What is Mens’ Fashion?

See the featured article here: http://www.thehumanchoice.com/uncategorized/what-is-mens-fashion/

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“What is mens’ fashion?” One might ask these days.

When the temperature starts to drop and the focus from summer sales slips to winter wardrobe essentials and investment pieces, there comes a time when one asks oneself, “what is men’s fashion?”

The ever encroaching winter weather has men coolly delving into their pockets and spending on high price items for their wardrobe. The questions is, why do they do this? Why do men feel the need to splurge and what is it that is driving them to do so?

Well, apart from making sure that their wardrobe has enough fire-power to keep them warm and dry for the harsh British weather conditions that are expected, there are some underlying points that are due some attention.

The main one being that menswear is becoming even more of a dominant force in the world of fashion if it cannot be called so already. It possesses a hunger that we have never seen before. The demand for fashionable mens’ clothing is through the roof, with premium designer labels leading the way for mid-level and high street brands to follow suit (no pun intended).

Never before have the likes of the lower-end been mentioned when it comes to fashion with a nod of positive recognition towards what they are doing. Sure, they are still doing what they are negatively known for, but they are investing time in creating what men want in terms of the style and cut of their clothing. We are seeing old brands reaffirm themselves in the world of fashion such as Marks and Spencer and Debenhams. We are experiencing a menswear revolution. Yet why are these brands so aware of this revival in dressing for gentlemen? For this, we must go back to basics.

The word ‘fashion’ consists of two parts; something that is ‘popular’ or ‘the latest style’ of clothing, and a ‘manner of doing something’. You can wear fashionable clothes in a particular fashion. This is the basis from which menswear is building on. Ticking both of these boxes is what makes fashion most important, and being able to tick these boxes is what brands are offering for men to now do.

While in contrast, womenswear has become so popular and repetitive that the ‘manner of doing something’, or in this case, ‘wearing something’, has been lost as trends are repeated in a cycle and originality is less easy to come by. Menswear, on the other hand, is able to fill this gap in the market, where new ideas and combinations can be tested, and different channels can be explored.

It is because of this that men are starting to jump on board. Gone are the days when the aspiring gentleman will throw on an outfit to personal taste or without guidance or advice. Now, there are blogs and forums where men can find out about how to dress for particular occasions and what to wear to suit their lifestyle, body shape, budget… etc. The list goes on. It is this wealth of information and interest in the subject of mens’ clothing that is driving the market.

Yet, the journey that men take to get to a point where they are comfortable with what they wear on a daily basis, and are able to experiment and embrace new trends successfully, can be a long one in the making.

Firstly, they must build their capsule wardrobe, usually through buying basics and staples which they know they can confidently put together and will look good in a variety of situations. Then, they start to play around with different colours, and add a few accessories to show individuality and character. Finally, once they have cemented their ability in knowing what to wear and how to wear it, they can start buying items that are trend-led and unique to incorporate them into their look.

This process, however, can take a great deal of time. There are those who take very easily to it, and they will race ahead of others in learning how to dress well. Yet, it is a personal thing, and while people may get the basics right, it’s the attitude they bring to the clothes that they are wearing, and the touches of character in how they wear them, which is what the menswear market is exposing and growing from.

Now, that men are taking more of an interest in fashion, they are starting to realise that they need to think differently and act differently in order to look different. Fashion is all about following and breaking the rules at the same time. It’s all about the expression of character and personality, and it is in menswear that new things can be done to embrace such ideas.

There are now new materials, new cuts, new shapes, and new colours in everything from clothing, to shoes, to accessories. We are seeing the refinement in quality and classic sartorial style in brands combined with twists and innovative ‘takes’ on old classics. Menswear is mixing the old with the new. It is taking its experience as the younger sibling to womenswear, quietly growing up and maturing in its own time, yet now it is ready to become a man. Now is the time for it to take its own path and show the world what menswear is all about. Never before have designers been so imaginative and never before have we been willing to listen to their ideas and try them for ourselves.

So what is mens’ fashion? It is a guide. It has rules that are there to be broken. It is fresh and imaginative with a touch of old school class and maturity. Menswear is the new womenswear and it’s now time for the girls to move over. Menswear is now in the spotlight.

 

© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Curious about Clifton Village?

Ever felt like a laid-back Sunday afternoon walking through the streets of Clifton Village in Bristol? Think again. This quaint and sheltered sector of Bristol has a lot more going on than meets the eye. Here’s a list of things to do and places to visit:

Clifton Village Fish Bar

If soaking in the atmosphere of Clifton VIllage is what you wish to do, then make sure you keep yourself fuelled by fish and chips that are far from soaked in grease. Here you will find the tastiest, juiciest, and healthiest fish and chips around. All locally sourced and freshly prepared. This company knows how to make fast food healthy. They also boast low carbon footprint and energy usage due to new super-efficient cooking equipment and use recycled materials to serve your food in. Take a stroll to the grassy areas surrounding the Clifton Suspension Bridge to take in the sights.

