Given that the mullet is back, is this proof that everything, no matter how hideous, can become fashionable again?
Jon, by email
Yes. But while the long-running return of the mullet is an inevitable offshoot of the hipster trend, I thought it would die with the death of American Apparel. That store represented the branch of hipsterdom that championed the mullet – the skeezy dirtbag hipster, as opposed to the gluten-excluding uber-woke hipster. But I underestimated the hipster determination to reclaim obviously ugly things, from tracksuits to statement spectacles. And so, enter stage left, the mullet, which is still a thing in 2018. And you thought learning that the Now That’s What I Call Music! compilations are now on volume 99 would be the thing that made you feel old this month. (Proud to say my first Now was No 17, and yes, I did buy it because Paula Abdul’s Opposites Attract, her beautiful song about the sexual love affair between a woman and a cat, was on it, thanks for asking.)
But the mullet manages to be only the second most offensive thing in fashion at the moment because that slot has been given over to the latest fashion icon. Now, a fashion icon is someone who represents the cutting edge of chic, the ultimate in aspirational cool and physical beauty. So it says everything about the dumpster fire that is 2018 that this title has been bestowed upon … Shia LaBeouf. “That prat who walks around with a paper bag on his head and looks like he smells of three-week-old underpants, sweat and self-importance? That guy?” Guardian readers cry as one. Yes. That guy.
I must admit, I was unaware of the style renaissance of LaBeouf until I read about it in the New Yorker last month (learning about a fashion trend from the New Yorker: ways you know you’re approaching middle age, part 17,375,382). Writer Naomi Fry describes as particularly memorable a LaBoeuf look that featured “scrunched-up sweats [that revealed] a slice of naked shin … just above a pair of stout Uggs”. Hello, fashion icon 2018! But it was really Fry’s description of LaBoeuf himself that got me rather than any of the photos of him and his stout Uggs: “With his dirty denim and obscurely logoed baseball caps and facial hair and ironic T-shirts and work boots and fleece hiking tops, he is a hirsute, still sexually viable Silver Lake dad crossed with a Chinatown-dwelling trust-funded art-school kid who’s never not up for doing psychedelics.” Man, the 21-year-old in me just got a little turned on there. And for SHIA LABOEUF, for God’s sake. Seriously, this year is garbage.
I’m all for odd fashion icons. For example, I never understand why everyone cites Breakfast at Tiffany’s as the ultimate fashion movie when it’s clearly Steel Magnolias. But I must draw the line at LaBoeuf for three reasons. First, his style is not nearly as odd as people seem to think: he’s just another skeevy hipster and, as God is my witness, I shall kill off the skeevy hipster trend or drown myself in an avocado shell filled with a dairy-free flat white. Second, this skeevy hipster thing – where you look and smell like you have just rolled out of your floor mattress – is only an option for men. Because on men, looking like you have made no effort reads as sexy, whereas on women it reads as certifiable. And third, this faux “not making an effort” look is nonsense. No effort is going into Gap and buying some anonymous T-shirts. Effort is seeking out a thrift store and finding some acceptably ironic clothes that fit you, and only a resting actor has time to do that.
So, in short, Shia LaBeouf is now a fashion icon, bad clothes are now good, to every season turn turn turn. Yes, humanity is going down the pan. But on the upside, his fashion resurgence has gifted us with the phrase “stout Uggs”, so for that we all owe him some begrudging thanks.