3rd Global Conference
Thursday 22nd September – Sunday 25th September 2011
Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom
The Subculture of the Colombias in Monterrey, Mexico
Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico
Monterrey in Mexico is a wealthy industrial city and home to global corporations within a 2 hour drive from the USA border. Poverty is still evident and fashion does not play a huge part in many peoples lives other than the young. I became interested in a group of boys with a unique Mexican sub-culture style who were using many cultural elements from their heritage and calling themselves ‘Colombias’ whose name pays homage to the influence of Colombian Vallenato music brought here by travellers in the 1970s that has since evolved with a local Norteno sound.
They appeared to be patriotic with clothes made by their friends and family in brightly coloured fabrics bearing religious images of Virgin of Guadalupe and Saint Jude Tadeo. Traditional Guayabera shirts and fabrics with woven Aztec patterns are adopted and worn along with crucifixes. Escapolarios are worn around the neck, handknotted or woven with nicknames, neighbourhood and any details deemed essential to their identity. Their hairstyles are extreme with huge sideburns down past the chin slicked into place with the back of the head shaved almost bald marking their difference to the surrounding society. They present themselves immaculately and invest heavily in their image despite being from the unprivileged part of society. The influence of the USA is evident with oversized clothes and labels Dickies and Converse being worn together with the Mexican elements.
The complexity of the Monterreys class structure and the huge imbalance of financial resources and vastly different economic conditions are evident with people rarely if ever sharing the same public space, social interactions are virtually nonexistent. These issues have contributed to their controversy and negative representation in the press and in the minds of the general public. The association with the infamous narco-traficantes puts the boys who are often merely showing an interest in a local youth culture and style in a potentially dangerous position.
Against the Machine: The ‘Smarteez’ Fashion: A New Post-Apartheid Identity
Research Centre for Visual Identities in Art and Design, at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa
The apartheid system that was once entrenched in South Africa employed physical markers of difference to enforce divisions between white and non-white South Africans thus the struggle to re-determine the self in the post-apartheid era has centred on re-engineering the appearance of the body and deflecting indexes of otherness. This remapping or re-visualisation of the self has largely, in both the visual arts and fashion, been enacted through dress.
This paper explores how the ‘Smarteez’, a fashion sub-culture initiated by black youths in the township of Soweto around 2007, scrambled hegemonic fashion codes in an effort to renegotiate the terms of a post-apartheid black identity. Within the dominant fashion circuit this identity has, ironically, been given expression by predominantly white fashion designers, who grappling with their own shifting identity, embraced Afrocentric aesthetics defined by generic African iconography.
Thus the ‘Smarteez’ garb, which is defined by garments in primary colours that evoke the shades of Smarties, a bright sugar-coated chocolate confectionary, primarily eschews references to Africa. Though some members had ambitions of entering the fashion industry; generally Smarteez devotees operated outside this trade, adapting second-hand and inexpensive mass produced garments to fit their needs.
The ‘Smarteez’ designation also makes a wry reference to intellectual acuity. An emerging educated black middle-class, a population group which the main proponents of Smarteez belong to, are often the targets of jibes by their peers as their bookish ways are perceived to be evidence of their alignment with white society and a betrayal of ‘blackness’.
This paper aims to explore the dialectical relationship between this fashion sub-culture and the dominant culture(s), from which it draws its fashion lexicon. The manner in which the Smarteez have developed a vocabulary to counter those dictated by the country’s fashion elite to assert their identity and validate their social/economic position within South African society will be addressed too. As will the limitations of the ethos driving the Smarteez movement which contributed to its main proponents eventual rejection of it.
Current Influences upon Style amongst Portuguese Youth
Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham Institute of Art and Design, UK
So if you are living in a society where this level of consumption is not financially possible what are your options? In Portugal the younger consumers tackle this problem by ‘pooling’ the name given to the act of looking but not buying. Providing that you are wearing appropriate i.e. fashionable, attire it is enough therefore to be visible without consuming every time. Although we in England have long since used this buying habit, known here as ‘window shopping’ the difference within our regime is one of freedom. In Portugal the ability to choose one’s own style is a relatively new phenomenon. A country under dictatorship until 1974, this is arguably the first ‘free’ generation of 18-25 year olds. With the lack school uniform the influence over one’s own style starts at high school, aged 11, coming to fruition with the buying power of the young adult. Now a member of the EU and with access to all the reference points/stimuli of the West, what impact if any has this had upon the Portuguese style? Has the 18-25 youth market changed their style significantly to reflect this freedom and to what extent has Zara had an impact upon this style?
With the highly documented economic and subsequent social unrest predicted to last for a few more years, Portugal, like the other countries currently receiving a bailout, is likely to fall into a recession as soon as the debt is cleared. Ironically this may be the best possible outcome as some Euro sceptics are even debating if Portugal will ever clear its debt. The austerity measures, imposed by the EU and the IMF as a condition of the loan are already impacting widely upon the Portuguese culture and disposable income of the individual. So why are people still driven to consume fashion and what will be the pervading style amongst the Portuguese youth?
This paper discusses the relationship between women’s fashion and identity in the Sultanate of Oman, a Gulf State on the Arabian Peninsula. In particular it explores women’s clothing practices as expressions of religious, regional and tribal identities. The study is the first to document the variety of women’s dress practices in the Sultanate of Oman, recording how Bedouin, Belushi, Kamzari, and Marahi women express their identity in embroidery, tailoring and self-fashioning practices (piercing, tattooing and branding). The study not only details some of the variety of forms in burqas, abayas, trousers, headscarves and self-fashioning practices but also discusses accompanying beliefs in order to explore how Omani women conceptualise beauty according to their religious, regional, and ethnic identities. The authors also briefly address the influence of trading neighbours, immigrant labour and the homogenizing influence of state identity on Omani women’s beliefs and fashion practices. The findings presented are based on a collection of photos, videos and sound recordings taken during semi-structured interviews with groups of women across the Sultanate in 2010 and 2011. The researchers used the existing social and kin networks of female student translators at Sohar University to meet with women from the Bedouin camps of the Empty Quarter, to the fjorded islands of Musandam abutting the Iranian coastline to the scattered settlements of the Yemeni borderlands. This project aims to promote understanding of cultures within the Islamic and Arab world through exploring the fashion of Omani women as practices of belonging. In showing the variety of tradition of dress in one Arab country we hope to promote a greater understanding of Arabic and Islamic dress in general.