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Avon Gorge Hotel

While you’re near the Suspension Bridge you might notice one of the largest terraces in the South West. Guaranteed to be packed full of locals and visitors alike in the summer. The White Lion Bar terrace is a place to visit for a morning coffee and slice of cake while taking in the panoramic views of the famous Suspension Bridge, or swing by later for a relaxing pint or two. Best enjoyed in the sun, but make sure you find a seat before it fills up!

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The Coronation Tap

If it’s West Country cider you’re after then make sure The Corrie Tap is on your list. Famous for it’s Exhibition cider which is only served in half pints due to it’s alcoholic percentage you’ll be sure to have a good time. Find a nook or cranny to set up camp in this popular pub and see for yourself why the locals love it so. Hosts of the ‘Corifest’, Clifton’s informally named event of the year, this is the place to come if cider is your weakness. With live music and plenty of cider you’ll be sure to have a memorable time. But beware, some have been known to get a little bit too ‘corried’!

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The Clifton Sausage

Celebrating everything a proper pork sausage can offer. This unpretentious restaurant offers at least six sizzling sausage varieties at any one time. All sausages are served with mash and gravy and are best washed down with a pint of local ale. For those who are not fans of mash, try the toad in the hole with your own choice of sausage. Compliment it with a bottle of wine from the ‘Easy Glugging’ or ‘Big and Serious’ reds list and you’ll be sure to enjoy your rustic West Country meal.

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The Quadrant/Davis Bell McCraith Fine Wines

If it’s wine you’re after then Clifton Village will have you well catered for. Try the Quadrant for tasting by the glass, or if you’d rather discover something new and take it home to enjoy, Davis Bell McCraith is the shop for you. Run by enthusiastic and highly knowledgeable people, here is a place to buy genuinely good wine that has been well sourced for a great price. They’ll even advise you on any fine wine you’re tempted to invest in. Having left knowing a lot more about wine than I had on entering, Richard’s enthusiastic and engaging manner was a pleasure to behold. My bag may have been slightly heavier too!

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InStep Shoes

If you’re a fellow shoe fanatic then walking by the window of this local shoe shop will have you glued to the spot while you admire their selection. The luxurious leather shoes on display will draw you in for a closer inspection, and before you know it you’ll be sat inside trying on your favourite pair! Stocking a selection of Loake, Barkers and Jeffery West this is a place where real shoe craftsmanship is available. The stunningly beautiful selection of brogues, loafers and boots will have your mouth watering. My personal favourite are Barkers ‘Jackson’ brogues with blue tweed inlay. There’s also an equally gorgeous selection of Steffano Marchi and Vitti Love shoes for all those female shoe fans.

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Antique and Gift shops

If you’re a fan of all things vintage, retro and antique then Clifton Village will have you enthralled for hours. There’s Focus on The Past, a quirky furniture and antique, shop where you can spend hours looking at little trinkets, books, kitchenware and rugs. The Pod Company offer fun and interesting home and lifestyle gifts, or Sense and About Face stock affordable leather bags and wallets, scarves, jewellery and other handmade gifts. There are other boutiques and book shops to be discovered too. Make sure you pop into Clifton Arcade as well – full of vintage clothing, accessories, art and antiques. After your little shopping spree find an independent coffee shop on Boyce’s Avenue to sit outside and reflect on your day in Bristol’s not-so-sleepy Clifton Village.

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© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

University Psycho

For anyone interested, this is my creative writing piece that I submitted with a rationale for my dissertation. It is based on Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho but I have set it in Bristol about a University student.
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If anyone would like to leave feedback I would be very interested to hear it and find out what people like/don’t like as I have plans to develop it into a novel. Thanks.

 

‘University Psycho’ By S. A. Ramsey

Thursday

It’s sometime in the morning. I drag myself out of bed and reach for the bottle of Red Bull that I have waiting: the sugar and caffeine combine to hit my hangover to wake me up. I take my wash bag and towel to the bathroom, and while I run the shower I look at myself in the mirror and think, what the fuck. I get into the shower, but misjudge it and get hit by a cold spray of water. I jump back out and wait for it to warm up. Shitty student shower, I’m thinking. I get back in once it’s on maximum heat, and while I stand there, letting the water wash over me, I try to remember what happened last night. Dim memories and hazy faces. I give up and go about my morning routine.

