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Shock of the new

January 22, 2012 ・ Blog

“A man or woman on the street in any year in the 20th century groomed and dressed in the manner of someone from 27 years earlier would look like a time traveler, an actor in costume, a freak.”

Vanity Fair recently published an article by Kurt Anderson about American culture slowing its rate of innovation, pointing out that in many ways there’s far less difference between the fashion style of today and that of 1992 than the difference between, say, 1992 and 1972, or 1972 and 1952.

I think he has a point. So, why? Says Anderson, perhaps too neatly:

“… as the Web and artificially intelligent smartphones and the rise of China and 9/11 and the winners-take-all American economy and the Great Recession disrupt and transform our lives and hopes and dreams, we are clinging as never before to the familiar in matters of style and culture.”

Maybe. But let’s not forget that for the past 20-plus years, a vast proportion of western creative attention and talent has been obsessed with mucking around on computers. And despite all that work, we’re all still struggling to work out the full extent of what digital tech is capable of.

We might be thinking retro to comfort ourselves in the face of feeling unsettled. But though I work for a magazine publisher and am certainly feeling jumpy, I’m not feeling the need to console myself in the musty pages of Punch.

I suppose I see creativity like this: can a great designer today really feel relevant creating a profoundly new style of jacket lapel when the internet is changing the world?