The dark allure of cursed clothes — and hijacking them toward blessedness
I have an old Tsubi tee with “SAFE IN HEAVEN, DEAD.” screen-printed on the front. And it gets all sorts of reactions. And I love it, still, for this very reason.
Def rocking some cursed shit at present (Valvoline crewneck, D.A.R.E. long sleeve), but this dude does some really cool stuff to old Texaco jawnz (I snapped up one):
as someone that has worked for 20 years in both the fashion industry and the MILIND complex... I have to say I really enjoyed reading this article as well as all of your super thoughtful and well articulated comments...I'm personally stoked that the comments seem to not fuck with these items and wont drastically effect the cost of my GWOT era trinket collecting... ill go back to lurking in the shadows now.
def found this interesting and worth thinking about, but if you're rocking some cursed shit with any kind of irony or intent to "reclaim"/freak it, you're going to find yourself having to verbally explain, and imo that is the enemy of any good outfit... nothing negates a fit like being asked every time you leave the house "what's up with that miramax hat" and having to go "oh i'm a fan of the movies, i'm like reclaiming it". context obviously adds layers to a fit or garment, and it's nice to be invited into the world behind someone's choices, but i generally believe fashion is a visual medium and wearing a fit that continually requires explanation/justification is kind of lame. i think there are levels to this – i fuck w the climate journalist in an earlier comment ironically rocking an Exxon bomber, but i don't fuck w your miramax hat friend. maybe it's because there are still plenty of people out there who are rape apologists who'd unironically rock something like that. idk! i guess i can't imagine myself ever leaving the house in something that, without the added element of my verbal justification, reads as me being chill w harvey weinstein.
I don't think the average person thinks about the cursed-ness of whatever slogan or graphic is on your tshirt that much tbh or even registers it! Yes this is meant to address the eyes of the spyfriendly, but I also think there's not much point in refusing to wear a (likely well-made if it's that old and survived) 90s piece in 100 percent cotton, good shoes etc. just because the company is cursed.
Reuse, reduce, recycle means reuse ALL the stuff, also historical distance is a thing. I doubt anyone under 40 or non American even knows what Enron is (non American here), same with the investment banks merch, so no one is going to assume you're endorsing oil spills/accounting fraud, otoh wearing a swastika in any part of the western world will cause very different reactions. I mean, I get what the punks were trying to do, but I wouldn't do it myself.
And as you said, a lot of this is just performative - every so often for years before the Balenciaga outcry, I saw people wanting to boycott Chanel because old Coco was a Nazi collaborator.......which is fine, but even a cursory wiki (do people not google anymore?) shows that present-day Chanel is fully owned by the Wertheimers, descendants of the Jewish business partners she tried to sell out to the Nazis! There's far more poetic justice in that ownership than there would be in refusing to support a present-day Jewish-owned business because the long-dead woman who founded it had bad morals.
Definitely the most punk ‘sletter I’ve read here and thought-provoking in that. But sometimes I think we are what we wear, that sartorial choices act both externally and internally, exchanging energy and identity both outward and inward. Why else, for example, would an actor say for a Mike Leigh movie who is actually living as their character for months on end wear the clothes of their character while inhabiting their character’s house and going about their character’s daily routine versus their own actor clothes? So in that sense perhaps the blackpilled cursed is to be avoided? Or maybe avoidance is always too extreme and to be avoided itself so this is a comfortable, more nuanced, though confusing approach for me:
I’m currently in Paris and went to the Delacroix museum yesterday after being inspired by a fresco he painted that I saw at St. Sulpice the day before. In the fresco Jacob wrestles an angel. It’s huge, intriguing and eye-opening, right when you walk in the door. I’m not well-versed in the Bible or Torah but this story was a new one for me and a life-altering way, I think, for me to look at challenges. [I’m an atheist but] maybe sometimes it’s not (our or any) demons we’re fighting but (our or any) angels. For me this one momentous, movement-rich image shifted the paradigm of conflict completely.