First, I cleanse my hair with Redken For Men Mint Clean Invigorating Shampoo which gets rid of the smell of alcohol and cigarettes from the night before because it lathers off dirt and build up to leave my hair stronger and my scalp tingling clean. I then use Redken For Men Cool Finish Invigorating Conditioner which also strengthens my hair and stimulates my scalp because it is formulated with protein, peppermint and soothing macro vitamins. After that I reach for a bottle of Men-U Healthy Facial Wash which has won multiple awards because it is deep cleansing, soap free and pH balanced with a high concentration of tea-tree oil and it is ideal to cleanse spots and clean my tired pores. I finish by washing my body with Molten Brown Re-Charge Black Pepper Body Wash which heightens my senses and reawakens my energy banks and then I get out and dry myself before walking back upstairs.

In a towel I turn on Spotify and choose the latest Top40 playlist, but it doesn’t quite cut it for me, so I close Spotify and open my Itunes and put on Gotye’s ‘Making Mirrors’ which I recently bought because it is in the top 5 album chart this week.

While staring in the mirror at my body, which looks damn good, especially under the dim light that hangs from the ceiling, I think about what outfit I will wear today. I reach for my computer and check Met Office for the weather forecast. Deciding that I’m hungover and it’s set to be cold, I choose my All Saints Black Peacoat, teamed with a white button oxford shirt from Fred Perry, and grey knitted roundneck jumper from American Apparel. I finish the look with black skinny jeans from Aubin and Wills, and stone desert boots by Clarks Originals.

I go back to the bathroom and avoid cleaning my teeth because I’m too hungover. I use my Babyliss iStubble beard trimmer to shave and set the trim length to 0.4mm and I move the trimmer over my face in a slow motion so I don’t miss any hairs. It’s strangely satisfying to see the stubble fall from my face into the sink, and I try to make shapes out of it stuck to the damp basin. My mind tries to manipulate them into images and scenes from last night, but I fail to recognise what any of them mean so I finish shaving and go back upstairs to my room.

‘Just somebody that I used to know’.

While admiring my outfit I finish towel-drying my hair before reaching for a hair dryer and vented brush. I’m sporting an expensive haircut that I picked out of GQ at the beginning of the week which has been termed ‘disconnected’. The sides and back are cut short, and the top is kept long and textured so I can wear it in a quiff or slicked back. Today I choose a natural looking side-part, so I sprinkle a small amount of Osis Dust It Mattifying Powder onto my hair and while using my hairdryer on the highest heat setting I follow the movements of the brush as I work through my hair, styling it backwards and to the side. Once it stays in place, still looking natural, I put down the hair dryer and brush, and work a small amount of American Crew Fiber into my palms before distributing it evenly into my hair, working it into place with my finger tips to gain definition. Once satisfied I finish off the look with TIGI Bed Head for men Power Surge hairspray to hold it in place.

I go back to the bathroom and wash my hands before I return to my bedroom mirror and apply L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Anti-Fatigue Moisturising Lotion which I work through my skin from the nose outwards so it’s easily absorbed. I use L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Cooling Eye Roll-On and run it over the bags under my eyes which immediately relaxes me, before I moisturise my lips with Vaseline Lip Therapy, and use Gentleman’s Tonic Moisturising Hand Balm on my hands to make them feel soft and nourished.

‘You’re just somebody that I used to know.’

I’m too hungover to eat breakfast so I down a protein shake instead. I go back upstairs and reach for my gym kit and place it in my Fred Perry shoulder bag before I leave the flat.

Bus

As I wait for the bus people drive by in their cars, some staring at me as they turn the corner, others with their heads thrust forward, focusing on the road ahead. A few people walk by, mainly workers in shabby suits either wearing badly matched trainers, or cheap work shoes. On the other side of the road a tramp waddles past, seemingly with no direction to go and no direction to come from. He glances at me and I wish I had worn my RayBans even though it’s not sunny. He shuffles on as a group of school girls come screaming round the corner, I try to ignore them, but I know I look good, and they try not to make the awkward eye contact that we make, and I’m thinking, if only they knew. They pass me by and overtake the tramp on the other side of the road. He mutters something to them and they run away from him. He turns around, smiles at me, and walks back the way he came. I struggle to control the irrepressible feeling inside, but the bus comes round the corner so I fumble for my pass. I get on not having fully recovered noticing that the side of the bus is advertising the new film with Daniel Radcliffe in Woman in Black. After I swipe my card, I look for a place to sit and see the blank faces staring back at me. The camera begins rolling and I compose myself.

I pass a girl to my left who’s sat at the very front behind the driver. She’s wearing some kind of multi-coloured fluffy acrylic animal coat which looks ridiculous, and to make it worse she is wearing Doc Martens which do not match any of her outfit and fail to clash appropriately with anything to make a statement. She looks like a chameleon that doesn’t blend in.  She swivels her eyes at me and sees me staring and she looks away. I half expect her tongue to come whirling at my face.

