Martin Amis, an Exquisite Velvet Fop

Cover of Interzone 110, August 1996. Drawing of David Langford from Interzone 110, depicting him as a bust in a futuristic bar, gazing benignly over two drinkers in the foreground.

Other writers present included Brian Aldiss, John Brosnan, Chris Evans, Harry Harrison, Rob Holdstock, Roz Kaveney, Christopher Priest and Andrew Stephenson — all of whom invariably gravitated to a pub and swapped fond anecdotes about Richard. One that he used to tell himself concerned his first day at Oxford, when after lengthily gathering courage he stepped out of his college room to be confronted by an exquisite fop in a velvet suit, cape, and broad-brimmed aesthete's hat, who sneered and passed by. Deeply conscious of his jeans and t-shirt, Richard retreated to his room and (he claimed) stayed there for three days. The other chap proved to be Martin Amis.
"Ansible Link", Interzone 110 (August 1996) by David Langford

This excerpt, from David Langford's news-and-gossip column "Ansible Link", refers to the funeral of Richard Evans, senior science-fiction editor at Gollancz. "Fop" has pejorative overtones; and since Langford is an author, critic, and editor, words are his business. If "fop" was his choice of word, he intended these overtones. But why?

It rains almost every day in Britain, so broad-brimmed hats are very practical. More so than umbrellas, which I loathe. They poke into eyes, monopolise a hand, and leave themselves behind on buses. Hats do none of these.

Practical too are capes. Superheroes revere them because they excite the brain region which recognises raptors. But I enjoy their convenience. I have a long navy-blue cape labelled Selfridges Schoolwear, bought for £10 at the local market. It must be at least 40 years old, and we think it was intended for a teenager at a posh public school. It's made of felted wool, goes over anything, and I wore it a lot while the Beast From The East was raging. Covering the arms completely, it's warmer than a coat, and experience showed that it's great at keeping off snow.

Some capes are beautiful. The one below is Turkish. It's gathered at the shoulders, and falls in a way which smooths out one's bumps and hollows much as does a jacket. In his student days, Evans would have smoothed out the bumps and hollows in his walls by covering them with posters (probably of the Athena Tennis Girl); why object to Martin Amis doing likewise for his body? Wearing jeans, on the other hand, makes your legs more lumpy, and often stumpy and dumpy too.
Maroon embroidered velvet Turkish cape

I enjoy the feel and the light-effects of velvet, so I own other velvet clothes. And these include a velvet suit by RiteRhode: maroon with flared trousers. I've also got a jacket-and-harem-pants suit in silver silk velvet, made for me in Morocco. Henry Cavendish is said to have favoured a velvet suit, and if that's good enough for the man who explained latent heat, measured the density of the Earth, and isolated hydrogen and argon, it's good enough for me. Since he also researched the spectrum, he probably enjoyed velvet's sheen and shimmer.

Indeed, you needn't search far to find websites advertising velvet cushions under brand names such as "Champagne", "Luxury", and "Opulence". But did anybody ever dare sell a cushion in denim? There's a cat poem one of whose verses runs:

For from that day I ceased to be
The master of my destiny,
While she, with purr and velvet paw
Became within my house the law.

Not, please note, "and denim paw".

The standards applied to clothes are very different from those applied to similar materials and decorations in domains such as interior design. That is strange, and a shame.

Pages from the Oxford Book of Tourists

I once made an American tourist very happy. I walked near her with my camera, and pretended to take her photo. I then told her that she'd been specially selected to feature in the Oxford Book of Tourists. She was ecstatic. I did more for the Special Relationship that year than anybody else except perhaps Tony Blair agreeing to support whatever war the US wanted to get on with.

That was a practical joke: as far as I know, there is no Oxford Book of Tourists. At least, Google finds only two occurrences, both mine. But I think there should be, on the same principle that one can learn about other parts of the solar system by studying meteorites. Here's a group of tourists that I photographed in Ship Street in Oxford yesterday:
Group of drab tourists in Ship Street, Oxford.

And here's a collage of tourists made last September, from my photos here:
Groups of drab tourists in central Oxford.

Chromophobia, it seems, is world-wide.

Real Girls Don’t Wear Trousers

Cover of a Topper annual

There is no date on this Topper annual, but I suspect it was published in the early '60s.
A Nancy strip near the end of the Topper annual. See the description below.

