Urban Subcultures and Sartorial Landscapes

An annual online photo exhibit explores the fashion subcultures of different cities, which are often defined by musical tastes.
November 27, 2008, 11am PST | Michael Dudley
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"For the past 14 years, a pair of Dutch artists, Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek, have been documenting styles of appearance in series of photographs. They go to a city, notice a particular look that seems to recur, find a dozen or so people who look like this and invite them into a studio to pose. The people tend to look a certain way because they belong to a recognizable social group, defined by region or class or style of music. Versluis and Uyttenbroek put their subjects against a white backdrop and pose them in exactly the same way. Then they create a grid of images and label it "Skins - Rotterdam, 2007" or "Sapeurs - Paris, 2008." The results are stunning: The people in each group look identical.

The "Reli-Rockers" from Rotterdam are all wearing heavy-metal T-shirts; the "Bouncers" all have black leather coats; the "Gabberbitches" (followers of hard-core techno music) tend to have crop tops and shaved heads with top ponytails. There are "Ghetto Fabs" from Paris, Beach Boys from Rio, "City Girls" from London in business suits, "Fly Girls" (hip-hop listeners) from Rotterdam, schoolchildren (all in bright tracksuits and knapsacks) from Beijing, widows in black from Cape Verde, "Tektoniks" from Paris - there are hundreds of images you can browse (and I promise you will spend a quarter of an hour on this) at the website Exactitudes.com.

As...the co-existence of so many radically different sartorial modes at one time and in the same city...shows, there is no dominant fashion or culture of the era."

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Published on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in The Globe and Mail
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