 A guy to my right acts as if he might move his bag to let me sit, and I look at him pretending to be interested before I move on. He looks okay, he’s wearing a Barbour quilted jacket in navy blue with a white Lacoste polo shirt underneath. I like his indigo dark wash jeans which look like they might be from UniQlo, but his shoes let the outfit down, Aisics trainers, which is why I don’t sit next to him.

I reach the back of the bus, and see a blonde who is trying not to look too keen, but definitely wants me. There is a smile that plays on her lips but she can’t quite bring herself to release it. I decide that I’m going to play hard to get, so I ignore her and sit behind her. I let my eyes bore into the back of her as I check out her outfit, skinny jeans from TopShop in faded pink that hug her thighs, cream knitted jumper probably from H&M with a button oxford shirt underneath in blue that could be from American Apparel. I can feel her start to squirm as she senses that someone is looking at her, probably wishing that it’s me.

I gaze out the window and watch the grey houses and buildings pass by in a blur of cement and stone wondering what time I got home last night and whether anyone saw me. As we get off the bus I get her number and tell her that I might ring her, still playing hard to get.

SU

“Wearing trackies to Uni is simply not acceptable anymore”.

“No, man. If you’re hungover, haven’t slept, or just can’t be arsed then it is acceptable.”

“Yeah, if you want to look like someone who was dressed by a homeless man pretending to work for a charity shop.”

“Hey that’s not fair.”

“Nothing is fair,” I join the conversation. “The only criteria for which you can wear trackies to Uni is when you live on Campus and are making a short trip to the shop. Or if you are going to the gym or playing sport. In this case they must be worn with appropriate footwear, and not something that you would wear for anything other than sport. Especially Uggs, male or female. If it’s warm enough and your feet are well tanned then flip flops will do as long as they are clean and well branded.”

“Jesus. Where did that come from?”

“I don’t know. I drank too much Red Bull this morning. Has anyone got a paracetamol?” I say looking around the room.

“What happened to you last night, man?”

“I really can’t remember.”

“Yeah, one minute you were with us, then the next you’d disappeared.”

“Probably went home with some slut.”

“Yeah, was she good?”

“I bet you can’t even remember her name.”

“I bet she was a virgin.”

“I don’t know.” I say, before I look away and make eye contact with a girl at the bar ordering a skinny latte. She wears tapered skinny jeans in tobacco, with a floral print shirt, probably both TopShop. No. The top is H&M.

“Hey guys,” I say. “Is it too early for a beer?”

“It’s never too early.”

“It’s 6pm somewhere in the world right now.”

“Like you care anyway.”

I leave the table and casually walk up to the bar. Standing next to the girl – she hasn’t seen me yet – I imagine what she might look like naked, and then I have a flashback where I actually think I’ve seen her naked. Whilst I mull this over in my mind I notice that the barmaid is looking at me, as if she’s asked me something.

“Can I have three Coors Lights?” I ask, annoyed that she’s broken the scene being acted out in my head. I realise however that she’s not bad looking either and if it wasn’t for her staff uniform, if she was wearing light denim Jack Wills jeans with a Fred Perry striped t-shirt, she’d be hot. I start to picture her naked, and add her to the scene inside my head but I now notice that skinny latte girl is looking at me as if she’s expecting a response. I look confused and she repeats, I think, what she already said to me.

“Isn’t it a bit too early for alcohol?”

“Hey babe,” I smile “it’s never too early… Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so,” she says.

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

I can’t get the image of her naked out of my mind, and it doesn’t help when the barmaid interjects asking me to pay for my round. I smoothly hand her a twenty feeling smug that they are both interested.

“So what course do you do?” she asks.

I can’t remember what happened last night let alone what course I do. So I smile at her and ask for her number.

“Would you like to know me?” I say seductively.

I cringe at how cheesy it sounds, especially when I notice them looking at me from our table.

She smiles.

“Yeah, why not?” She gives me her number. She mutters something about needing to get to a lecture, so I let her go and say that I might call her sometime. She buys it and walks off.

I turn towards the table with a new image in my mind. I turn back to the bar and look at the expectant barmaid holding my change. I feel confident.

“You can keep the change in exchange for your number,” I say. She looks awkwardly at me, looking me up and down. I sense she’s trying to decide whether I’m worth it or not. She decides that I am.

“But didn’t you just take that other girl’s number?” she asks.

“What other girl?” I say thinking about the barmaid with nothing on. I’m now dressing her in what I think she looks good in. She repeats her question.

“Oh that girl” I say, acting like I realise that she thought there was something going on between me and skinny latte girl.

“No she’s just on my course. She wanted help with something so I told her to call me and gave her my number.” She looks at me unconvincingly. I try to look sincere and she buys it. She gives me her number. I say I’ll call her sometime, take the change and the drinks – I can carry three at a time – and return to the table.

