Style and Shopping as a Means of Expression and Self-Realization
by Kate Carraway
Illustration by Penelope Gazin
Girls and women (it feels so corny to consider girls and women as these separate classes of experience, right?) have, more so than guys and to our great benefit, style and shopping as a means of expression and self-realization. As problematic as it is to get super-excited about spending money toward, like, selfhood, it’s a socially and emotionally safe way to have some stripe of identity-adventure, to tell ourselves stories through our choices and things, and, more and more, to share those adventures and tell those same stories online. (This is why I don’t hate it when a tween buys a pee-quality body splash for $14 and posts about it; I know what she’s doing when she’s choosing, when she’s having, when she’s showing.)
The online show-off experience could have been about sex—some of it is, obvi—but girls tend to do the show-off parts of the internet the way they do clothes, which is mostly for themselves and for each other. This way of doing the internet, our way, converges as an inward “me gaze.” The aspects of performance and intimacy are all there, but are for us, and for an audience of us-es.
The Motorcycle Girl Gangs of Morocco
Everyone says Copenhagen and Amsterdam are bike cities, but what about Marrakesh?
London-based Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj tapped into the bike culture of Marrakesh in his latest series of photos, Kesh Angels, on display at the Taymour Grahne Gallery in New York until March 8. Hassan’s version of Hell’s Angels comes from a personal tale: He once worked on a photo shoot in Marrakesh in the 1990s. Everything about the shoot was foreign—the photographers, the clothes, the models. Nothing was actually Moroccan. The artist’s latest shoot can be interpreted as a response to whatshould have happened back in the 1990s: A super pop North African photo shoot with everything that nods to local tradition fused with a twist – from the polka dotted abayas to the camo djellabahs. The photos here capture Moroccan girl bike gangs with smug looks, intimidating sneers, and badassness short of a rock video. They’re not “real big gangs,” of course. The girls are the artist’s friends, who usually paint henna tattoos on tourists in the main square; but you still wouldn’t want to run into them in a dark alley. These girls are tough, speak up to five languages, and are full-time moms who work ten-hour days. I spoke with Hassan about bike culture in Marrakesh and his definition of badass.
VICE: How did you come up with the idea to photograph your friends this way?
Hassan Hajjaj: I’ve been working in this way for years now. I want to show something particular to Marrakesh, and to show that even though we have different cultures and religions; we share a lot in common as people. There is a group of women who work painting henna in this main square in Morocco that is popular with tourists. One I know was an inspiration for this series, Karima, she wears a veil and these really amazing textile abayas and djabellas and also rides a bike to work and back, she’s a normal woman who works eight or ten hours a day. She speaks about four or five languages, is a housewife to two kids, [and] built her own house.
It feels like a North African fashion shoot, did you want to honor roots with style?
I was working on a fashion magazine photo shoot in Marrakesh in the 1990s when I realized everything—all the models, the photographer, the clothes—were from the west and Morocco was simply the backdrop. From then I said it’d be great to present my people in their environment in their kind of way of dressing, and play with it on a fashion level.
What is the bike culture like in Marrakech? Generally speaking, do bike gangs even exist there? How big are motorbikes?
Marrakech is really a bike city; everyone rides them. Women, kids, old men, families, everybody. It’s transportation; it’s really used for work. A few of the bikes in the photos are from friends of mine we borrowed, but most are their own bikes. There are no real bike gangs.
Are your friends often dressed this way? Are these badass, colorful outfits easy to find?
Moroccans have a strong sense of tradition and we are a very colorful nation. But I design the outfits: These traditional Moroccan djabellas and abayas and babouche with traditional prints and knock-off brand-name fabrics from markets in London and Marrakesh. I also build the frames for the photographs using products or objects I find in markets: cans of Fanta, tins, or boxes of chicken stock. This came from when I was growing up in Morocco as many things are recycled to be re-used, and this has somehow come into my work. I wanted to use the repetition of labels in a slightly humorous context, often directly relating to something happening in the photograph, but I also wanted to create a repeated pattern in the frame to evoke the mosaics of Morocco in a modern context.
What was the goal of this shoot and what was the best moment of shooting this series?
I’m impressed with their strength and really aim to show their independence as normal. If these photos were taken in Paris or Rome I imagine I wouldn’t be asked what is so unique about women’s biker culture.
If you had a bike gang who would be in it?
My gang would include women like you see in this series; women who just naturally have this strength, swagger, freedom.
German Babies Don’t Need to Be Boys or Girls Anymore
It’s tempting to interpret legislative shifts as progress. After all, plenty of times they are. However, what looks like progress on the surface often masks a much more complicated underbelly. Think about the fight for marriage equality: if marriage is a fundamental right, then everyone certainly deserves access to it. Insofar as the fight for this access has further normalized and entrenched the institution of marriage—itself a problematic tradition with a deeply troubled past—progress becomes trickier to gauge.
