This past week we were introduced to Jaden Smith (son of Will Smith and actor in such films as The Karate Kid and After Earth) serving as a model for Louis VItton’s WomensWear line.
The press have used phrases like “gender bending” in their coverage of the actor’s wearing of a skirt (and modeling for a women’s clothing line), as they have for their coverage of David Bowie’s passing (Ziggy Stardust, glam rock).
No need to mention the SF community’s continued engagement with gender identity (although it ought to be pointed out that questions of gender identity have been a long running theme in the genre).
But both of these incidents reminded me of the cliche “clothes make the man” (a statement I disagree with wholeheartedly for a number of different reasons) and of something I read in Life Magazine way back in 1970. (Must have made an impression because it stuck with me.)
After a little bit of searching (most of Life’s issues are searchable online here), I found it. A relatively short article by designer Rudi Gernreich predicting the fashion trends of the 1970s, featuring unisex styles, man skirts and the removal of our eyebrows.
What’s most interesting is this: it took more than 40 years for Gernreich’s concept to make the mainstream (to one degree or another) AND the background explanations that Gernreich provides in his write-up:
“Tomorrow’s woman will divest herself of her jewelry and cosmetics and dress exactly like tomorrow’s man”
“We will all wear colored contact lenses”
“The utility principal will allow us…to take our minds off how we look and concentrate on really important matters”
“It will be impossible to drive to stores because of traffic, so all clothes will be ordered from a catalog or a TV set”
“:Clothing will not be identified as either male or female…Women will wear pants and men will wear skirts interchangeably”
“Weather permitting, both sexes will go about bare chested”
“Jewelry will only exist as a utility…or for information, like a combination wristwatch, weather indicator, compass and radio.”
“The elderly will have a cult of their own and the embarrassment of old age will fade away.”
You know that argument about whether or not science fiction is predictive in nature? Well, apparently both yes it is and no it isn’t. Or maybe the better phrase is “hit and miss”.
Well, regardless – here’s Jaden, followed by some of the pages from Life magazine, January 9, 1970. For the life of me, I’ve no idea why Gernreich thought we’d all be happy running around looking like Moe Howard. But then, given the state of the world these days, maybe that first prediction of his was spot on….