Description

Sluggo is walking through town, past a few houses, leafy gardens, and shops. In the first frame, he is glancing at a woman carrying parcels. She is wearing trousers. He is annoyed. An exclamation mark appears in a speech bubble above his head.

In the second frame, Sluggo sees another two women in trousers, his face scrunched up in irritation. In the third, yet another. He says, "I hate women in slacks." In the fourth frame, he sees two more women in front of a shop window, and he continues, "That's all you see these days."

Most of the women seem to be shopping. In the fifth frame, Sluggo passes two more carrying parcels and says, "Phooey!" In the sixth, there's a group of three gathered on the pavement, one showing a package to the other two. Sluggo remarks, "Why do they want to dress like men?"

The seventh frame shows Nancy in a yellow coat and red trousers, standing proudly with hands on hips. Sluggo shouts "YOU TOO?" and stomps off.

And in the final frame, Nancy is on the right of an open space near a tree. Sluggo walks to the left leading his dog. The dog is wearing Sluggo's trousers on its hind legs, and Sluggo a short print skirt. Astonished, Nancy stares.

The Power of Colour

Cover of 'Talking Fashion'.

The pieces from your collections that are motley-coloured probably don't sell as well as the more toned down, plain or pastel coloured ones?

Quite the contrary. You could even say: the stronger, the better. Customers who come to me want colour. People who prefer something discreet or black, well, they can go to other designers — Rick Owens or Damir Doma for example. In any case, if I do something black — which happens from time to time — it's hardly sold. But of course, it can be difficult to be taken seriously if you dress very colourfully, at least in Western societies. I think that's very stupid, because actually it's a sign of strength if you wear a bright red suit or a bright orange suit instead of a black one. You're making a statement. People will look at you differently, and that's a powerful moment, because you're forcing them to position yourself in relation to you.

From an interview with Walter Van Beirendonck, in Talking Fashion by Jan Kedves, Prestel Verlag, 2013.

Pavement Pleasure

Badges with the words 'Pavement Pleasure' on.

Pavement pleasure means dressing so as to please other people on the pavement. Today, I got three pavement-pleasure compliments. The first was from a member of staff in my local Costa, who told me she always admired my fashion sense, and particularly liked what I was wearing now. The second happened a few minutes later, when I was sitting in the foyer of the Tesco next door. A group of Americans came past, and one touched the sleeve of my coat, and said "Very nice!". And the third was a few minutes later than that, in the same Tesco, when another man came past and told me he loved my colourfulness and that it had brightened up his whole day. So to people who say "I can't carry it off", my reply is, "Experience proves that you can."

What I was wearing: purple full-length sarouel; brilliant blue wool jersey; purple velvet coat; green silk scarf; green Jaeger hat.
Purple velvet coat, green hat, green scarf, blue jersey, and purple sarouel.

Primark and the Spectrum Suckers III: Four Browns, Two Greys, and a Black

Here's a TinEye colour extraction for my Primark photo from "Primark and the Spectrum Suckers". Four browns, two greys, and a black.
Colour palette from TinEye for the photo of Primark used in 'Primark and the Spectrum Suckers', with a copy of the photo reduced to that set of colours. The palette contains four shades of brown, two shades of grey, and a black.

For comparison, here is the palette for mud .
Colour palette from TinEye for a Wikipedia photo of dirt and mud. The palette contains two shades of brown and a shade of grey.

Extracted from the photograph at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Dirt_and_Mud_007_-_Mud.jpg, credited to user 0x0077BE.

Primark and the Spectrum Suckers II: Visualising Clothing Colours as a 3D Cloud of Points

    In my post "Primark and the Spectrum Suckers", I imagined white light passing through a Primark shop and exiting as a spectrum made entirely from grey:
    Two pictures in one image. The first is a prism with light going through and forming a spectrum, labelled 'PRISM'. The second is the same prism with an interior photo of the Oxford Westgate Primark shop superimposed. It is labelled 'PRIMARK'. The light coming out is the same spectrum as for the first prism, but grey, not coloured.

    My collage was inspired by the stunningly dreary Primark in the new Westgate shopping centre in Oxford. I'm sure it's obvious that I made the grey "spectrum" by monochromaticising the one in the upper half of the collage, which I'd taken from some free clip-art. But how could I produce a real picture of the colour distribution? I've been looking for tools, and found one recently whose output I'll show. As this is also related to an article I'll post next week about generating colour schemes — including green and purple colour schemes — I've decided to write about colour distributions today.

