Written for Snap! magazine, published in April 2009.
Online version can be found on page 66 at:
Teen Fashion Blogs
I thought I was cool when I tried out for the talent show in grade three, lip-synching Erasure’s cover of Abba’s “Take a Chance on Me”. It seemed tongue in cheek when my mom agreed to sneak me out of school in grade six for an autograph with RuPaul. And when, at the age of twelve, I forced my family to follow the advice of Beastie Boy mag Grand Royale and check out the largest supplier of second-hand Adidas shoes while in San Francisco, I knew I was ahead of my time.
Teenage fashion bloggers such as Anouk, Tavi and Susie Bubble prove that I was, in fact, run of the mill. These kids are helping to develop an international community of dress-ups and witticisms that beat any issue of Teen Vogue or Seventeen. While angsting over Bat Mitzvahs and school reports, these ados under quinze are also pondering why Rodante is more groundbreaking than Comme des Garcons and trying on Pam Hogg catsuits. Whether living in Malaysia, Lithuania or Iceland, all of these subjects are adept at the lingo, are down on all the coolest new things and do a better job at presenting themselves and their creations online than many of their decades-older peers and readers.
While taking photos of themselves and friends in what some might consider over-sexualized poses in both urban and suburban settings (air vents, malls and stoops abound), the youth+blog medium inevitably brings up the same rhetorical questions of co-opting subculture into mainstream. Of course you don’t have to wait too long for big companies like Urban Outfitters to jump on the bandwagon and cash in on the pedophile’s dream of nubile young femmes fatales. Still, it’s an old story that authors Naomi Klen and Alissa Quart wrote about back in the nineties with No Logo and Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers. The reality is that for big companies to survive in their specific markets, they must remain credible and diversify their marketing strategies. So while a brand name like Nike will get massive visibility by sponsoring every other major sports figure, by investing money into sponsoring small, local projects such as Anouk-On-The-Brink or Tavi The New Girl On The Block, they manage to remain relevant and immersed in communities they would otherwise alienate. Ultimately it’s about maintaining their hegemony as corporations, and even if these kids refuse their advances, the companies have made that connection and sewn the seed for what might come in a matter of time when the offers of freebies and cash become too irresistible for a 14 year old to refuse.
The question we all confront at some point in our maturity is whether or not you want to go mainstream; whether or not you cash in and take part in the commercial world of tit for tat. While these kids might well further fashion in their image there is also a Pandora’s box of endorsement issues from exploitation to child labor to the developing world.
And yet, despite their sophistication, and the questions of hyper-sexualization and exploitation, what really drives these teen blogs, and what makes them so unexpectedly endearing, is the underlying and familiar desire they express to escape the realities of ‘teen life’.
Tavi from California says: “I’m not even going on the field trip to some water park. Sophie and I are going to see StarTrek and this place entirely packed with zines…because it’s more fun hanging out with weird illustrations and Spock than, y’know, people in our social circle that we can actually interact with.”
Germany’s Anouk is a bit dreamier: “In another planet, I´m sure there exist beings who can touch the sky without stretching their bodies…sensitive giants. Their brothers are living here on earth in form of garden gnomes, like me.”
Perhaps the most magnetic thing about prodigy bloggers like Anouk, Tavi and Susie Bubble, as well as a host of others- male and female- doing their take on style, sass and critique- is that their brilliance is sacred and in it’s own way quite fleeting. This might very well be their most creative time at least insofar as this is the time when fantasy, escapism and lack of conformity truly reigns supreme. Lice checks, uniforms and half-days don’t last forever. Neither does the season.