"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 October 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Ugly Sticks



Consider the old insult - or was

it a bumper sticker? Or a

Winston Churchill put-down? No

matter - "stupid and ugly is no

way to go through life."

Certainly the times have

changed. Stupid? You may find

yourself not only the star of a

sitcom, but at the helm of a

marketing juggernaut. Ugly?

Heck, you might end up in a

fashion ad.



True, it may have been a long

time coming. And in the

meantime, we were often treated

to a story as thin as Amber

Valetta's ass, a rumor the

fashion industry has never

really tried to suppress: Models

do not look like the rest of us.

No one really looks like Kate

Moss. Even Kate Moss doesn't

look like Kate Moss.



Men have been assaulted with

these images far less regularly

than women, but they haven't

gotten off scot-free either; one

is forced to suspect that bodies

like those of most Calvin Klein

models are - without some help -

just as unachievable. Until

recently, that is.



By now you've noticed the Calvin

Klein antiwaif: a decidedly

"husky" fellow, standing arms

akimbo, and looking a

bit...touched. Klein is also

marketing his perfume "be"

(sharing, incidentally, the name

of another ill-conceived item) with a

series of rather nasty-looking

young adults. Our question isn't

so much whether it's hip to be

hippy, or hot to be sweaty, but

rather the origin of the trend.

Where, exactly, are the fat

jeans located? And are the ugly

sticks nearby?


Perhaps the fashion industry up

and decided to shatter the

beauty myth. If so, is this a

genuine effort, one designed to

absolve them of guilty feelings

over heroin chic and generations

of eating disorders? Or perhaps

they see themselves, in this

election year, as being truly

groundbreaking in their

forthright representation of

"real America"?



We could trace all of this

intentional ugliness back 20

years or so, to punk rock. We

can't play our guitars, we'll

vomit on the stage, etc. etc. -

all quite interesting at the

time. And much like today's

films and print advertisements,

punk rock reveled in the glory

of its ugly, contrarian stance

toward contemporary popular

culture. And contrary to what

self-glorifying revisionist

historians would have you

believe, it too had little to

say. Even the Sex Pistols

admitted they were in the ugly

business for the money.



Much like punk rock, the Calvin

Klein ads court nothing more

than controversy and its

attendant attention, and are

about as genuine as Courtney

Love. CK would love to have us

believe that they're being

daring with their unusual choice

of models, but it probably just

helps deflect criticism over

some of their more controversial

offerings. What a surprise; an

offbeat ad campaign is really

just a cynical marketing ploy.



Perhaps it grates more than usual

because of the pretense that

they're using "regular-looking"

people. Perhaps the participants

in the new wave of skag

glorification and rediscovery of

dirt would like to think they

are bucking the whole

traditional notion of beauty.

But opportunists are

opportunists, be they peddlers

or panderers, so forgive us if

we remain skeptical. The notion

of the fashion industry offering

up a new model of beauty is as

laughable as politicians playing

movie critic, and their slumming

simply reeks of tourism. And

everybody hates a tourist; even

ones who wear Calvin Klein.

courtesy of Heavy Meta