“Jesus. What took you so long?”

“I was just talking to the barmaid.”

“Sure you were just talking to the barmaid. What about that other girl?”

“Oh her?” I say coolly. “She’s just on my course.”

“Sure, man. Sure.”

I smile. They know that I’m lying. I raise my lager to my lips.

“Cheers boys.”

They laugh.

“What’s your opinion on hoodies?”

“Well,” I say…

Town

I get the bus in to town because I feel like buying a new outfit with my student loan. Besides, I’ve had a stressful day. I step on and see the same empty faces looking at me. Everyone seems worn out, tired, from pretending to do work. I walk past a guy who says hi to me, and though I can remember his face, I can’t remember where from. He is wearing cheap brown suede shoes which don’t suit the cut of his jeans. I stroll to the back and notice a cute brunette sat in the corner. I leave a seat between us on the back row and smile as I sit down. She smiles back.

“Do I know you?” I start.

She looks at me with her big eyes and shakes her head. We talk for the bus journey. I find out that she does drama. She must be easy. Drama girls are easy. We get into town and I’m thinking that I want to take her back to mine.

“What are you up to now?”  I ask instead. “Do you want to get a coffee?”

She agrees so I take her to Starbucks on Park Street. It’s crowded which is good because it means that the mixture of caffeine and the atmosphere will excite her and make her think that I’m causing the effect. We order cappuccinos and get a seat by a window as we talk.

“I really love it here” she says. “There’s so much going on, and always so much to do. My course is so good at the moment.”

I know that she’s trying to make me ask things about her. But I don’t really want to know.

“So you’re single right?” I ask.

She looks at me. Pauses.

“Well… Yeah.”

We look at each other. I look at her face to see what she’s thinking but I can’t work it out. I want to take her back to mine, I’m thinking.

“So are you going out tonight?” I ask.

She flutters her eyelids at me and says innocently, “Maybe. Are you?”

“Maybe.”

“Where might you go?”

“What day is it?” I try to remember but have to ask her. She doesn’t seem to notice how disorientated I am. I look away at the people outside. They seem to be operating on a different set, in a different world. A couple walk by who look like they’ve just come from a high street photo shoot. The guy wears grey Nike high tops with black skinny jeans, a denim jacket and flannel shirt underneath, probably all from Topman. The girl wears a navy blazer – Zara – with the sleeves rolled up. A plain white blouse beneath with grey jeans from H&M, and brown brogues by ASOS. I’m impressed. A man walks past in an ill-fitting suit that looks two sizes too big and definitely charity shop which breaks the illusion.

“Wednesday. It’s Wednesday today.” She says bringing me back into the room.

“Right.” I say. “There are various events on tonight.”

“Like what?” She doesn’t seem to know too much. I want to take her home.

“Well at Syndicate it’s Propaganda – the biggest indie night in Bristol. The Bunker hosts UOB’s official sports night with chart-busting floor fillers and classic anthems all night. And Platform 1 hosts the official UWE sports night – Spoil Sports…”

 “Wow you sure know your stuff,” she says obviously impressed.

I gaze at her and really want to take her back to mine. She sips at her coffee nervously, yet she doesn’t seem scared, just nervous. I can’t remember what state the flat is in after what happened last night, but I ask her anyway.

“How about we go back to mine?”

Shopping

…and the manikins featured in the window are grey and lifeless and I wonder what it would be like to be one as I think that the stylist has done a bad job because they are not smiling. I walk though TopShop into Topman and the manikins are headless with the season’s newest look draped on them and I wonder whether if I wore what they wore, I might be headless too. There are sale racks cluttering the walkways and fifteen year old boys who look like One Direction are searching through them to buy things that will replicate their desired generic image. I buy a tweed one-buttoned single breasted grey blazer in a wool mix because it looks good with the top half of the headless manikin, but I can’t bring myself to purchase the whole outfit because the manikin also has no feet. I cross into H&M and take the escalator up to the men’s section, passing middle-aged Bristolian women being dragged around by their children, or, worse, looking for clothes themselves because they think they’ll look cool. This season’s dull chrome colours sort the shop floor in to regimented ranks of no colour, and a girl who looks like she’s walked out of a bin is sorting through the bargain section hungrily. With my eyes closed and pinching the bridge of my nose I reach the men’s floor and find myself wandering through the aisle as if it’s a maze. Clothes hang off everything and price tags, reductions, bulk buys loom out at me when I open my eyes and stop pinching my nose. I look at shoes but they are all cheap and poorly made so I move through the carousel of people and hangers and pick up two gingham checked shirts, one in pink and one in blue. I am about to pay at the checkout when I see a cable knit jumper in oatmeal that I just have to have, so I dash over and get my size off the rack and pay. I walk towards Jones through the hoards of zombified people around me and I see a young mother pushing a baby in a pram. I pass a group of chavs who are spitting and smoking in Umbro trackies and Fred Perry and Lacoste polo shirts outside Sports Direct and I wonder how such classic brands earned so poor a representation. They heckle the young mother as she walks by. She looks startled and while a part of me also wants to shout abuse, I control myself and ignore the fact that she deserves it and I change my mind when I see a display in a shop window with the most beautiful pair of oxblood leather brogues and I start foaming at the lips as I’m drawn to them and start walking towards the shop…

