You would think that people have had enough of war. In fact, recent polls suggest that most Americans favor a pull-out from Iraq. The war there has been going on longer than we expected, or were lead to believe and there doesn't seen to be an end in sight.
You would think that war and the imagry of conflict would be the last thing we would want to use as an aesthetic point of reference. Particularly is fashion. Why then, do I see so many people on the streets of New York wearing camouflage? Why, with all of the news and talk of war and the globally shared stress of conflict would anyone want to slip on a camouflage t-shirt in the morning. I notice a lot of it on weekends, worn not by urban hipsters but by middle class guys, seniors, children, mothers on the upper east side pushing strollers. This is their weekend, relaxation-time choice of clothing. White, black, hispanic, it doesn't seem to be a fashion trend of a particular demographic. It's everywhere in Manhattan's urban landscape.
Of course, we get massive doses of violent imagery in popular culture and mass media, games and movies in particular. Those "aesthetic experiences" allow participants to wrestle with and to get some sort of release from all of those anxieties and fears, however briefly. But why given the cultural climate would one choose this as fashion?
I believe that Americans collectively feel under attack, that our position at the head of the world's table and our global dominance is slipping. I'm not talking just post 9/11. Since the Korean War we have had numerous military failures. An economy that starts and stops and serious problems with our ability to be competitive. For a long time the American automotive industry was the crown jewel in our economy. Look at it now.
This is the invisible pressue that is bearing down on us, that is causing so much anxiety and stress across the board culturally. We are like the aging alpha male monkey that is begining to slip. The others have started to sense it and are getting ready to deliver our comeuppance. They take a cheap shot here and a cheap shot there (Oil Embargo in the 70's, Beruit Bombing in the 80's) to test our strength and mesure our reflexes. 9/11 was the first attempt to throw a real knockout punch. We're on the ropes and wer'e scared.
I believe that all of the camouflage is our way of psychologically "raising our fur", projecting our strength and trying to reasuring ourselves that we are tough, that we can win this one. I call it "dressing for duress".
Look around. Yo'ill notice the "military aesthetic" in other places as well. How else do you explain the popularity of military styled SUV's? A poor choice and ironic way for this to manifest itself given the battle lines that are drawn outside our heads.
Off to work or off to war?