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Worth Repeating: Women From the Ankle Down

July 11, 2012

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<a Though it had been created as a reaction to the 1980s and its excesses, grunge's demise came via the mechanics of commercialization that its originators had intended to flout. Within just a few years of Nirvana's rise up the ranks of the Seattle music scene upper-middle-class suburban teens started pairing Doc Martens and Chuck Taylors as an homage to their favorite bands. The result, a sense of manufactured authenticity gripped the nation as celebrities and consumers alike competed to be the most "real," the most intuitive, the most entitled to the feelings of alienation and pain…In the early to mid-1990s, Doc Martens boots turned mainstream, signaling the era of the poseur: a multi-year freaky-Friday during which the rich wanted to look poor [and] the cool wanted to look lame…

Excerpt from Chapter 14
The Cool Kid Trinity: Vans, Chuck Taylors, and Doc Martens
Women From the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us
by Rachelle Bergstein

I loved – LOVED – this book. However, to my own surprise, I’m not sitting down to tell you about how Salvatore Ferragamo invented couture footwear as well as the wedge heel during WWII steel rationing (no steel, no stiletto) and other fascinating details Bergstein writes of, holding me enthralled in a detailed historical and social history for nearly 300 pages. What I had to share was the intriguing revelation that I personally was party to the downfall of Doc Marten and the multi-year freaky Friday she writes about. I will simply let the photos do the talking.

Here we are. A bunch of upper-middle-class (and upper class) suburban college students living in Malibu, (yes, you read that right) flaunting our grungy flannel and our heavy shoes, and our long, carefully tousled hair (I dried and hot rollered EVERY day to get that look). I even found a photo of my own version of the Doc Marten – I LOVED those heavy, clunky, artistically distressed leather and rubber soled shoes by Bass. Loved them. I thought there were the most awesome, edgy footwear. I felt so grunge. I felt so COOL. I knew my mother hated me in those baggy flannels, and yet, every photo from 1993 and 1994 I seem to be in flannel. Me. In FLANNEL.

Yeah, like so many other fashion attempts from my teens and twenties…I was wrong.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lisa permalink
    July 11, 2012 8:17 am

    Glad I missed that stage! I was busy wearing scrubs that was like wearing your PJs to work!

  2. Elaine permalink
    July 11, 2012 8:40 am

    Love the pictures! I was in middle & high school… but was *definitely* grunge.

  3. Bethany Hall Fitelson permalink
    July 11, 2012 9:35 am

    Haha, I love this! It is VERY funny to me to think about a bunch of Pepperdiners in the Malibu sun in flannel and heavy shoes. By the time I got there it was all cardigans and flip-flops! But I was definitely in the grunge era as well in junior high and high school, and wanted Docs (as we called them) SO badly! By the time I could afford them they were going out of style. It’s interesting how for me the grunge era was during junior high, when you feel awkward and clunky and uncomfortable in your own skin anyway, so it was a perfect fit.

  4. July 11, 2012 9:37 am

    You all look so entitled to your feelings of alienation and pain. Although that girl from Portland at the bottom may just be a lumberjack.

  5. grisjohnson permalink
    July 11, 2012 10:01 am

    That’s from my sophomore year!

  6. July 11, 2012 11:12 am

    Wow, flashbacks to My So Called Life. Flannel! On Adelle! Never would have put those two together.

    I remember reading about grunge in Archie comics and thinking it was so weird when Veronica Lodge started shredding her designer clutter to get the new “look.” I remember Mr. Lodge being horrified in his stodgy, rich man way, then shaking his head with a bemused smile as Veronica proclaimed, “But Daddy, it’s GRUNGE! Get with it!”

    I missed that movement by about seven years, but was part of the co-opting of punk by Avril Laveine (WE wore men’s ties over unbuttoned collated shirts first, dang it, and made our own clothes!) and watched the truly homeless in Santa Cruz get a bad rap as people became distrustful of giving then money because a bunch of disenchanted rich kids wanted to rebel against their parents, dressed as punks and begged on the street corners.

    I’ll have to kindle sample that book. 🙂

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