September 4th, 2008


Taxonomy of the Terry

The Joe bash at Ä last night turned out to be a 'stache stash -- the kids all have moustaches these days! Here's the one Joe's grown since arriving in Berlin, a pencil-thin affair:

And here are a couple of audience members. The guy on the right works for American Apparel, the guy on the left is rocking the "Terry Look".

The Terry Look refers, of course, to perve photographer Terry Richardson. I used to see him when I lived in New York in 2000 -- he'd be at Alleged Gallery openings on Washington Street. I remember thinking "What an unattractive looking man!" But the important thing was that Terry didn't look like anyone else at that point -- and for good reason; nobody else wanted to look like your funny bald working class uncle from 1976, some kind of ex-marine from Baltimore, with a plaid shirt, tattoos and a moustache. The look went back in time, and went down the social ladder.

That was soon to change, though. Terry's centrality in fashion, the romanticization of white working class styles, and the fact that this sleazy, unapologetic pervert romped with some of the world's most gorgeous women saw to that. When I met Jesse Pearson (editor of Vice magazine) in October 2007 he had the Terry-type moustache too. Last night, I looked around the room at Ä and played "spot the Terries". There were several, all with late 70s, early 80s glasses and moustaches. Terry's unattractive look had somehow become viral. And I found that, because I recognised its viral power, I no longer thought of it, reflexively, as ugly. I'd been rewired, reprogrammed. Now I was quite excited to recognize -- and collect -- Terries. It was an "official look" with a respectable cultural history -- a fashion-sociological fact.

Talking to Uli Westphal, the artist who made the Elephant Taxonomies chart which was my favourite work at this year's UDK Rundgang, I joked that I was going to make a similar chart about the spread of the fashion moustache: a Taxonomy of Terries.

The Taxonomy of Terries would take the form of a family tree. An image of the real Terry at the top would beget two imitation Terries, who in turn would beget four, eight and sixteen Terry lookalikes, until we'd reach the present, with possibly hundreds of thousands of Terry-types worldwide (and all sorts of Darwinian evolutions of the look -- the Terry with Ray Bans, the Terry whose moustache is a tattoo, the Japanese Terry).

Taxonomies are the subject of my latest piece for Spanish magazine Playground, which is called Down With Linnaeus! Actually, it's called Pasando de Linneo! on the site, which prints only the Spanish version of my column, so, as usual, I'll put the original English version here (under the cut). As you can see from the painting, Linnaeus himself had no moustache, but was, instead, an outrageous orientalist, rocking the Chinese Sage look.

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