Friday, April 25, 2014


"Mad as a hatter" is a colloquial phrase used in conversation to refer to a crazy person. In 18th and 19th century Englandmercury was used in the production of felt, which was used in the manufacturing of hats common of the time. People who worked in these hat factories were exposed daily to trace amounts of the metal, which accumulated within their bodies over time, causing some workers to develop dementia caused by mercury poisoning (called mad hatter syndrome), symptoms which include excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self confidence, anxiety and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive.  Thus, the phrase became popular as a way to refer to someone who was perceived as insane.

The Hatter (called Hatta in Through the Looking-Glass) is a fictional character inLewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the story's sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He is often referred to as the Mad Hatter, though this term was never used by Carroll. The phrase "mad as a hatter" pre-dates Carroll's works and the characters the Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as "both mad" by the Cheshire Cat, with both first appearing in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled "A Mad Tea-Party.

Luckily I do not have the classic symptoms of a mad hatter, so as they say 'IF THE HAT DON'T FIT, THEN YOU MUST ACQUIT".



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

To wear or not to wear a church hat, is the question

Monica Moss wearing one of her great-aunt’s hats at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. CreditNathan Weber for The New York Times

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When Lydia Calviness died two years ago at the age of 93, she bequeathed her church hats to her grandniece Monica Moss. Genealogically speaking, Ms. Moss did not qualify as the closest female relative. Ms. Calviness had arranged the inheritance because Ms. Moss, like her, was what the lexicon of black Christianity calls a “first lady” — the pastor’s wife.
Touched as she was by the gesture, Ms. Moss fretted about what to do with those dozen hats. Felt and wool and straw, pink and green and gold, adorned with bands and flowers, they typified the kind of grand headwear known in the black church as a “crown.” More than any article of female attire, such a hat served simultaneously as fashion statement, religious obligation and emblem of self-worth.
The quandary for Ms. Moss was that, while she hallowed the tradition, she did not personally adhere to it, at least not on a regular basis. A half-century younger than her great-aunt, Ms. Moss stood on the opposite shore of a generational divide among black churchwomen, part of a younger cohort that considers the crown optional or even irrelevant to its worship experience.
“Hats are far more nostalgic than practical in my life,” said Ms. Moss, 43, an educator and health coach whose husband, the Rev. Otis Moss III, leads8,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. “On my great-aunt, they looked like what she should be wearing. It was about looking royal and regal and appropriate. On me, when I do try to wear them, people think I’m trying to be edgy and vintage. It doesn’t have the same impact.”
More to the point, making the same kind of impact may not matter as much to African-American women from their 20s through middle age even as they prepare for Easter. Changes in education, economics, hairstyles and church aesthetics have all diminished the once-essential role of the church hat.
The scriptural basis for the tradition resides in I Corinthians 11, which declares that “every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head” (New International Version). Even more relevant for African-Americans of both genders was the pervasive degradation and humiliation inflicted upon them by slavery, segregation and racism. To get decked out for church — suit, tie and pocket square for a man; stylish dress and coordinated hat for a woman — was to assert one’s dignity as a citizen and one’s value as a child of God.
Given such a profound purpose, it is hardly surprisingly that the church hat became staple in all its swooping, feathered grandeur. The 2000 photo book “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats,” featured a foreword by Maya Angelou and was adapted for the stage by Regina Taylor. The collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which will open this year, includes several dozen hats made by the renowned Philadelphia milliner Mae Reeves.
Outside museum doors, however, the atmosphere around the black church has been shifting. The educational and professional opportunities opened up by civil rights legislation and the diversity movement have meant, for an increasing number of black men and women, that dressing up is now a Monday-through-Friday requirement, not a Sunday morning ritual of auto-emancipation.
That transformation can be distilled into the experience of Kimberla Lawson Roby, the author of a best-selling series of novels about a black pastor. Ms. Roby’s grandmother, Mary Tennin, grew up in Mississippi as a sharecropper with a sixth-grade education. Moving in her 50s to Illinois, where Ms. Roby was raised, Ms. Tennin never went to church without a hat. Ms. Roby, on the other hand, does not even own one.
“By the time I began working in corporate America after college, when my grandmother was still alive, I was wearing a suit to work every day,” said Ms. Roby, 48, whose latest novel, “The Prodigal Son,” will be published next month. “And if I wore one to church, my grandmother would look at me as maybe that’s not fancy enough. She felt if I am O.K. for getting dressed up to go to work every day, then I should dress even better for worshiping God.”
The Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook, 57, one of the nation’s leading black female ministers as well as a former diplomat on religious freedom for the Obama administration, recalled that about 80 percent of the churchwomen during her New York childhood wore hats.
“We used to choose our seat by what the size of the hat in front of us was,” she said, “to make sure you could see the pulpit.”
Yet in the churches that she has pastored during the last 20 years, probably 80 percent of women did not wear hats. One of Dr. Cook’s ministerial specialties was a noontime midweek service in Lower Manhattan, which drew worshipers from Wall Street, law firms and municipal offices, where business attire prevailed.
At the church Dr. Cook now attends in suburban Washington, the pastor called for a “dress-down Easter” this year to keep the attention on faith rather than fashion.
“We’ve tried to be a generation,” she said, “about what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside.”
The fashion impulse has not vanished; it has taken a different form. Black women tend to treat their hair rather than their hats as an artist’s canvas. And having spent hundreds of dollars on braids or extensions, sometimes upward of a thousand on elaborate weaves, younger black women want the handiwork visible. In their way, they are simply abiding by a piece of black folk wisdom: “Don’t hide your light under a bushel basket.”
Purveyors of the classic church hat do remain. One of them is the Harlem’s Heaven Hat Boutique, where the owner, Evetta Petty, pronounced business brisk heading into Easter. These days, women buying her church hats (priced from $49 to $800) have a newly prominent, highly visible inspiration, Ms. Petty reported.
No, the role model for millinery is not Michelle Obama. The nation’s first lady has been regularly photographed going to church hatless. But since the royal wedding three years ago, Ms. Petty said, “It’s very interesting to me that young black women are coming in now and wanting that Kate Middleton look for going to church.”

