December 18, 2014

The future past of fashion

Musing about the "look and feel" of Stargate SG-1, Kate observes: "Here's the truth about fantasy & sci-fi and clothes: the older they look, the cooler they are."

Or to put it another way: you're not likely to invent fashions (or architecture) better than what's already been dreamed up and put to the test of time. The best way to predict the future is to wait until it's in the past and then take a close look at it.

Thus Stanley Kubrick got it right in 2001 by giving his astronauts a conservative military look instead of taking his cues from the hipster 1960s. This 1947 photograph of Chuck Yeager sitting in the Bell X-1 cockpit is pretty much timeless.

Seriously, that could be Han Solo. George Lucas popularized what might be called the "space cowboy aesthetic": the kind of well-worn, practical work clothes that have barely changed since the mid-1800s.

For Darth Vader, Lucas reached further back, giving him a helmet (kabuto) straight out of Japan's Warring States period.

Japanese clothing has held up well over the past four centuries. As a general rule, if what was fashionable 150 years ago is fashionable today, it'll probably be fashionable a century from now. Which is why James Bond still wears a tuxedo.

Projecting the past into the future, consider the battle dress of the 16th century military strategist Kuroda Kanbei (played by Jun'ichi Okada). Want to dress your invading aliens-from-outer-space in something cool? This outfit will do nicely.

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