrior-like feel of this Gareth Pugh collection reflects the vibe of the Apocalytical fashion tribe which has a chic (but somewhat depressing) cloud of effitalltohellalready Doomsday & End Times that seems to follow them everywhere. For more of my posts and podcasts about the Apocalytical tribe, CLICK HERE. To learn more about each of fashion's four mega-tribes that I track, START HERE.