Art

You Can Always Have Good Faith in Bad Taste

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For so long, fashion, culture and art has prided itself on an elite unattainability: the less is more landscape, gate-kept by style and taste that “money can’t buy” (but is inherently the only way to access it). But if good taste is refinement, delicate gold jewelry and well tailored pants, welcome to bad taste: clashing animal print, Miu Miu’s micro minis and tramp stamps. Chef’s fucking kiss.

And not to fan the flames of the trend fire – the only thing with a higher turnover than the Shein production line – but go ahead and pass me that palm leaf.

Look, credit where credit’s due. I would like to thank little known publication, Time, for articulating so accurately everything that I’ve been feeling in recent times. Sorry to be so horrifically poetic, but stumbling across the headline Welcome To The Era Of Bad Taste was like inhaling a peach flavored vape: gratifying, sweet and satiating in a way that my mother wouldn’t be proud of.

Like a blind pimple, once you see bad taste to the surface it’s hard rising to look away. It’s not news that pop culture is a magnet for everything trashy and morally sacrilegious. The Housewives anthology is a cultural cornerstone on par with Shakespeare, notoriously sexless Crocs have collaborated with fashion’s cool bitch Balenciaga, top 40 lyrics are becoming filthier, and there’s nothing cooler than spending hundreds of dollars on gorp-core shoes that you know are ugly.

I think our collective preference for trash can pretty safely be linked back to the, uh, state of the world. We are in an ultra depressive news cycle. I don’t need to list everything that’s been happening (I deal exclusively in fluff journalism), but a global pandemic, several wars, a continuous stream of mass shootings, imminent environmental collapse… you get the picture.

No wonder people are taking up smoking with the voracity of Don Draper, not to mention the popularisation of the fleabag effect – or dissociative feminism if you want to sound like a wanky philosophy student (BYO black turtleneck and rollie). Trends like feral girl summer, goblin mode and bimbofication have all been welcomed with open arms (or have at least had a million thinkpieces written about them).

Let me distil this for you: the shitter things feel, the more we want to console ourselves with the tawdry, kitsch and vulgar.

The way we dress has always aligned with our ideological beliefs. Punks being anti-system, hippies being pro group-sex, and wearing an all-black uniform demonstrating you are either a goth or pray to the church of 180 BPM and above. Bad taste enrolls you in the school of ironic, hedonistic cynicism.

cult brand for the hyper online, Praying, is best known for their pious tongue in cheek scripts. Slogans like GOD’S FAVORITE or They Don’t Build Statues Out Of Critics stretch out across trucker caps and busts alike. The nihilism of Praying‘s overlords, Alexander Hadded and Skyler Newman, is ~unpacked~ in their High Snobiety interviewwhere they discuss “trashworld: a slogan they use to describe a feeling of powerlessness pervasive in the time of climate change and platform capitalism.

Their answer? To start a brand trading in meme-core, naturally. A modern twist on the clap-back t-shirt that covered the 2000s like an STI.

Big Brother, Love Island and Made in Chelsea: what is often considered as bottom feeder viewing is praised as nuanced insight into human behaviour. I, for one, consider my consumption of reality shows an anthropological study. I’m putting in the late nights.

Ultimately, the normalization of bad taste is a push for authenticity. A shedding of the chic and inoffensive beige trenchcoat to reveal our inelegant insides. Look at the rise of the photodump: a relative newcomer to our digital lexicon, the terms a carousel of typically lower quality images as opposed to the hyper-manicured hero shot of the pre-pandemic era (although there is a lot to be said about curated nonchalance). We use lol” as punctuation or as a sardonic tone indicator, rarely actually meaning we were literally moved to physical expulsions of mirth. Grammar seems too hectic to use anywhere but formal situations. A text with a full stop looks like a bullet, or at the very least means the sender hates you. And as the old adage goes, “an emoji says a thousand words”.

Is it all a joke? Well, kind of, but also… not? Everything’s soaked in so many layers of irony that it’s honestly difficult to discern what you genuinely like and what you are ironically fond of. It’s more about guillotining the guilt from the pleasure and leaning into full blown hedonism, maximalism and excess. It’s about saying “fuck it, it’s all going to shit, nothing matters, I’m going to wear that gaudy jumper, listen to that mass-produced, auto-tuned mess and order Domino’s”.

Is bad taste the degradation of culture? Or the unpretentious bacchanal delight of it?

Who cares, I’m a pig in mud.

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