I enjoy Virginia Postrel’s Deep Glamour website, and so I’ve been thinking about glamour with a bit more seriousness than I usually do. I tend to think of fashion as it pertains to intellectual, scientific, or academic pursuits, rather than of clothing fashions or glamour itself. Glamour and fashion are intertwined ideas, but separable without too much heavy unknotting.
Having said that, what’s the difference between fashion and glamour?
My New Oxford American Dictionary has glamour defined as
1. the attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing or special : the glamour of Monte Carlo | [as adj. ] the glamour days of Old Hollywood.
2. beauty or charm that is sexually attractive : George had none of his brother’s glamour.
3. archaic enchantment; magic : that maiden, made by glamour out of flowers.
And fashion is defined as
1. a popular trend, esp. in styles of dress and ornament or manners of behavior : his hair is cut in the latest fashion.
2. the production and marketing of new styles of goods, esp. clothing and cosmetics : [as adj. ] a fashion magazine.
3. a manner of doing something : the work is done in a rather casual fashion.
See, that wasn’t too hard. Bell bottoms, padded shoulders, and sideways baseball caps may be in fashion (or completely out of fashion). String Theory, no down payment loans, and staycations may be in fashion. One may find the latest fashions in clothing or cosmetics to be glamorous. Or ridiculous. One may find an activity or occupation glamourous. And we all know that there are glamourous people. Angelina Jolie, Richard Branson, and Tiger Woods come to mind. Virginia even had a couple of posts on the glamour of Candidate then President Obama.
I recall having a rather vigorous discussion with a friend about fashion cropping up in academic research. My friend heatedly insisted that there was no such thing, and then a little later in the conversation denigrated chaos theory as a fad. He was in grad school at the time. Evidently, my friend’s thinking was that nothing as frivolous as “fashion” could exist in academia, but fads and groupthink, well…. Some words are just too freighted with connotation to return to their limited, literal meanings. But what do you do when the meaning you want to convey is the literal meaning of a word? Find someone else to talk to, I suppose. And here we are.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
But I digress. I wanted to talk about the glamour of Twitter. This may sound odd, since I suspect most folks who are aware of Twitter associate it with gossip, trivia, the evanescent socializing of Youth, and impecunious women hoping to separate lonely men from their baht.
Glamour* concentrates what the Japanese call akogare: desire, longing, aspiration, and idealization, with a suggestion of the unattainable. Its promise of transformation and escape taps longings for whatever the audience finds absent in real life. The common desires to be beautiful, wealthy, or desired are particularly amenable to glamour. But there are many forms of desire, and thus of glamour, besides luxury and sex. The desires glamour expresses—for love, wealth, power, beauty, sex, adulation, friendship, fame, freedom, dignity, adventure, discovery, self-expression, or enlightenment—vary from person to person and culture to culture.
*From Deep Glamour
With that as a starting point, I’d like to say that Lance Armstrong, Tony Hawk, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Gaimen are quite glamourous as they come off on Twitter. Lance’s tweets during the Tour de France were mostly about his competitors and teammates, but there were often comments about the beautiful places he was staying – or speeding through. Tony Hawk seems like he’s always traveling to video game releases, or skateboarding competitions, or giving away skateboards. And I’ve blogged recently about Buzz Aldrin and his travels. One of his recent tweets was
Back in DC setting up meetings 2 talk about Space Policy and my plans 2 get us 2 Mars. Camped out at the Mayflower hotel for a little while.
It must be pretty cool to have people want to hear your ideas about how to get to Mars, there aren’t many people with the gravitas to contribute on that topic.
One of the pleasures of Twitter for me is getting the sense that there are a lot of people doing interesting things. We aren’t a nation of couch potatoes – well not all of us. The “minor celebrities” that I follow: Amber Benson (from BTVS), Felicia Day (same), Adam Savage (from Mythbusters), Penn Jillette (Penn and Teller, not sure he’s “minor”) all seem busy doing creative things, figuring out stuff, commenting on things. I realize that Twitter requires action, so saying that “everyone’s so productive and busy” is a bit like saying “all that loose change seems to fall under the street light.” Some busy folks only tweet a little. Karl Lagerfield and David Lynch don’t tweet that often. Of course, hordes of busy people don’t tweet at all.
So, Twitter gives me access to glamour. The glamour of “freedom, dignity, adventure, discovery, self-expression, enlightenment” more than fame or love or power or wealth. And that glamour is a source of inspiration for me. There are lots of creative folks doing cool stuff. Hey, maybe I can keep doing cool stuff, too.
It’s also a bit odd that I seek out those things. I think I have a pretty fair amount of them in my life already. Am I actually craving more of a good thing? If only I did that more often!
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