    One standard tool for displaying colour distributions is the two-dimensional colour histogram. Here's one for the Primark photo from the collage. I made it in Gimp, free image-processing software that I use for editing photos and a host of other things, including retouching cartoons.
    Photo of Primark shop from the above collage, with a colour histogram superimposed.

    Such histograms are easy to produce, but as David Tschumperlé explains in "Visualizing the 3D point cloud of RGB colors", they have disadvantages. He displays a photo of the Swedish model Lena Söderberg, and another photo edited so that the green channel has been reflected around the X-axis, and the blue around the Y-axis. The second photo appears to have much more green, but its histogram is exactly the same as the first photo's.

    But there are other ways to plot colour distributions, using the idea that because we have three colour components, we can represent them as points in three-dimensional space. Take any pixel, and express it as so much red, so much green, and so much blue. This gives us three numbers, each between 0 and 1. A pixel that's black would be (0,0,0); one that's white would be (1,1,1); and one that's pure red would be (1,0,0). Treat these as a point, and plot it. Repeat for all the pixels. This gives us a cloud of points lying within a cube. To display the distribution of colours, colour each point with its actual colour; to display the number of occurrences, give each point a colour that represents these. These, as David Tschumperlé says, give us more information about the global variety of colour in the image, and the local dispersion of tones around each point.

    There are examples for Lena and other images in David's article. Here are some of my own, made using Kai Uwe Barthel's Color Inspector 3D. Each of these shows an image and the corresponding distribution cube.
    Colour-distribution cube for a red square. There's a red
dot at the (1,0,0) corner of the cube.
    Colour-distribution cube for a green square. There's a red
dot at the (0,1,0) corner of the cube.
    Colour-distribution cube for a red square next to a green square. There's a
red dot at the (1,0,0) corner of the cube, and a green dot at the
(0,1,0) corner.
    Colour-distribution cube for a red square next to a thin green rectangle. There's a red dot at the (1,0,0) corner of the cube, and a green dot at the
(0,1,0) corner.
    Colour-distribution cube for my logo. There's a spray of green, purple, and pink, fanning out from the (0,0,0) corner.
    Colour-distribution cube for orange sarouel and ice-blue shirt. There are two 'bananas' going from near the black corner to near the white corner. One is blue, the other orange.

    In the first image, all the pixels are pure red. So strictly speaking, we'd end up with just one point, at the position (1,0,0), the red corner of the distribution cube. Color Inspector 3D has made a small dot rather than a point, probably to make the results easier to see. The second image is all green, so we get its counterpart: a cube with a green dot at (0,1,0), the green corner.

    The third and fourth images show what happens for more than one colour, in this case pure red and pure green. We get a red dot and a green dot.

    And the fifth and sixth images show results for two realistic images. One is for my logo, which is from this Oakland velvet waistcoat. The other is for my orange qandrissi and ice-blue shirt.

    Note that in the third and fourth images, the results are the same regardless of the proportions of red and green. I have a reason for mentioning this, and it's to do with "anti-aliasing". Look at this:
    Colour-distribution cube for a red line. There's a red dot at the (1,0,0) corner of the cube, and other dots on a diagonal leading to the white corner, (1,1,1).

    What I did here was to get the colour-distribution cube for a red line. But if it's red, why are there those increasingly white dots leading down to the white corner of the cube? I suspect the reason is that to counteract the relatively low resolution of the line, the drawing program (Gimp, but other programs would do the same) gives pixels at the edge of the line colours intermediate between the line and its background. In this case, various shades of reddish-white. This is called anti-aliasing. You can see this in this zoomed-in portion of the line:
    The red line enlarged. On its edges are paler, reddish-white, pixels. As the distribution plots don't record how many pixels of each colour they see, these few intermediate pixels have as much impact on the display as the pure red ones.

    I didn't start today's post with the intent of writing a graphics tutorial. But I noticed these unexpected intermediate colours when analysing example coloured images I'd drawn, and decided I'd better understand where they come from, because they could mislead. I don't know whether similar artefacts could arise in other ways, for example when resizing JPEG files. But I'm fairly sure that some of my images will be affected by the following. Some of my clothing pictures are ones where I've separated the clothing from its background. But it's hard to do so perfectly, so there are minute remnants of background clinging to their borders. This seems likely to bias the distributions, perhaps by giving them tails that shade off towards black.