At the Delacroix museum the thing that stuck with me was this quote from him: “Remember the enemy of all painting is grey.” He (obviously) was a master of color and in such pursuit also studied the power of black and white, a lot through making lithographs, many of literature that inspired him, mostly very, very bleak dark scenes from what I saw. So maybe when/if we wear these “blackpilled” cursed jawns it’s the grey ones of which we need to be most wary — the murk rather than that which we know to be putrid. Because, while I’ll personally prefer kindvibed color, if I choose to embody darkness in my attire by wearing a blackpilled jawn, if someone misunderstands my sense of humor or mission in doing so I have the opportunity to explain and point to the light. And they’ll get why I’m wearing it since, annoyingly, in today’s world sometimes cold irony is the master of all men. But if I’m donning some blackpilled murk without knowing why, well then I’m just a merch slave to the force of darkness…Though that which I thought a force of darkness might end up being an angel in disguise anyway?
This was a magnum opus of jawn theory! Recently I've been haunted by an exceedingly cursed yet hilarious tee that I saw on @shopspacecamp's IG story: a Raytheon Engineers & Constructors softball team jersey. It was an undeniably tasty garm with a henley collar, patina'd off-white body, washed out navy half sleeves, and a crackly logo. There's something fascinatingly dissonant about imagining America's foremost death dealers getting together and playing a friendly game of softball. I wonder if Satan ever throws corporate BBQs to show his appreciation for the demons that make Hell possible.
BBSP on point. Would love to hear or read a convo between Jonah / Erin and W. David Marx (author of Ametora / Status & Culture) on these and related kindvibed kultural kibitzes.
Incredible content SpyFriends as this has been a part of the zeitgeist recently. Time to rethink my eBay watch lists I’ve set for faltered finance behemoths.
I related to today's newsletter! I'm an investigative climate journalist and this year I published a book based on documents from a Canadian oil company owned by Exxon, Imperial Oil. While in Calgary, Alberta, on book tour I went to a thrift store and saw a quite cool Imperial bomber jacket, probably made in the mid 90s. I was going to buy and wear it to my book events but unfortunately there was a rip in the back. I liked the idea of fucking with people's expectations about the sort of clothes a climate journalist would wear, and to me it had potential for an ironic comment on greenwashing--ie someone like myself wearing this jacket would a ridiculous statement in favor of Big Oil, similar to the ridiculousness of an oil company claiming to be in favor of fixing the climate.
For my girlies who recently lost their prized possession: period panties. Due to Thinx being PFA positive it might be a fun time to rock some Dupont swag since they blessed us with the forever chemical.
Just want to acknowledge the thoughtful weaving and threading of ideas here, and the patient thought-scaffolding you build around a complex, protean subject matter. Still not sure what I think but I'm thinkin I'm thinkin differently having read it.
I think this is an interesting topic and one I ponder quite often, but it does feel like we haven’t quite addressed the most obvious factor in the jawn calculus: the impact. Whether you have fun, esoteric maxims towards your cursed garments, to the average person who is definitely not thinking much about what you’re wearing, it just reads as in poor taste. In which case, in some philosophical circles, you’ve still made the world worse despite your internal idea of reclaiming the symbol.
Top tier corporate/military industrial swag-
The Chapo bootleg Zapata oil hat
I told my wife about this article and she noted that it would be ridiculously cursed for her to wear the child smoking icon Joe Camel on her stuff given she's several months pregnant. SO METAL!!!!
This same allure led me to cop a Halliburton tshirt a number of years ago but tbh it just didn't work for me, the dark irony felt too put on. But the "anti" energy that I hold does still exist and is the root cause of the desire to hijack. An old friend of mine was in Africa in the 80s (I can't remember the country) and there were all of these incredible shirts that had a political leader on them who was quite polarizing. Vibrantly patterned they had a large image of his face on the back. When he lost the election the street sellers cut black "X"s and sewed them over his face, and then just continued to sell the shirts, but this time to his victorious supporters. This is a possible "hack for the hijack" for those of us who vehemently oppose these corporations. Time to start sewing.