Are you preggers and horny? How horny are pregnant women and why aren’t they thought of, especially by the fashion industry, as sexual beings? What does the prevalence of young White women getting knocked up by “persons of color” reveal about hipster fashion? Why is college a scam and how does it make people fat and stupid? Which nets a better return on investment, giving heroin users a $1000 a month or using that money to fund schools?
Read this book if you’ve ever thought that nearly everything you learned in school is bullshit. Read it if you want to know how the world really works. Read it for insights. Read it for laughs. Read it because you want to scream: “FUCK THIS SHIT!!!”
I owned a now defunct clothing store, The Privileged Poor. I opened it because I wanted to think about how Americans imagine and manage their identities vis-a-vis fashion choices and how these choices become meaningful. I also wanted to see what happens when we scramble identities.
The sorting system at a typical clothing store begins with gender. The segregation is spatial, with the Women’s section occupying this space, Men’s that space, the division clearly marked so Julio doesn’t embarrass himself. In these gendered spaces, products will be further sorted by apparel type (eg. sweaters, skirts, lounge wear, suits, shoes), which are then arranged systematically by sizes. Some other classifications include event (eg. bridesmaid, prom, beach party) or style (eg. J. Crew’s “Style At Every Age” campaign, which explicitly matches fashion sensibility with an age group).
Are such gendered spaces necessary? What’s their function? Julie already wears her boyfriend’s jeans, boxers, and button downs, why not make it easier for her to continue her style after he dumps her? Do we really need to tell Jimmy that his package isn’t going to fit well in those red thongs? My favorite pair of sweatpants was a boot-cut “Women’s” pair (discontinued) from Club Monaco that fit perfectly and didn’t make me look like a slob, as Men’s sweatpants usually do to men. I’d pair it with a soft and thin tail-less button down — also from Club Monaco — and accessorize with a simple canvas messenger bag and a well-trained Siberian Husky for a comfy lounge-wear look good enough to get me great service wherever I went shopping.
At The Privileged Poor, we got rid of gender distinctions and stopped sorting by apparel and size and instead organized clothing and accessories by identity. Ironic identities. For instance:
- The Bourgeois Bohemian
- The Pretentiously Frugal
- The Over-Educated Dirtbag
- The Redneck Poseur
- The Privileged Poor
- The Frat Boy Hippie
- The Champagne Socialist
We provided the pieces, re-branded in our own fucked up way. Where does that thick and coarse 1989 Bud Bowl T-shirt go, to the Redneck Poseur or the Frat Boy Hippie? The tagless soft cotton button down from who knows when and where except it came at a Third World cheap price, to the Bourgeois Bohemian or the Pretentiously Frugal? The point of this experiment was to give customers an opportunity to explore possibilities and put together an outfit, a persona — an *identity* — that enters and disrupts narratives of migration, alienation, and belonging. We wanted (American) customers to feel like immigrants — to try new and confusing identities, as immigrants often do — so they can reclaim their immigrant heritage, the essence of Americanhood.
This book — a collection of essays about American culture and politics — is divided into four parts. Part I, titled American Fashion, isn’t just about clothes and their accessories, it’s about what’s culturally fashionable. It begins with an eponymously titled satirical reading of American identity politics. Instead of asking why there aren’t more Black physicists and Asian basketball players, I wonder why the fashion industry treats horny pregnant women as non-existent and how we can change that. Suburban White Trash is the title and subject matter of chapter two, where the voice of an eighteen year old self-identified suburban White trash woman explains why high fashion begins not in hip cities but in overlooked suburban White trash communities. Chapter three, Why She Got Knocked Up, is a story about why the (White) girl next door got knocked up by a cholo and what that tells us about hipsters and American culture. Chapter four reviews 2019’s romantic comedy hit film, Crazy Rich Asians, and asks if it’s still fashionable to be an American.
Part II is titled and about Schools, because Americans have a fetish for them. Chapter five’s title asks “What if They Spend the Money on Heroin?” — a reference to 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s proposal to give a universal basic income of $1000/month to *all* Americans — to begin a discussion about the value of schools. Chapter six tells you How to Not Become Stupid in College by examining the history and original purpose of the University. Chapter seven, Free College is the Second Dumbest Idea Ever, shows how public policy’s fetishization of college as the solution to all social problems leads to social disaster. Chapter eight, College is a Scam, draws parallels between the Catholic Church and the University. College Makes People Fat and Stupid, the title of Chapter nine, provides more examples of how college is a bad option for nearly all people. Chapter ten lists How We Can Improve Schools Without Spending More Money.
Part III is about Resumes, how Americans are taught to write them and what they reveal about the typical American psyche. We approach this topic didactically, beginning with chapter eleven, Notes on How to Write a Resume. Chapter twelve, Boy Wants Job to Get Laid, is an example of how I think resumes should be written, which is the opposite of what they teach in school. Chapters 13-15 shows you how to write a resume like the one in chapter twelve.
Part IV is about American Politics. Chapter sixteen, Notes on the 2020 Sino-US Trade War, examines the impetus for the aforementioned trade war and what it reveals about how Americans pereceive themselves and the world. Chapter seventeen, Passage of Seattle 15 Minimum Wage: Notes and Predictions (from 2014) examines the assumptions of the Democratic Socialist wave in American politics. We end with Chapter eighteen, Notes on the 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang, to dissect his key proposal — Universal Basic Income of $1000/month to all American citizens ages 18-64.
While the placement of chapters aren’t random, each essay can be read independently of the others. Comments are welcome and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.