Why we're not about velvet, and you shouldn't be either.
Velvet is back. And we don’t have the slightest ideas as to why. I guess we do know why but we don’t understand the sentiments. Popular global culture is in one of those waves at the moment where the key expression less is more has been entirely forgotten. Everything is about extravagance, flamboyance, and over-the-topness. Everyone is striving to be their weirdest, their most outspoken, and most willing to take creative risks. In many ways, it’s a positive thing. Music, art, film, fashion, and photography are all being pushed past their limits at relentless rates. There are more styles now than ever and with each style comes another form of self-expression providing confidence and creativity to all who seek it. It is a great time to be a creator, to be an artist, or to be anyone who wants to make or try something new. Unfortunately, sometimes when striving for something new, we become over intoxicated by the tantalizing trends of the past and instead of creation, we replicate things that have already been done and rightfully thrown out. There is an affinity, in music and fashion in particular, for circularity, and it’s easy to see.
For instance, hip-hop music tends to bob and weave between two points: lyricism and melody. A generation of lyrical rappers takes over the game for a time – like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole in 2012, who with their immense influence, pave the way for young up-and-comers with a similar style to gain popularity. When their wave slows, the superstars like Kdot and J. Cole are safe thanks to their massive followings, but a new wave replaces the mainstream scene for the most part. And it comes as a swing in hip-hop’s opposite melody-focused direction. Artists like Future, Lil Yachty, and Lil Uzi Vert come with a style less focused on well-written, well-delivered lyricism, and instead focus on melodic vibes through the manner of their unique deliveries. Eventually, this style too will slow down as hip-hop artists influenced heavily by lyrical rappers of the past become more prevalent thanks to their unique sound relative to what’s hot at the moment. If you want further proof of this pattern, take a look at an especially transcendent artist like Drake. 2017 Drake sounds a lot more like Future and PARTYNEXTDOOR than he does like 2013 Drake. And the reason is because Drake has the talent and range to adjust his hip-hop style according to what’s popular at the moment. When hip-hop again returns to a more lyrical era, Drake will return to a flow more reminiscent of Nothing Was The Same and Take Care and move away from the styles of If You’re Reading this it’s Too Late or More Life.
Hip-hop’s undisputed influence on fashion also means that as hip-hop ebbs and flows between the more seriously thematic style of lyricism and the more party-centric style of melody, fashion trends follow suit. A fashion icon hip-hop star associated with the lyrical era between 2012 and 2016 like ASAP Rocky, tends to represent style that is more commonly associated with the clean-cut look of high fashion designers like Marc Jacobs, Raf Simons, Salvatore Ferragamo, and John Varvatos. Essentially, he becomes a living visual representation of relevant music. But as the sound of hip-hop becomes more experimental, wild, and bizarre, so too do the fashion choices. Take a look at the style of any of the major artists belonging to the current melody-focused generation. Better yet, watch the 2016 XXL Freshman Cypher featuring Lil Uzi Vert, 21 Savage, Kodak Black, Lil Yachty, and Denzel Curry. The crew purposefully sports a bizarre smattering of styles in order to display their creativity, their weirdness, and their utter lack for giving a fuck. It’s not that one is necessarily better than the other; they are simply visual representations of how different their hip-hop styles are.
For the most part, I’m a classicist. I see nothing wrong with the extravagant outfit choices, the bizarre hair colors, or the risky and bold style moves, but they’re not for me personally. I’m a fan of neutral colors, I feel better when I wear the tried and true methods of fashion and style, I even boycott joggers because I think they’re a cheap and lazy copout for people unwilling to pinroll their pant cuff. Although my methods are classic and my style will hold true as fashion trends come and go, it also means that I am not a risk-taker and my fashion sense is probably the least trendy of all my friends in times of melodic hip-hop takeover. I am jealous of people that so effortlessly bounce between fashion styles like Drake bounces between the bounds of hip-hop, and I support their risky decision from a distance until they make a mistake that has already been made in fashion history.
Bell-bottoms were fresh to death but got caught on chain-link fences as those free in spirit and in the ankle tried to escape the DEA crashing their 1970's quaalude parties, so no one wears them anymore. Mutton chops, a chest bush, and shoulder hair were a declaration of sex and masculinity for centuries, but we've gotten soft in recent decades. And velvet was the uncomfortably fuzzy, extremely fragile, terror-inducing material choice for those who like to spend a lot of money on things worth absolutely nothing. It's essentially the cheap by-product of suede and billiard table felt making sweet, unprotected love and finding out later they were actually first cousins all along. So why the fuck has it made such a strong reappearance?
As we discussed earlier, fashion's tendency to repeat itself in the name of retro-chic sometimes makes grave mistakes. Designers and fashion icons alike forget, choose to ignore, or think that they will be the ones to change fashion history. But with all fads that fail in lasting as staples and instead die off as a short-lived trend, it's important to do some research.
So let's start with a simple question: what are the things that we look for in a fabric choice?
Fabrics should be comfortable. They should be easy to wear, light, soft, keep us relatively temperate, and do so without really being noticeable. Think cotton and polyester.
Fabrics should hold up under normal circumstances. They should survive the wear and tear of everyday life, have some sort of resistance to water, and be strong. Think denim and leather.
Fabrics should perform a service. They should keep us dry in a monsoon, keep us warm in the Arctic, keep us cool in the Mojave, and wick moisture from the inside out. The world of technologically advanced smart wear and e-textiles represents the obvious future of fabric choices.
Fabrics should look really fucking cool. There should be something enticing and intoxicating about the look of a fabric. They should make us want to examine it closer, touch it, and question it. Think about the subtle shimmer and class of chambray weaving.
Fabrics should make us look really fucking cool. Some materials have such detailed histories of bad-assery that by just adorning certain pieces, our cool factor is elevated. Think silk.
Velvet doesn’t complete any of these criteria. It’s heavy, it doesn’t breath, it’s not waterproof, it doesn’t perform any sort of advanced service, it doesn’t look cool, it feels cheap, and to top it all off, a large portion of the world’s population suffers from haptodysphoria – the genuine fear of velvet’s touch. It is a classic example of form refusing to follow function – it is designed simply for looks, and somehow manages to even fail that criterion when compared to its cousins like suede and corduroy.
Like the current wave of hip-hop music, like the next one, and like the trends in fashion that have come and gone before, velvet will die out, just like it rightfully did in the past.
It is a trend with a desperately short lifespan that pops up every couple decades begging to be back in our lives, but it never has had, and never will have what it takes to become a staple in fashion. In times of cultural mellowness, it is sometimes used by designers to make a statement piece but always fails the popular market on a large scale during times of cultural extravagance. So, as a classicist and as a firm believer that we should not repeat our mistakes, I refuse to adorn myself in the useless material. But, if you can avoid any chance of it getting wet, if you can’t find any suede or corduroy options, if you want to look tacky, if you want to be hot and uncomfortable, if you want to cause psychological breakdowns of those affected by haptodysphoria, and if you want to be out of the style loop when history soon repeats itself and the world realizes once again the reasons why velvet is not a viable mainstream fabric choice, then by all means, diversify in velvet. Otherwise, I recommend you follow my lead on this one.