Monday, December 21, 2009

The Uniform


Slim Aarons, 1957

Whenever a subculture willingly agrees to dress alike it is simply an accepted group style. But when a pre-fromed identity is thrust upon individuals unwillingly, it is a uniform. All uniforms suppress individuality. By wearing the uniform, the wearer enters into the an overdetermined form. The values expressed by the uniform are neutral, standard and submissive, pleasing to the establishment.

Fred Wilson, Guarded View, 1991: Wilson dressed black male mannequins in the uniforms worn by the museum guards at four preeminent New York City museums, commenting on the selective African American presence in the museums.


Longchamp F 2009

Vanessa Beecroft, VB 39, 1999

The uniform is a direct association with power which can bring status to the powerless. This is the case with military uniforms, which are worn with pride. Historically drafted soldiers were too poor to afford the best clothing. The uniform not only unified the soldiers but gave them a sense of personal esteem.

Galliano, S 2009

Warhol, Camouflage Double, 1987

"V-Bay" editorial, V magazine 42

Steven Meisel, "State of Emergency," Italian Vogue, 2005

Ellen Von Unwerth, Italian Vogue

Hussein Chalayan, S 1998

Rick Owens, S 2009

Steven Meisel, Lanvin, F 2007

Valentino, S 2008

Matthew Barney, Cremaster 1, 1995

Helmut Newton, Playboy Bunny, 1979

Jean Charles de Castlebajac, F 2008

Ralph Lauren for Wimbeldon, top 2009 and bottom 2008

Martin Margiela's lab coat uniform for shop employees

Burberry, F 2009

By contrast to the unique, exaggerated forms that characterize both art and couture, most mass produced ready-to-wear apparel functions like uniforms. H&M, American Apparel, Gap and Uniqlo are the uniforms of the working class. While they are not forced to wear these mass brands they are economically restricted to unadorned options.


The worker's uniform is a sign of submission. The worker must submit all desire and individuality to less than attractive clothing. It aims to make them invisible, as if to hide their work from the leisure class. But the uniformed worker is a moment of truth of capitalism, the dark shadow of self-directed desire fulfillment as contingent on the oppression of others.

Jeff Wall, Cleaning Man at Barcelona Pavilion, 1999


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