Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Truth in streetwear (an art critique)

In 1929, Belgian artist René Magritte exhibited a painting of a pipe with the moniker “This is not a pipe”.

This is not only one of the most famous pictures in the history of art, but an interesting philosophical paradox to ponder. A bit like a zen koan, perhaps.

Oh, and the pipe was really beautiful, so like the best avant-garde art it also has a an element of beauty that can be appreciated even if you’re not the type who likes discussing art theory while wearing black turtlenecks.

But let's get to the point. A few weeks ago, while waddling around the streets of Oslo, Lord Bassington-Bassington passed by one of the city's leading purveyors of so-called “streetwear”, i.e. clothes for people who like wearing baby clothes after they have graduated from kindergarden. In the window of this establishment His Lordship spied a selection of footwear whose large slogans – unusually annoying and aesthetically abrasive even for a style of clothing that makes people wear shirts which proclaim that they're “porn stars” – caught his attention.

While obviously a nod to Magritte, these statements represent what is called, in Internet parlance, an “epic fail”. So Lord Bassington-Bassington feels the need to try his paw as an art critic and explain why. For, as His Lordship usually says, “I might not know much about art, but I know what shoes I like”.

The footwear-borne Magritte homage fails for two reasons.

1. It’s been done before. If you’re going to set up shop in the cultural wasteland that avant-garde art has been for decade upon decade now, the least you can do is try to be original.

2. The statement “this is not a shoe” upon these pieces of footwear is not a paradox, as a canvas-made, rubber-soled pair of Converse have virtually nothing to do with shoes in the first place.

No, this is most emphatically not a shoe.

This, however, is a shoe.

Instead of an interesting philosophical paradox, what the people over at Converse have given us is a rare instance of truth in advertising. I guess we here at the Chronicles should be thankful for that small mercy. Perhaps we could look forward to other forms of streetwear being emblazoned with similar slogans? Do our readers have any suggestions?


  1. Oooh! Love Magritte. As coincidance has it we were just talking about the pipe yesterday...awesome! And as for the cons who claim that they ain't shoes...I prefer to ignore this from now on.

  2. Have they not heard of Brogues?! You expect me to visit this TOWN!