As regular readers of this blog are doubtless aware, The Displaced Nation always likes to have a monthly theme around which its daily posts pirouette. This month’s theme sees us turning towards the world of fashion.
That leaves me in the somewhat awkward position of having to foist a fashion article onto you all. I confess, and again regular readers won’t be surprised to learn this, that this is not a topic that I am well versed in, I am a skinny guy that has never worn skinny jeans. My own fashion tips begin and end with the advice that you cannot go wrong with a chinos and shirt combo. The shade of beige in the chinos varies and so does the color of the shirt, which can range from powder blue to salmon pink — but that’s still not very exciting, is it? So unless you want to dress like an ITN foreign correspondent, I’m not really the person to whom you should be paying attention when it comes to fashionista matters.
Perhaps sensing my uneasiness with this topic, it was suggested by others here at The Displaced Nation that I might want to write about whether there is a universal idea of beauty.
This seemed like a better idea than my posting about fashion. I could, I quickly realized, start the article with the old cliché about how “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Once that was out of the way, I could suggest that beauty is subjective, doing so by trotting out all those usual cultural differences — very appropriate in the context of The Displaced Nation — that confuse a modern Westerner: the Kayan Lahwi tribe in Burma whose female members wear brass coils around their neck to give the appearance of an elongated neck; the ancient Chinese practice of feet binding; the Essex facelift.
Once that was done I planned to counter the idea of different cultural ideas about beauty by positing that beauty standards are in fact objective — that perhaps Plato was right and beauty exists in his perfect forms. This new point of view would necessitate trotting out the evolutionary psychologists who have conducted studies on infants as young as two months, showing that they gaze at faces judged more attractive longer than the faces of those judged ugly. This, the psychologists contend, could suggest that beauty is indeed innate, that they are objective standards. As babies tend to cry when they see me, it would also prove conclusively that I am one ugly fecker. I would then have ended the article by referencing Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”) in an effort to look more learned than I am.
However, that line of argument didn’t seem so convincing. As I tried writing that post, I kept catching sight of myself in the unfortunately huge mirrors that make up the sliding closet doors in my room. They are huge and as this is rented accommodation I can’t do much to change them. So as I typed away, I would keep seeing my reflection and think hmmm, it’s probably bad karma for you to be pontificating on beauty, Windram. So with that in mind, I think it’s probably fairer to nudge you in the direction of the BBC Radio 4 series In Our Time — specifically, the episode that discusses the history of beauty as a philosophical topic — while I go off and iron my chinos.
STAY TUNED for an interview with Random Nomad Annabel Kantaria.