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Call me old-fashioned but...It's in the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive

Rose Cora Perry | Interrobang | Opinion | March 29th, 2010

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
While I'm no Aimee Brothman (our very own resident fashionista; for those of you who don't follow her weekly style guide, you should!), I would like to think that I keep a pretty good pulse on what's in “vogue.” Though I love my leather and denim, there's a reason as to why designers consistently look to the past for inspiration, and why “retro,” as it were, has never gone out of style. Most trends have and will continue to be revived because they're distinct, original and timeless in their constitution; rarely can the same be said about purely modern “crazes.” Design-wise, things of the past had a lot more “personality.” Not only that, they were also far more durable. Perhaps an example would prove illustrative:

I've got this horribly ugly bright neon orange hairdryer quite literally from the 1970s (it was my ma's) manufactured by Gillette. One of my girlfriends, on the other hand, insists on always acquiring the newest beauty technology. So the other day she picked herself up a brand new, supposedly “high quality” hairdryer. Within a week, it stopped working and she had to get into this big song and dance with the manager at the store in order to try and get a refund, or exchange it for one of equal value.

Funnily enough, this friend of mine, on several occasions, has flat-out refused to use my hairdryer on her locks, and in fact, makes fun of it quite regularly. Ah, but you see, it may be ugly, but guess what? It works! It has worked for 30 plus years, and with any luck, it'll work for 30 more, and that my friends, is this week's thought provoking topic: how and why is it that we live in a world that supposedly is geared towards making things bigger, better, more efficient, more convenient and yet our products constantly break down, are recalled and are NEVER easily repaired?! In fact, many a time, I've been told straight-up by sales associates it would be cheaper for me to just buy a new one.

But I, unlike many, don't want to contribute to this idea of “consumption as waste.” I want to wear my jeans until the threads quite literally tear away from their seams and cannot be sewn back into place. I want to easily be able to acquire necessary upgrades for my computer, without having to purchase an entirely new machine. I want to know that when a company says it's recycling, it ACTUALLY IS. Why you ask? Because what few people are aware of is our waste — North America's and the rest of the Western world's — ends up in third world countries where migrant workers, not protected by the same rights we are, tear apart our items bare-handed in order to salvage whatever they can to make a quick buck. The consequence? Rampant outbreaks in disease resulting from exposure to toxic metals and chemicals that we put into our devices and other wastes in order to improve so-called “efficiency.”

The point is I want QUALITY, I want DURABILITY, and I want VALUE. Not only that, I want something to be more than just a commodity to me — I want aesthetic appeal. I want my possessions to speak to who I am, as a person. Come on you're going tell me a 2010 Honda Civic is a hotter looking car than a '77 Trans Am Firebird? No, I didn't think so. Quite the same logic can be applied to something as basic as the difference in design between a modern day baby stroller and a 1950s perambulator.

Design was once about craftsmanship: making something truly unique, and priceless. Moreover said tasks were labour-intensive, and accordingly, products were built to “stand the test of time.” Contemporaneously, while we make wild claims that things are better — that society has “progressed” — I wonder, can you give me any logical reason as to why my 1970s hairdryer still rocks it like it's no one's business, but my girlfriend's was pooched after just a few uses? I assure you it has NOTHING to do with how we care for our possessions, as for that matter, I'm rough on everything I love. Further, I've got thicker hair than her!

I don't know, maybe it just comes down to the simple fact that people don't take pride in their work anymore — the poor quality speaks for itself. But that would lead to a whole discussion on Marxist's definition of “worker and workplace alienation;” something, unfortunately, we don't have time for.
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