This complex relationship between progress and problem is quite clear in regards to Germany’s new third gender option on birth certificates. As of November 1, it is no longer legally necessary for babies born in Germany to be registered as male or female on their birth certificates. Instead—in cases of newborns whose bodies don’t fall neatly into male or female categories physiologically—the male and female boxes on a birth certificate can be left unchecked.
Girls Rule My World
Saturday was Sweetest Day, a holiday you’re probably only familiar with if you grew up in the quietly desperate middle west of the United States like I did. In a nutsack, Sweetest Day is like a fall version of Valentine’s Day, except instead of it being celebrated for hundreds of years by millions of people all over the world, it was created by greedy Cleveland candy companies in the 20s and only people who live near the Great Lakes know what it is.
My girl is from Northeastern Ohio, so Sweetest Day is just as serious to her as an anniversary or a birthday. And that’s fine, because even though I enjoy dick and fart jokes, I’m a pretty romantic dude. I’ve served up some seriously smooth-daddy Sweetest Days in the past… with the exception of last year.
In 2012, I ruined our special day by drinking an entire bottle of Hennessy in front of VICE cameras under the behest of trap rappers Waka Flock Flam and Gucci Mane and ended up in the ER. Although the story is a source of humor to anyone with an internet connection, to the lady who loves me, it was scary. To make it up to her this year, I was determined to cop her some great gifts for Sweetest Day that scream, “I FUCKING LOVE YOU, GIRL. SORRY I RUINED SWEETEST DAY AND THANKS FOR VISITING ME IN THE HOSPITAL AT 5 AM WHEN I WAS IN A BOOZE COMA.”
Through my relentless search on the internet, I discovered three new amazing companies run by people with vaginas that make cool stuff for other people with vaginas. I was so inspired by their very different but awesome missions that I thought I’d share them with you those shopping for lady lovers. Maybe bookmark this article for Chrismukkah? Or, just buy some shit right now. Remember, anytime is the right time to compensate for your inability to express your feelings by buying things.
Check out these cool new companies!
Laura Kim (a project manager here at VICE) and Hally Erickson started Total Pleasure, an online vintage retailer that hit the internet earlier this year. The site is the perfect representation of the collision of style happening on New York’s streets, where ladies rock experimental masculine stuff with traditional garments and pair high-end brands with knock-offs—all to get at something unique, exciting, and new. I had a quick convo with Laura about the her site.
VICE: How’d this whole thing get started?
Laura Kim: Hally and I started thrifting together more and more, getting really weird shit and egging each other on. And then we kind of combined styles and formed this hybrid identity. After awhile, we couldn’t find the pieces that we wanted, because we were looking for really specific things. So, it just made sense to start our own shop that has the stuff we were looking for because it’s not readily out there.
How would you describe the clothes on Total Pleasure?
We buy birthday outfits. We’ll style something that was intended for sleepwear as something you’d wear out. Or put a hoodie over lingerie. Juxtaposition is really at the core of our aesthetic.
Can you give me some tips on buying for my special lady?
If you do right, it’s so good. It’s part intuition and part risk-taking. Get weird with it. But not too weird. My ex-boyfriend once got me a bracelet and drew a bagel on it. It was a shitty drawing and I was really bummed about it. I wore it the first day and never wore it again. That’s the kind of stuff you want to avoid.
We’re giving away tickets to see Lena Dunham and David Sedaris on November 19 at Carnegie Hall. Want a pair? Just RT this tweet and you’ll be entered to win.
The super special September issue of VICE was exclusively culled from the archives of Bob Guccione Sr.—the legendary magazine publisher who built a media empire that started with Penthouse. This portion of the issue features the sexy ladies that helped make Bob Guccione an icon—the Gucci Girls.
Brayden Olson Melted in the Catskills
I went to Andy Animal's Meltdown Funabration Weekender in the Catskills this weekend. Happy Birthday Andy! Everyone was on mushrooms and there were topless girls riding motorcycles around in a field while I ate the best gumbo of my life. It was fucking awesome. Bands like the Black Lips, Hector's Pets, and White Mystery played before Mungo Jerry closed it out on Saturday night. I should have taken more photos of the shows, but I was tripping balls and someone kept handing me a bottle of rosé with molly in it. Sorry, Mom!
1.) Pale, pale skin. Not from a powder that makes you go porcelain but from a crippling commitment to the lyrics of Morrissey and spending warm summer days indoors writing frightening verse.
2.) One blemish mid-cheek that has been picked at but won’t pop, covered with dark brown-tinted Clearasil that in the daylight looks like a shit swipe.
3.) Blistered heels from wearing John Fleuvog men’s shoes without socks. Socks are for cheerleaders. And conformists. Don’t even get me started on scrunchies.
4.) Line of black hair dye underneath the hairline. Pull the string on the back of the doll to hear, “Mom. It’s not PERMANENT! It will wash out in two days. Leave me ALONE.”
—Dear Mattel, Here’s How to Make a Goth Doll