When Zoolander came out in 2001, one of the core jokes in the film was the big-time designer putting together a fashion line called “Derelicte” based on the rags and garbage worn by street urchins in The Big City. It seemed obviously absurd, and we laughed.
In 2012 Macklemore released his song Thrift Shop and we agreed that paying $50 for a t-shirt was absurd. And we were convinced that it was very cool to have the skills to find cool threads in the Village – or at least to have the confidence to wear other people’s junk and feel incredible.
Don’t get me wrong. I know thrift stores are not a new creation, and I know that people enjoy yard sales no matter the state of their finances or the overall economy. The Boro-Boro life is eternal after all.
But I think we have collectively noticed a shift in Western North America after the housing crisis and financial collapse of 2008. People started searching for lasting value. They desired the authenticity of local and hand crafted items. Making and doing things yourself became vogue again. And embracing imperfections became a sign of stylishness.
Culture and fashion have remembered to reuse and recycle more. Allowed itself to be a bit more frayed at the edges again. Collectively we have certainly become less clean shaven and more beardified, if not moustacheio’d.
So when I envisioned refinishing the SC430 wheels for our SUV, I naturally wanted to coat them in live copper and let it patina into a pale green tarnish.
But V said, “why does everything always have to be gross? Can’t we make something pretty?”
So I went, “sure”.
But secretly I had my doubts.
Because making something nice takes talent, time and effort.
Making something in the Derelicte fashion is easy, because it partially embraces destruction. Creation is hard because there is a particular outcome in mind and success hinges on achieving that narrow result. Destruction is easy because it can be random, chaotic – even unintentional – and be successful.
I picked up the SC430 wheels for a measly $100. They were someone’s elses junk. They had some curbage and a lot of tarnishing. Yes I used a tube of plastic-to-metal gunk to fill the gouges. Yes I primed before painting. And yes we consulted the Ultimate Color Combination Cheat Sheet to confirm which colors would aesthetically blend with our Green Machine.
But I only performed 7 stages of prep and paint. And I only sanded those hush-puppies for 4 hours, not 12. And I used paint from a rattle can. And I painted outside. This is not a recipe for nice things.
Objectively I like the colors we chose, but I am afraid they will emote incorrectly. On a boring white or silver car, having colored wheels becomes a fun feature. But on a big green SUV I am afraid they will be too loud. Oh well, sometimes you have to throw paint at the canvas and judge it later.
It’s like comedy. If you make a bad joke, but you stay deadpan, the joke evaporates and the moment continues without much regard. But if you make a bad joke, and then bray like a donkey, that’s going to stick in the air like Mary’s hair product. Yuck.
If you try really hard and think your things are awesome, there is a big chance of failing.
If you intentionally aim for imperfection and irregularity, you can’t be wrong.
I’m not saying that embracing mediocrity is right, or even that it is universal practice, but I think it is part of what’s going on these days.
Because the idea of paying someone to polish my chrome wheels seems absurd.