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Manque Generation


Without even venturing to the upper reaches of Fifth Avenue, I unreservedly despise the Metropolitan Museum's new Costume Institute exhibition, PUNK: Chaos to Couture, which purports to "examine punk's impact on high fashion from the movement's birth in the early 1970s through its continuing influence today."

To put it simply, there is nothing in this particular quadrant of the celestial universe more un-punk than a Met show on punk's impact on couture.

This is all you need to know about punk fashion: sometime in the late 70s, I saw Stiv Bators walk past me on the stairs at Max's in some kind of multi-layered leather jacket sarong with a red scarf and thought, "I gotta find something that like."

There is no punk fashion after that. By 1983, punk fashion was for marketers and those who'd missed it. Vivienne Westwood, the MRI for your soul beckons - perhaps some wisp may be seen on the resonance machine. But I doubt it.

For those who were there - and yeah, this is a fogey rant so bear with me kiddies - "punk fashion" was the most ephemeral thing in the world. Sure, the more manufactured of the British punks were studied collectors and McLaren tried his marketing bones (and went belly up) but all else was momentary experimentation. Otherwise it was thrift shop nonsense and passing fancy; fashion of the moment, by the moment, and for the moment.

The recreation of CBGB at the Met is like the faux Oval Office in George W. Bush's new Presidential library - there's an unsanitary stain on your soul if you're taken in by the exhibitor's artifice.

To quote my friend Al Giordano via his angry Facebook feed:

Why do some of my chums seem to crave "institutional endorsement" for something whose first beauty was its utter contempt for institutions and absolute disregard for their approval? Day in, day out, we are treated to bombastic NY Times "stories" on this stupid exhibit, people who should know better link to them and cheer them. Well, sit down all of ye and stare at this Bloomingdales ad (hat tip Jim Sullivan) and contemplate what *always* happens when institutions try to make something theirs. I hope someone tosses dollar bills off the balcony during tonight's exhibit opening to reveal the true colors of this porkfest and lay waste to its elite pretensions.

Please remember dear friends that the Met is one of my favorite New York institutions. I liked it back in those days too. But for different reasons. I guess you can't put your arms around a memory (and Johnny Thunders knew his way around fashion, bub), but today's fashion manques can try and sell some baubles from the days of yore.

Don't be the product, buy the product!