Pam Pam

Wednesday night. Varsity at Pam Pam. I’m hyperventilating because we’re late for guest list entry, and I’m worried the club is too full and we won’t get a good seat or served at the bar but I know someone at the door, probably from a previous night out or playing sport with him or something and we are let in and ushered towards our table. I’m wearing a black leather jacket from Zara, a white Ralph Lauren t-shirt, dark indigo jeans from Topman, and beige suede brogues by Ben Sherman. We pass a group of girls who probably go to Bristol Uni, all wearing expensive looking dresses, yet only one of them, blonde, is actually good looking. The other three huddle around her like sheep as all they have is daddy’s wages to buy themselves into VIP and although the blonde looks like she might be successful, and I contemplate going up to her and taking her in with me instead, I don’t. I walk by. The thumping sound of the bass kicks in and the shrill vocals call ‘make me, come alive’ as David Guetta blares over the speakers, making me relax, and as we walk up to the table that is reserved for us in VIP I place my hand on the small of skinny latte girl’s back who’s wearing a figure-hugging single-strap black dress from ASOS and blood red heels from Top Shop with a matching clutch bag, probably H&M, and I walk her to the bar and order a drink while I stand listening to her babble to a friend who missed the fact that we were at the bar alone.

I order five Tequilas, all for me. Down them, excuse myself, and walk over to our table where my friends are tapping their feet to Chase & Status.

‘Let you go’.

Everyone is sweating on the dance floor, grinding on each other, broken glass on the floor is crunched under foot as people become more and more inebriated and lose their sense of shame. I’m starting to feel lost as the alcohol has well and truly taken hold of me, and I’m pushing my tongue down skinny latte girl’s throat as she presses herself into me, pushing back with hers. As she playfully bites my lip I pull away so I can get another drink. I push to the bar through people who don’t know how to queue. The group of girls from Bristol Uni are there and give me a dirty look– the blonde isn’t with them – and I order a double vodka and soda because it has fewer calories than lemonade which I down as soon as I get.

“Hey, I’m just trying to fit in around here,” I say to them as they’re still eyeballing me and I leave the bar and I see the blonde coming out of the toilet.

I’m lost. All I can focus on is the exit sign that looms at the back of the dance floor. I can’t think what to do. Skinny latte girl pushes into me.

“Where have you been?”

I can’t reply. It says exit. I take her hand and plunge through the door dragging her with me. Outside we pass the blonde lying on the floor in the corner being sick. At least that’s what skinny latte girl thinks. She looks up helplessly at me, terrified, and points her hand towards me as if she’s about to say something before I briskly turn skinny latte girl the other way towards the taxi rank and mutter, poor thing.

I leave her flat feeling indescribably eerie. I walk through a dark street with dim lights either side that seem to be flickering. I look up at a man towering over me. He’s wearing a pinstripe suit with a bowler hat and has no face. He pours a can of red paint below him and I can feel it dripping onto me and I touch and feel my shoulders and my head. Wet. Sticky. Red. I look up again and realise that the man has no feet and it makes me think of the manikins in the shop windows that have no heads and I run screaming…

 

© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review: Bright Lights, Big City – Jay McInerney

Due to high acclaim and the fact that McInerny is a peer of one of my favourite authors, Bret Easton Ellis, I was looking forward to my first reading.

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The protagonist’s second person narrative is hard to get used to at first, but as the novel progresses a rapport is established by his satirical nature which helps the reader relate to his ironic outlook. Caught up in the copious cocaine craze of the 1980s, the protagonist works in New York at ‘The Department of Factual Verification’ which immediately contrasts its mundanity with the nightlife he leads with ‘it-boy’ best-friend Tad Allagash. The story focuses on the deterioration of the protagonist’s life and his unwillingness to accept it. His wife is a well-known model who has left him for someone else, and as he struggles to accept or admit this to anyone in fear of looking inferior, his perception changes as he realises that she has become an object of her employment. McInerny’s imaginative re-creation of her as an object, through the moulding of a manikin, acts as a metaphor for her artificiality.