    With that out of the way, let's look at Primark. Here's my original photo:
    The photo used in 'Primark and the Spectrum Suckers'. Interior of the Primark shop in the Westgate Shopping Centre, Oxford. If the photo seems rather "chewy", it's because the original suffered from motion blur, which I reduced by using Focus Magic. I didn't want to stand around with a tripod, and my camera isn't sensitive enough for a fast point-and-shoot response to indoor lighting.

    And here's the colour distribution:
    Colour-distribution cube for the photo of the Primark shop used in 'Primark and the Spectrum Suckers'. It's a moderately loose diagonal line,
stretching from the black corner to the white corner. There are a few dots of red, green, and blue further out.

    So what do we have? It's a moderately loose diagonal line, stretching from the black corner to the white corner. There are a few dots of red, green, and blue further out. These, I suspect, come not from the clothes, but from their labels.

    It's rather sad that the labels on the socks are the most colourful thing in the shop.
    Detail from the photo used in 'Primark and the Spectrum Suckers'. The sock rack in the Primark shop in the Westgate Shopping Centre, Oxford.

    Footnotes

    "Visualizing the 3D point cloud of RGB colors", Open Source Graphics, by David Tschumperlé, 24 February 2018.
    http://opensource.graphics/tag/color-distribution/

    I used Color Inspector 3D by Kai Uwe Barthel. This is a Java program, packaged as a JAR file: something rather like a zip file, containing all the program components. On Windows 10, I was able to run it by following Kai's instructions: download ColorInspector3D.jar from the link, and double click on it. This requires the computer to have Java, which the one I'm using must have got. Once you've started the program, click "File" and then "Open", and select an image. Its colour cube should then appear. I found that the program failed on very big images, and I had to reduce their size.
    https://imagej.nih.gov/ij/plugins/color-inspector.html

Dress Reform, Architecture, and Modernism

In my last post, I wrote about Daniel Miller's paper on the anthropology of drabness in clothing: "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?". He examined four possible reasons for the current epidemic of dreary dress: the fashion industry; historical precedent; modernism; and shopping habits. (To the philosopher in the front row who has just shouted out that historical precedent is not the kind of thing that can be termed a cause, I should explain that there, Miller was looking at previous turnings toward drabness, and whether their explanations threw any light on what's happening today.) I summarised what Miller wrote about three of these, but left out modernism. I felt his analysis thereof merited a post of its own, rather than getting buried amongst lots of other discussion.

Also, I wanted to experiment with animation. Miller discusses the book White Walls and Designer Dresses by Mark Wigley (1995), who traces the links between dress reform and architecture. By drawing a diagram of how ideas spread and mutated as they diffused outwards from dress reform, and successively unhiding it from its centre, I thought I could make this easy to understand.

Unfortunately, this was not straightforward. I couldn't find any software that lets me arrange text and images nicely, while at the same time displaying links between them, and defining an order in which to reveal elements. I looked at lots of things, including mind-map creators (Mindmap Maker is one that's free and easy to use), Microsoft PowerPoint, network-visualisation packages such as vis.js, and animated GIFs of hand-drawn cartoons. None did what I wanted. Since I know how to write web pages using CSS stylesheets and the JavaScript language, these seemed the easiest solution: at least the web browser would give me typography and text layout free. So that's what I did. I had to write some code to progressively reveal blocks of text and images, and more to draw arrows between blocks. Anyone interested can find them at the end of this post.

Having made my animation, and tested it on a stand-alone web page, I then found that it didn't display as I wanted when I copied the HTML into this blog. Probably WordPress styles were interfering. Also, it needs a nice wide window area to spread out the diagram in, and my current WordPress theme usurps a lot of the space for past blog posts and other things. So I've kept it as a stand-alone web page, also called "Dress Reform, Architecture, and Modernism".

Beware. Anyone writing a serious analysis of this stuff should not depend on my animation: it's a summary of a summary, it mixes causation with passage of time, it's grossly oversimplified, and I'm not an expert. Read Daniel Miller's text, and then Mark Wigley's book.

The two paragraphs of Daniel Miller's that I was animating, I've included below. These are only part of his discussion of modernism, which can be found under the section heading "Interrogating the Third Suspect — Modernism" in the web page I already linked to, "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?".

