February 23rd, 2009
Things got a bit too much for a minute there in the loft. Get outside for some fresh air. There’s a balcony and it’s a warm night. There’s a crowd, chilled and clumped, sitting around, smoking, chatting too-earnestly, getting the feelings gained through the gnosis of the dancefloor spoken and out into the air before they vanish, quick as the sweat disappearing from your fringe. Take a deep breath and lean against the balcony railing, head back, breathe it out into the night. Look up. Something catches just the corner of your eye.
Relax, puny partygoer. You’ve just been Supermanned.
Black Lace – Superman
All superheroes change a bit – they’ve got different outfits for different occasions, or more probably, several different outfits for basically the same occasion, side-by-side in the super-wardrobe, sets of day and nightwear cycled and repeated for forty plus years. He’s undergone as much (gradual) visual change in his long-legginged life as the next superhero, what with the slow but definite evolution in the shape, colour and design of the symbol on his chest. And as we’ve seen recently, more than any other his image and meaning, in its ubiquity and longevity, has proved mutable and adaptable to an array of interpretations, stretching across entire multiverses. He’s not a square or unadventurous guy, sartorially speaking – he’s been doing geek chic for a looong time, and youcan’t fake the kind of style confidence it takes to pull off the pants-outside look , but Superman and his symbol are curiously unadventurous as an underwear decoration.
I mean, these socks are brilliant and everything, but there’s not exactly a lot going on, is there? Not even if you post the picture sideways. Which is fine, they don’t owe you an anecdote – socks aren’t really meant to be a big conversation fixture or anything, why would you want them to do more than keep your feet warm? Fair point, but what if you’ve set yourself a task of dribbling out a few hundred words about your superhero-themed sock collection? If that’s the case, then these Super-Almonds are not exactly the ideal thing.
I guess the problem with plastering the Superbrand on everything is that it’s too good. Both in the sense of it representing a set of concepts and ideals that don’t really improve for being put through the wringer of ironic, postmodern semio-wank of the sort this post purports to represent; and in the sense that the visual itself is so strong and so familiar, that to muck with it is to just ruin it. If it’s not going to be Superman’s symbol, then what exactly is it that you’re putting on these socks/knickers/bra etc.? Seen like that, keeping it simple seems a pretty good idea. Any attempt to detourn the brand is going to be a journey somewhere less good, almost by definition.
So let’s take it literally for a minute, and think about the snaking, solar life-energy that the S-symbol represents. Fast and resilient, it’s a good thing to have about your ankles. Vital and benign, it’s a good thing to keep by your meat and vegetables. Serious and solid, it doesn’t want to be messed with. Flipping it on its head (literally or metaphorically) could be to invite some kind of death urge, anti-life. You don’t want to do that. The S-symbol doesn’t respond well to jokes. It’s maybe, just maybe mind, like these socks, a little boring. But then, isn’t boringness a good thing to have on your underwear? Isn’t reassuring exactly what you need?* You’re not the kind of person who wears wacky underwear because they think it makes them an interesting person, are you? You loser, you’ll be writing about it on the internet next.
Nevertheless, these may not be sexy-hottest socks in the land – they may not have the naughty nightside charms encapsulatedby the Dark Knight, or distil the urban imperatives of post-war mass-culture like the Friendly Neighbourhood Webslinger, but the Man of Tomorrow does something neither of those guys quite can. He can guarantee that he and his ideals, the invulnerable hope he represents, will live in on the hearts and minds of good men everywhere, forever. A reminder of that is always going to be worth wearing next to your skin.
*NB: Sometimes it is a very good thing that underwear be neither sensible or reassuring. I know this.