As the protagonist’s perception changes and life rapidly deteriorates around him we start to realise that not only have the bright lights affected his wife by turning her into a superficial being, but the big city has also taken its hold on him. The regurgitation of news stories and events he reads which he shows genuine interest towards highlights his superficiality. The protagonist’s unawareness of his dependence on the culture in which he is immersed proves to suggest that although one might see it in others, it is difficult to see the effect the mass market can have on one’s self until it is too late. While the novel ends without closure, the destruction of the protagonist’s life suggests hope from the ruins as he recounts the experience with his dying mother, and rebuilds a relationship with his brother before he leaves for the city’s nightlife, drugs and alcohol.

A clever, chilling and characteristic novel of the 1980s highlighting the complications of drug addiction and the party lifestyle as well as the claustrophobic nature of the city.

 

© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Great Gatsby (2013) Review

“The Great Gatsby” (2013) Review.

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After reading a GQ article predicting the failure of the new Great Gatsby film titled; “Don’t blame Baz Luhrmann: A History of Gatsby’s Bad Reviews” I couldn’t wait to see the film myself and cast my own opinion on the much debated light of whether a remake was necessary, and how it compared to the book.

The article ‘remembers some of the most spiteful write-ups’ of the various versions of Gatsby, and offers opinions on the Luhrmann’s version such as:

“There may be worse movies this summer than The Great Gatsby, but there won’t be a more crushing disappointment,” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone, 2013).

“Gatsby’s excess – his house, his clothes, his celebrity guests-is designed to win over his beloved Daisy. Luhrmann’s vulgarity is designed to win over the young audience, and it suggests that he’s less a filmmaker than a music-video director with endless resources and a stunning absence of taste.” (David Denby, The New Yorker, 2013).

“It’s hard for a man like Luhrmann, whose idea of cinema is rooted in instant gratification (you want it, you got it!), to grasp, let alone translate, the Gatsbyesque notion of longing to be somewhere you can’t be. He’s the anti-Terrence Malick: He makes miracles cheap.” (David Edelstein, New York magazine, 2013).

Having read all of these before going to see the film I felt some sort of challenge was coming my way in reviewing the already much hated on film. Would I hate it too? Or even, shock horror, like it? Although this was playing on my mind, I did feel that I was already on the side of Luhrmann before I sat down. I wanted to prove the critics wrong much like the success of Fitzgerald’s novel has done so today.

What Did I Think?

First impressions were good. I thought it moved smoothly and seamlessly through the narrative from start to finish and I enjoyed Luhrmann’s take on the dishevelled and recovering alcoholic Nick Carraway looking back on events. It was hilarious, tragic and decadent with just the right amount of contemporary appeal for those that the book is unknown to. The wardrobe was quite simply impeccable, and the party scenes were definitely worth donning 3D glasses to feel the glitter and the gold falling around you. The eventful scenes were dramatic, yet not pondered on which mirrored the world that Fitzgerald was trying to depict by slowly fading away and being forgotten about. I believe that this film was a success, and in highlighting areas that have been criticised I wish to show why and how it succeeds.

In GQ’s review of the first British screening of the film; “Not So Great: The litany of problems with Luhrmann’s Gatsby“, Andy Morris produces eight key bullet points. He states; “Gatsby is a sham. Neither an emotionally saturated Baz Luhrmann spectacle nor an elegant literary adaptation, it is unfortunately one of the most shallow and unsatisfying films you’ll see this year”.

Shallow and unsatisfying? Fitzgerald would be rolling in his grave. I can imagine Morris might have had a sleepless night after publishing his article due to being haunted by the great writer’s ghost screaming; “the novel is meant to be shallow and unsatisfying!” Morris has clearly missed the point. The novel leaves the reader feeling helpless and unsatisfied (and is meant to) much like the film does.

The Soundtrack

Yes, Jay Z isn’t particularly who I had in mind as executive producer, and no, not all of the songs are bang on (no pun intended on Will.I.Am’s contribution ‘Bang Bang’), but if the critics were to put aside their hurt at the soundtrack and distaste in its contemporary take then they might be surprised that it actually works, and works well. The high profile artists who contribute create a hype and buzz of expectation around the soundtrack, yet their songs are used intermittently as snippets and samples. Rarely do we hear the main chorus, but instead we catch a line from a verse that we recognise subtly playing in the background. Jack White’s “Love is Blindness” which is used for the trailer doesn’t even reach its chorus where used in the film. It feels disappointing, like we are not being given what we deserve. The soundtrack feels empty and restricted from us. But wait… Surely this is the point? We long for “Love Is Blindness” to kick in at full tempo but it doesn’t. We feel cheated. But it’s this cheated feeling, this longing for the chorus that is what works. The soundtrack makes us feel like we’re missing out on something which is much like what Fitzgerald means in the novel. We are taking part by seeing the story in all its lavishness, yet we are constantly made to feel like outsiders looking in. The soundtrack is as empty as the characters Fitzgerald creates. The songs never hit the mark, they never take off, they are empty much like the novel. It reinforces and illustrates the immoral characters through music.

