Thursday, December 8, 2022
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Revert and Recoup

Bill-99by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Not long ago on Jekyll Island, GA I wandered into a local gift shop and spotted what I have lately noticed on Pinterest is becoming a new fad – inexpensive bracelets made of varied materials like string, leather and rubber and decorated with equally common items such as seashells, stones, glass chips, plastic and wood.  Although the targeted demographic is undoubtedly youths (surfers, skateboarders and the like), the fashion has oddly become popular among young adult men. The ostentation is spared the accusation of effete paradoxically through multiplicity. The trend is to wear three or more bracelets at once on the same wrist, often in addition to a watch. There is nothing discrete about the affectation!

If ever there were any doubt about the power of advertising this latest fad puts the dialogue to rest.  The advent of the theme has of course been incremental and almost imperceptible.  But it now has the force of the Hula Hoop (and likely its longevity is commensurate). For the time being however it is possible to find these “decorative” bracelets everywhere. Just to be clear, my reluctance to denominate these bracelets as anything other than decorative springs solely from the fact that they are not made of precious or semi-precious metals or gems so their acquisition doesn’t qualify as investment in jewellery (as if uttering jewellery and investment in the same breath ever mattered a pinch in any event).

The attraction of these lesser bracelets is a combination of simplicity, whimsical artistry, affordability and effusiveness.  Because it is not uncommon to see the bracelets conjoined with what are comparatively constrained outfits, the bracelets have come to signify at least a degree of flippancy if not indeed moderate radicalism.  Coincidentally – though I could care less – there is also disapproving reaction from some sectors about men failing to be “real men” by adorning themselves with these “feminizing” accoutrements. My experience is that wearing pink does not alter the essential nature of any man; at the most it may soften his appearance but I doubt the performance will in any event alter what people think about another man. It is wise to recall that when retailers initially weighed in upon the issue for the advancement of their own commercial ends, pink was the colour of choice for baby boys:

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart highlighting gender-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. retailers. Filene’s (in Boston), Best & Co. (in New York City), Halle’s (in Cleveland), and Marshall Field (in Chicago) all advised parents to dress boys in pink and girls in blue.

It wasn’t long ago that among the fashion trendsetters the only desirable bracelet was one made of silver or gold, the heavier the better. The trouble of course was that it appealed mainly to the rich or to those whom one suspected having acquired their money through nefarious means; and often the habit was unfavourably likened to something popular among pimps or other famously showy types.  It certainly wasn’t an excusable hiccup on the sartorial scale.  More often than not it was – correctly I believe – assumed to be a ploy shamelessly calculated to exalt oneself.  String and beads on the other hand have not quite the same effect.

Considering how inexpensive these bracelets are (ranging from $3 – 10 on the average) I am at a loss to discover why their employment has reached such transcendence.  One can safely assume that the proliferation of the bracelets in retail outlets of every description and the frequency of their use in almost any male fashion magazine, speaks to their popularity (though as I say I expect the window of opportunity will be narrow and short-lived).
Because of its sartorial focus, one cannot compare the bracelets to the madness which surrounded the Pet Rock (a fad that lasted for six months ending after an increase in sales during the Christmas season of 1975) or the Rubik’s Cube (considered to be the world’s best-selling toy).  It may be just a harmless fling, representative of one’s desire to display exuberance without being absurd.  I won’t pretend to uncover any psychological necessity peculiar to the Millennials though I am certain theories abound (some of which are not flattering to the so-called “Generation We” or worse “Generation Me“, purportedly people condemned by a burdensome sense of entitlement and narcissism).
Although the expectations of these “Trophy Kids” are apparently high (where mere participation is frequently enough for reward), it is equally true that this generation has hit upon bad economic prospects often symbolized by the adult children returning to the home of their parents to live in the basement. Unemployment and under-employment of youth is leading to fear of social unrest.
The Millennials have worries about limited career prospects, long-term social ills and prolonged income drops. Interestingly one American sociologist Kathleen Shaputis labeled Millennials the “Peter Pan” generation because of the members’ perceived tendency to delay some of the rites of passage into adulthood for longer periods than most generations before them. Whether it is fair to extrapolate the fetish of inconsequential costume jewellery to include such anomalies is questionable. But I will assert that its appeal appears to have some foundation in the desire to embrace a diversion from harder realities.

I have however no interest in proving any theory of diminishing social behaviour. For one as I who has historically exhibited irrevocable extravagance and shameful demonstrability, there is no credible authority for such idle contemplation. Besides I am at the end of all roads. No matter what it reflects, adornment is not something I am about to deny myself.  Call it carpe diem, live for the day, enjoy it while you can, time is short! Whatever! I am at at the outside perimeter of existence, a mere observer, an uninhibited and unapologetic Sybarite.

Equally well known is my weakness for watches, a bent which I believe is congenital (having inherited the predisposition from my paternal grandfather who died owning over forty time pieces). While this genetic abnormality launched me into the world of complicated watches (Rolex, Breitling, Cartier), I regret that I extricated myself from that heady atmosphere largely because of disappointment with the quality of the merchandise, proving once again the irresistible persuasion of advertising (though I am quick to emphasize that the bait wasn’t the social desirability of the item but rather its purported mechanical purity).

Following my purge of fancy watches I gradually insinuated the former retail corpus by opting instead for Bulova and TAG Heuer watches which primarily distinguished themselves as battery-powered watches rather than strictly manual or mechanical watches.  These “digital” watches were less expensive to an Olympic degree; however, they captured a good measure of the attraction of weight and size of the more expensive sort.

The Bulova “Precisionist” watches even imitated the mechanical “sweeping” (as opposed to the digital “ticking”) of the second hand. Undeniably the bottom line with the less expensive watches was their price. Plus they didn’t require insurance riders on a Homeowner’s Policy nor any particular concern about care and maintenance. Nonetheless these cheaper watches still represented a form of fashion. There wasn’t for example any allure to a Timex or Citizen watch which had a plain face, a sensible strap and promised faithful performance. The watch whatever its cost was still a form of jewellery (again primarily targeted to the young male audience).

Coincidentally I was browsing the stores in a local mall the other day (well, all-right, I admit there was some deliberation) and in addition to my discovery of scores of inexpensive bracelets I also came upon a locked vertical glass case of modern, technologically remarkable watches. The brand which intrigued me was the G -Shock by Casio. These watches were developed to withstand Gravitational Shock mainly attributable to the rambunctious use of the watch by avid sportsmen.  Amazingly the way to set the time is to select a time zone anywhere in the world; the watch takes care of the rest! The watch boasts a “Full Auto-Calendar (pre-programmed until the year 2099)“. There are many other awe-inspiring functions of the watch but, apart from the Stop Watch feature, you’d never have need of any of the others. Importantly the design of the watch and its “visually powerful look” are what sell it.

Casio 5146 GA-110 1B (Military Black)

The Casio watch is primarily jewellery, merely another expression of fashion. Its “Tech Specs” are stimulating to read but otherwise unlikely to be of much use.  The cost of the watch ($130) is in line with the highly affordable bracelets located on a rack next to the nearby counter. And it was no surprise that the store – called “Quiet Storm Surf Shop” – sold the predictable items popular with youth in a maritime environment on the Atlantic Ocean; namely, a mixture of “clothing, accessories and surf gear”in addition to what is now a prerequisite of any store catering to young people who demand the “hottest and most innovative brands” – high-tech devices (among them sound blasters and watches). It’s a long way from the Hula Hoop!

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