Irony is all the rage these days – from girls dressed like grannies to young men dressed like hobos. This week, our columnist Nicola Robey wonders where this cultural penchant will lead us...
Something occurred to me after I’d “made eyes” at a young gentleman on the bus last week.
What I’d initially taken for Fagin-style chic was actually just a middle-aged woman in need of a hairbrush, wearing fingerless gloves. You see, I think there’s a fine line in the fashionable pursuit of irony and it’s becoming harder to define.
Irony is everywhere. I use this term – albeit sloppily – to describe an array of penchants that are filtering back into our youthful domain, which can either be a rediscovered cultural treasure or (using the word ironically) just plain “naff”.
We’re not just talking the youthful reworking of geriatric, androgynous and hobo styles; for I too am partial to a horn-rimmed spectacle and an orthopaedic shoe (occasionally ogling grannies’ footwear as they totter down the street).
However, it seems what was once resigned to fairground workers’ fleeces – with Navajo scenes of wolves howling at the moon – have now trickled into a more acceptable realm.
The question for me lies in how far irony is willing to stretch. Will we all be sporting Nazi memorabilia in a statement of hyperbolic proportions? (This didn't quite work for Prince Harry.)
However, it’s not merely the arena of fashion that has been littered with irony. Nowadays, a sardonic appreciation of hobbies and art that have long been relegated to the shelves of dusty gentlemens’ clubs and retirement bungalows is practically de rigeur.
Take the renaissance of taxidermy. Although I share an appreciation for animals in their rigor mortis glory, my fantastically strange brother takes this a step further. I once returned home to find a worthy specimen awaiting me. It took a while to realise that the gin hadn’t clouded my eyesight – there actually was a two-headed conjoined twin duckling loitering on the mantelpiece.
After compiling quite a collection, including several mounted fox heads, antlers and a polecat, they were swiftly banished from the house, leaving a stench of death, insects and formaldehyde in their wake. That was the week after he wrote the Bible out in Morse code.
Is this morbid obsession a sly tongue-in-cheek nod to a forgotten pastime or is it just one step away from grave digging? In a couple of years’ time, will the preserved corpses of the Last of the Summer Wine cast be up for auction?
Perhaps it’s the internet, with its lack of tone and indiscriminate nature, that’s blurring these ambiguous lines; at times pinpointing the zeitgeist of our generation, and at others rendering viral phenomenons such LOLcats and fat kids mouthing to pop songs in their bedrooms. With the internet, nothing is clear-cut: it’s all down to personal interpretation, and this at times can become confusing.
So, will I be shaving my head, sporting a fez and listening to didgeridoo trance in an attempt to achieve an ironic air of sexy/ugly? The answer to this is probably no.
But in a world where scathing TV critic Charlie Brooker can marry the world’s most annoying TV presenter, Konnie Huq, who knows any more? Now there’s irony for you.
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