Luhrmann’s Vision

There have been critics who have implied that Luhrmann has missed the point in depicting Fitzgerald’s novel. In his defence the film is based on the book. It is not the book. A film cannot possibly embrace all the themes and topics that a literary text can. It is up to the director to choose which aspects he wants to focus on. Surely we would want him to refreshingly interpret the novel and offer a new insight? Does he do it? Well yes he does.

In the book we are shown a lavish, extravagant and inaccessible world which is in constant conflict between influences of old and new money. We see what the poor and insignificant Gatsby has to do to get to where he wants. As a figure of new money we see him gain financial security and prosperity by doing whatever it takes. This theme is transcendent through the decades which the book has lasted and is the main reason why The Great Gatsby is now recognised as a literary success. The ‘All American Dream’ is as much evident in the time that the novel was written as it is today. It echoes the phrase ‘money is power’.

Andy Morris states: “For a film about a man with extraordinary personal drive, Gatsby noticeably sags. How can a film whose promise is so intriguing appear so slow and dull? The main problem is nothing feels like it impacts: the high speed sequences in the car appear to be entirely without peril […], the fireworks feel like CGI and there can rarely be a more chaste tale of debauchery. It is extraordinarily unsexy.”

As for these safe car scenes and unsexiness; surely that’s the point? These characters are presented as invincible. They think that money buys them not only happiness but safe-standing as well. The car scenes are without peril for a reason – the people in them are rich and therefore untouchable. Not at one point are we scared for them. It is after all a fantasy. We again feel detached from the characters because we know that it isn’t real, yet here we are looking on, and shamefully wanting in. The fact that Luhrmann choses Carey Mulligan to play Daisy Buchanan is the reason for the so called unsexiness. The power of love is what Gatsby clings on to. That not everyone will find it sexy is powerful because again, it doesn’t make us feel a part of it. The love is clearly much stronger than a physical connection. We are kept watching from the sideline, and Luhrmann knows it.

To continue with Mulligan, Morris suggests that; “[T]he performances as a whole are a little uneven. Carey Mulligan in particular is given very little to do other than sniffle.” I refer you to a quote in the novel where Daisy speaks of her daughter; ‘I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.’ Surely Mulligan’s part in the film embodies this quote? Her character lacks personality on purpose. She is an embodiment of old money in the novel, and she is the same in the film. Mulligan plays the character Luhrmann wants her to with pin-point accuracy. She is constantly played down by both her husband, Tom, and Gatsby like she’s a mere doll. She isn’t trusted to make a decision or speak her mind because she can’t. She is a fool.

The best performance by far is DiCaprio’s however. It’s faultless. From the beginning where we eagerly anticipate seeing his face but are denied it, his character is built up and up. When we finally see him DiCaprio is a knock-out. Not only does he hold that cool manner and magical smile which is so intoxicating to Nick Carraway, he does it while looking like he ‘could have killed a man’ at the same time. Perhaps his performance isn’t as sinister and scary as his last in “Django Unchained”, yet he adds unknown depth and layers to an already complex character with confidence and panache.

The Verdict

From the various criticism that I have read, Gatsby is said to have been a ‘sag’ and missed the mark. Yet for me, that is the whole essence of the novel. Everyone sags and misses the mark in the novel. Tom, Daisy, Jordan, Wolfsheim and our faithful narrator Nick Carraway all miss the mark because they don’t demonstrate human morality. Every one of them does something that is inexplicable because they aren’t fuelled by human instincts. They are fuelled by money. Even Nick, who is the poorest of the lot, cannot fight the power of money, he never jumps in and tries to help because he knows he is powerless against it. Everyone is corrupt. The film does a perfect job at showing us this corruptness by moving on before we can dwell on any of the events. The story just continues. A quote from the novel says of the Buchanans; “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…”. Luhrmann takes this metaphorically and makes it ring true. He takes The Great Gatsby, smashes it up and leaves us to deal with it, and that is why he succeeds. He taints the film with contemporary pop culture and disjoints ideas of the 1920s with the soundtrack. But he is doing what the characters do in the novel. They behave immorally. He is Baz Buchanan. He takes the novel, smashes it up, and leaves us to pick up the pieces. He does what the novel does to us. The film from start to finish is a metaphor for Fitzgerald’s characters. We are left feeling like we have been looking in with no way to change or alter what happens. We are made to feel helpless like those without money do. We are made to want to lead the characters’ flamboyant lifestyles even though we know that we won’t be happy. This is Luhrmann’s doing and for that reason, the film is a roaring success!

 

© Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing, 2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sam Ramsey and Sam Ramsey Writing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.