Slave chic…

First the slightly dodgy wraps. Now the wrist bands arrive. Another zumba sesh, another day redolent with imagery of all the naughty stuff that us liberated women really aren’t meant to be into.

Yet the bands were selling like hot cakes. What is going on?

These were bands, in this instance, lovely colourful wristbands, with bells attached: great for wearing while dancing…yet at the same time, they come with an image attached. The submissive dancing girl: the gheisha; the harem slave.

Ditto the wraps. Equally colourful, also adorned with jingly things. Simple dance accoutrements, surely. Nothing more?

Well, maybe: maybe not. The last thing i’m about here is reading an entire narrative into a simple fashion choice, of the sort that goes on all day, every day. In Top Shop a week or so back, i was much taken by their new jewellery range, of-so-ironically christened “Liberty”.

Because it, too, was absolutely dripping with imagery that was not just sexual in nature, but played openly with themes of dominance and submission. Not just the usual studded collars, the ill-begotten child of bondage style and new gothery. Nah: there were the metallic chokers: the chain mail “bras” – though i doubt they give much support…and i bet they’re just a tad chilly to put on.

Or, back a year or so, the most intriguing piece of jewellery i picked up at a church jumble sale: its an armband, linked, by a small silver chain, to a ring. Otherwise known, to those who know about such things, as a “slave band”.

So, huh? And double huh!

The answer, i suspect, is one that works on many levels. There are items, objects,and entire fashion ranges that play with ideas of sex and sexuality. That is so unexceptional as statement, i’m not entirely sure why i bother to say it.

Sometimes, the sexuality is intrinsic: sometimes its coded in by social convention. Handcuffs are probably readable one way and one way only: pretty wristbands are ambiguous.

Stuff like “hanky codes” and “shag bands” still cause much apoplexy amongst adults who don’t get that, for the most part, are just a load of fun – nothing more.

Which brings me full circle, i guess. People wear what they wear. Yet we live in a society in which what you wear is never far from social deconstruction.

And unfortunately, because we are no longer monocultural, one wearer’s fashion sense is another observer’s sexual narrative.

I spot this stuff because i write about it…because i drift in and out of various sub-cultures – some of which place great store by the symbolism of what we wear.

So when people put it on, sometimes its with a knowing
wink: sometimesin blissful ignorance;and sometimes its somewhere in between.

Oras Freud once said – about the only utterance of that ghastly man that i approve – “sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar”.

Jane xx

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