Fortunately, in contrast to Chromophobia, there is a book with a less succinct title, but quite excellent in its substantive content called, White Walls and Designer Dresses by Mark Wigley (1995). This makes precisely this argument for the centrality of leaching to the modern movement, but does so with considerable and impressive scholarship and through making an unexpected, but convincing, link between the histories of clothing and of architecture. Wigley starts from the pervasive presence of white walls in modern architecture. His argument is that these are supposed to be neutral and silent but actually speak volumes about the attempt to assert certain hegemonic values through modernism. He shows how white, and I think we can add black, is not a neutral absence but often an assertive presence. Tracing back its source, he sees a powerful influence upon architects such as Le Corbusier to be found in earlier dress reform movements. It was in dress reform that there developed a clear ideal of rationalism applied to aesthetic form. Rationality seen as both the ends and means of civilisation itself proclaims white as a form of purity, the hygenic, the pristine. This allows for a pure utility, that which is assertively functional to emerge from mere decoration. But behind this in turn lies another set of oppositions. The dress reform movement proclaimed an opposition that was repeated in the architectural literature between decoration and function.

While this is common to both genres, there are also specific associations within the field of clothing. Decoration in dress is associated by the reformers with the phenomenon of fashion, and this in turn with superficiality and with women. These associations formed part of a larger logic by which rationalism as the civilising tendency is seen as a robust male endeavour that needs to overcome a whole series of what in contrast are seen as primitive and superficial tendencies. Indeed in its more extreme forms, colour and print become associated not only with a kind of non-civilised and irrational world, as illustrated in naïve or primitivist art assumed to be analogous with the pre-modern, but also with the dangerous, the uncontrolled, the images of the drugged and the bestial (also in Batchelor 1999). Women are seen as the conservative force retaining a less civilised and superficial fascination with colour and the decorative.

Links to code

Here are links to the code I wrote:

The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?

Salman Rushdie's wonderful children's book Haroun and the Sea of Stories is based on the premise that there is some evil mechanism that is taking away the vital stream of stories that course through the veins of our world. My paper is based on a kind of adult equivalent to this story. During my lifetime I have been witness to a similar dreadful loss and in this paper I want to don the mantle of the anthropologist as detective and see if I can locate the culprit. The crime is evident all around us. There has been a gradual leaching out of colour and print from the world of Western women's clothing.

So begins a web page titled "The little black dress is the solution. But what’s the problem?" by University of London anthropologist Daniel Miller. It describes how he came to write a paper of the same name about why people today dress so drearily.

Miller says that as a child, he worked in a Carnaby-Street-style boutique and was "enthralled by the coral sea of clothing, while festooned in my own purple flared trousers, beads and floral shirt". When he started lecturing as an anthropologist, he was still wearing a bright orange jersey and a necklace of shells retained from his fieldwork in the Solomon Islands. But even then, this was making him look anachronistically hippy-ish, so he gradually drabbed down, adopting "the general conventions of male clothing based around indigo and black, which is constructed along a vague polarity with `classic' Armani emulating cuts for more formal wear, and jeans materials for the more informal to today's customary indigos and blacks".

Now, indigo can be a blazing, dazzling, glaring colour, as in this indigo coat of mine:
Bright indigo coat I suspect, however, that Miller doesn't mean he's wearing this kind of indigo, but the sort that gives jeans their colour — or lack thereof. As he says, "About the most existing possibility left to me is to discover a new shade of grey."

But while resigned to the dreariness of day-to-day wear, Miller did still expect to see more adventurous clothing on holiday, a 'Hawaiian shirt' lifting of the gloom:

Well for a while this seemed true, but then I was starting to find that my fellow tourists were bringing out the same dull drab clothes on holiday that they were wearing at home — just more interesting messages on the T shirts. But at least I felt that if holiday clothes had also become drab, the last refuge of colour would indeed be the beach and the swimsuit, with at least some desire to 'fit in' when snorkeling over a coral reef. So the decision to write this paper can be precisely timed. It came when taking a family holiday on a beach in Mexico. I had my novel and my drink and was relaxing under a beach umbrella. This was quite a European resort and the people around me were probably Dutch, Swedish and English with a few Americans. Anyway, after a while, I started looking around me and what actually caught my eye was that every single bikini or swimsuit as far as my eye could see was — you guessed it — black. At that point I decided that surely if the anthropologist could turn detective, I might not be able to stem this tide, but might at least find the culprit."