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What is normcore trend

Calling these clothing items part of a trend or an inside joke misses the point.
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Normcore (noun) 1. A fashion movement, c. 2014, in which scruffy young urbanites swear off the tired street-style clichés of the last decade — skinny jeans, wallet chains, flannel shirts — in favor of a less-ironic (but still pretty ironic) embrace of bland, suburban anti-fashion attire. (See Jeans, mom. Sneakers, white.)
2. A sociocultural concept, c. 2013, having nothing to do with fashion, that concerns hipster types learning to get over themselves, sometimes even enough to enjoy mainstream pleasures like football along with the rest of the crowd.
3. An Internet meme that turned into a massive in-joke that the news media keeps falling for. (See below).
A little more than a month ago, the word “normcore” spread like a brush fire across the fashionable corners of the Internet, giving name to a supposed style trend where dressing like a tourist — non-ironic sweatshirts, white sneakers and Jerry Seinfeld-like dad jeans — is the ultimate fashion statement.
As widely interpreted, normcore was mall chic for people — mostly the downtown/Brooklyn creative crowd — who would not be caught dead in a shopping mall. Forget Martin Van Buren mutton chops; the way to stand out on the streets of Bushwick in 2014, apparently, is in a pair of Gap cargo shorts, a Coors Light T-shirt and a Nike golf hat.
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Normcore vs. Fauxcore

Normcore: New Balance Classics M574, imported. $64.95 on Zappos.
Fauxcore: New Balance 998 for J. Crew, made in Skowhegan, Me. $160 on
 Left to right:; J. Crew
Regardless of how insular the concept may be (Stop the presses! People are dressing in normal clothes!), the idea has spread far beyond the 718 area code. A Google search of normcore now yields about 559,000 results. Fashion publications like Lucky have offered normcore shopping guides brimming with velour pants and Teva sandals. Even the French were quick to give “le normcore” a kiss-kiss on both cheeks, as if it were the Jerry Lewis of American style trends.
A style revolution? A giant in-joke? At this point, it hardly seems to matter. After a month-plus blizzard of commentary, normcore may be a hypothetical movement that turns into a real movement through the power of sheer momentum.
Even so, the fundamental question — is normcore real? — remains a matter of debate, even among the people who foisted the term upon the world.
The catchy neologism was coined by K-Hole, a New York-based group of theoretically minded brand consultants in their 20s, as part of a recenttrend-forecasting report, “Youth Mode: A Report on Freedom.” Written in the academic language of an art manifesto, the report was conceived in part as a work of conceptual art produced for a London gallery, not a corporate client.
As envisioned by its creators,“normcore” was not a fashion trend, but a broader sociological attitude. The basic idea is that young alternative types had devoted so much energy to trying to define themselves as individuals, through ever-quirkier style flourishes like handlebar mustaches or esoteric pursuits like artisanal pickling, that they had lost the joy of belonging that comes with being part of the group. Normcore was about dropping the pretense and learning to throw themselves into, without detachment, whatever subcultures or activities they stumbled into, even if they were mainstream. “You might not understand the rules of football, but you can still get a thrill from the roar of the crowd at the World Cup,” the report read. The term remained little more than a conversation starter for art-world cocktail parties until New York magazine published a splashy trend story on Feb. 24 titled “Normcore: Fashion for Those Who Realize They’re One in 7 Billion.” The writer, Fiona Duncan, chronicled the emergence of “the kind of dad-brand non-style you might have once associated with Jerry Seinfeld, but transposed on a Cooper Union student with William Gibson glasses.” An accompanying fashion spread dug up real-life L-train denizens rocking mall-ready Nike baseball caps and stonewashed boyfriend jeans without apparent shame.
Even so, it was difficult to tell if anyone actually believed the hype. For one thing, the normcore brain trust started to circle the wagons. Christopher Glazek, a journalist and friend of the K-Hole founders took to Facebook to blow holes in the “trend.” “It doesn’t really make sense to identify normcore as a fashion trend,” he wrote. “The point of normcore is that you could dress like a Nascar mascot for a big race and then switch to raver ware for a long druggie night at the club.”
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Normcore Hall of Fame

Jerry Seinfeld has been called many things, but a fashion avatar is not one of them — until now.
A little over a month ago, few people had heard the term “normcore.” But thanks to a molasses-sticky name that seemed ready-made for hashtags, this easy-to-grasp, easy-to-parody concept — referring to the supposed embrace of a hyper-normal sartorial blandness by the young urban creative set — has emerged as the Next Big Thing in fashion. Unless, of course, it’s a complete joke.
In the event it is not, however, it may be time to clear out the closet of those $300 selvage jeans and make room for the latest (actually, oldest) flourishes of anti-style made famous by these six normcore icons.
Jerry Seinfeld The white Nikes. The burgundy button-downs. It all adds up to the spiritual father of normcore.
 Sony Pictures Television
Ms. Duncan, too, seemed to chafe under her de facto role as the high priestess of normcore. In a Facebook comment, later removed, she complained that her original take on normcore had been boiled down by her editors from a more sociological foray, à la K-Hole, into a narrow fashion piece. “I considered killing the piece every time it came back w/ more fashion, less reflection,” she wrote.
It hardly mattered. Normcore had taken on a life of its own.
Within days of the article, GQ magazine used the term to describe an emergent frump-chic look that was detectable in high fashion: “Men’s wear designers like Patrik Ervell and Louis Vuitton’s Kim Jones have taken the classic Patagonia Retro-X fleece jacket and made it luxe. Birkenstocks aren’t just a fashion statement, they’ve got designer collaborations.”
Online, the normcore-spotting of celebrities — Adam Sandler in Adidas training pants, Jimmy Kimmel in an untucked dress shirt — became sport. It got so out of hand that someone created the Google Chrome extension No More #NORMCORE, which blocks references to the term.
Predictably, a normcore backlash was soon brewing. In an post called “Why the ‘Normcore’ Phenomenon is a Fraud,” Lauren Sherman described it as ’90s retro dressed up in ideological drag. “Dressing like an uncool dad is in the fiber of hipster culture,” she wrote. “It’s just that, until now, the ’70s and early ’80s were the go-to reference point. Now that the ’90s are coming into play, adults who were teenagers during that era distinctly recall living among Jerry Seinfelds clad in white sneakers and ill-fitting jeans.”
But the backlash only served to reinforce the trend, as normcore continued to metastasize beyond fashion circles.
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Normcore Street-Style

CreditLee Oliveira
The website for Dazed and Confused, the British style magazine, attempted to answer the musical question “What does Normcore sound like?” (Think of Devonté Hynes, Sean Nicholas Savage and Fleetwood Mac.) Car and Driver offered “The 5 Most Normcore Automobiles” (they selected five Toyota Camry models).
Like a mass sociological experiment, the question now is whether repetition, at a certain point, makes reality. Even those who coined the phrase concede that normcore has taken on a life of its own. “If you look through #normcore on Twitter or Instagram, people are definitely posting pictures of that look,” said Gregory Fong, a K-Hole founder. “Whether they believe it’s real or a joke, it’s impossible to say, but it’s there and it’s happening.”
It certainly seems to be. Sort of.
Style watchers at some of New York’s trendier boutiques are getting glimpses. “There’s always a hunger to find the next thing, start a new movement, and you can see a little bit of that in the normcore movement — the light washes and the Jesus sandals coming back,” said Matthew Breen, a founder of Carson Street Clothiers in SoHo. “I think it’s a complete media creation,” he added. “But the second GQ writes about it, then it becomes a trend.”
Francesca Grosso, a manager at Opening Ceremony in SoHo, said she had never heard anyone mention normcore on the sales floor, but still, she said she saw influences on the streets. “It’s girls wearing Timberlands, wearing household brands, putting things together that are normal — mom jeans, boyfriend jeans,” she said.
It is even more obvious in Brooklyn, said Thomas Hall, a bearded, tattoo-covered 30-year-old who lives in East Williamsburg and sells $400 Japanese raw denim jeans for a living. “Just walking around my neighborhood, you see a lot of kids like that — white sneakers, really washed-out jeans, really ugly leather baseball hats,” he said. “It’s pretty awful.”
Are they ahead of him on the fashion curve? Hopelessly behind him? The first question is whether they are on their way to a job whipping up absinthe-infused cocktails at Freemans, or grilling bacon-Cheddar burgers at TGI Friday’s.