So what was the culprit. Very disappointingly, Miller doesn't have his paper on open access. There's a database entry for it linked from the 2004 section of http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/view/people/DMSMI78.date.html. But even though this service is called open access, it says the full text is not available. However, he does summarise it in his web page. He starts by discussing four possible causes. These are:

  1. The fashion industry. Is it promoting drab colours because they’re more profitable?
  2. Historical precedent. Have there been past turnings toward drabness? If so, could their causes throw light on the current turning?
  3. The rise of modernism and modernist minimalism. Have these caused the recent decline in colour?
  4. How people behave when buying.

    Miller dismisses the first three causes. Regarding the first — the fashion industry — he argues that if the world has gone black, one can't merely assume designers who promoted the trend are responsible. Clothing is one of the most diverse industries. In order to survive, companies will always be seeking new niches. Some may go black, but this will drive others to seek alternative, and therefore more colourful, niches.

    Concerning historical precedent, Miller says that that have indeed been previous turnings towards drabness. In his 1995 book Men in Black John Harvey discusses the Victorians. Victorian dandies wore black, adopting an ascetic and minimalist appearance which favoured elaboration in style rather than in colour. The middle classes also adopted black: probably not because of influence from the dandy elite, but because the Church had for centuries associated black with sobriety. What really cemented this association, Harvey says, was the Victorian Cult of the Dead. To me, this is exemplified by any number of gloomy images, such as the splendid picture heading Essie Fox's Virtual Victorian blog.

    But all the above shows is that there were other periods when "clothing leached and bleached". It doesn't prove that the reasons for this were the same as today. After all, Miller writes, a girl picking out a little black dress for a party is unlikely to think of herself as dressing for a funeral.

    The third possible cause Miller considers is the rise of modernism and modernist minimalism. Have these caused the recent decline in colour? I'll say more about these next time, but Miller concludes that they have not.

    This leaves the fourth possibility, people's behaviour when shopping. Miller and his colleague Alison Clarke observed shopping habits in North London. They found that "there remains a considerable desire to wear different colours and prints, and yet at the moment of purchase women seemed unable to bring themselves to fulfil their own desires".

    This appeared to be because of anxiety: "One of the extended examples presented in Clarke and Miller 2002 was a woman — Charmaigne who sets out to buy a floral dress, in a deliberate attempt to expand out of her conventional wardrobe and to try and associate herself with this other genre of clothing. By following her around the shops we can actually watch her increasing anxiety when it comes to making a choice that will lead to her expressing a more distinct sartorial identity in public outside of the arena of what are experienced now as simple and safe minor variants upon the core of printless and colourless clothing."

    So women get anxious, and this inhibits them from choosing interesting clothes. But why do they get anxious? We need to ask, because: "Finding anxiety at the root of this refusal of distinction does not tell us anything about why women are so anxious, and why this might be more the case now, than say thirty years ago."

    Miller argues that: "what we have uncovered is the combination of two forces; one long term and one short term. The long term trend could be identified, not so much with modernism, as with modernity. The condition of modernity as analysed by Habermas (1987) is one in which we become decreasingly convinced by the authority of institutions and rules that previously determined how we should act. We can no longer say simply that this is our 'custom' or our 'religion' Instead we have to face up to the degree to which we are making up our own moral rules. We become, as individuals, increasingly burdened with the task of creating normativity for ourselves. This is even more difficult given our increasing self-awareness, that this is what we are engaged in. All of this pressure to create our own normativity in turn produces a tremendous desire for self-reassurance (for details of this argument see Miller 1994: 58-81)."

    That final reference is to Modernity: an Ethnographic Approach by Miller (1994), Oxford: Berg. I haven’t read it yet, so I can't go any further in explaining the above. But the consequence is: "This is why the shoppers are less and less confident about making a clear choice. They want to buy something strong and bright, but they just can't bring themselves to do it. We live not in a risk society, but in what we might better call the no-risk society. What we do is pretend that choosing shades of grey is more subtle and sophisticated — an intelligent choice. We say to each other we are all very cool and sophisticated. But of course this is nonsense. We would much rather be making bold choices, but (speaking now as a man), we just don’t have the balls to actually do so, because of the burden of freedom. Because we are defensive about being held responsible for the sartorial statement we have thereby made."

    Miller concludes that "Contrary to the expectations of the 1960's and 1970's we have excavated a logic which explains why a free world is likely to be a drab world."

    Daniel Miller, "The little black dress is the solution. But what's the problem?". In K. Ekstrom and H. Brembeck, ed., Elusive Consumption, 1st ed. Bloomsbury Academic, pp.113-127, 2004.

    John Harvey, Men in Black, Chicago, 1995.