Quick Read: No matter what we do, we tend to express ourselves. And these expressions can lend themselves to interesting insights.
A very popular class of Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania is called “Uncreative Writing”. As part of this course, students are forced to plagiarize, appropriate, and steal texts. In fact, they are said to be penalized for originality, sincerity, and creativity.
What does the course do?
As Kenneth elaborates ..
What they’ve been surreptitiously doing throughout their academic career—patchwriting, cutting-and-pasting, lifting—must now be done in the open, where they are accountable for their decisions.
Suddenly, new questions arise: What is it that I’m lifting? And why? What do my choices about what to appropriate tell me about myself? My emotions? My history? My biases and passions? The critiques turn toward formal improvement: Could I have swiped better material? Could my methods in constructing these texts have been better?
Not surprisingly, they thrive. What I’ve learned from these years in the classroom is that no matter what we do, we can’t help but express ourselves.
No matter what we do, he says (and I repeat), we cannot help but express ourselves. And this forms of expression if interpreted and analyzed could lend themselves for some valuable insights.
Let us take a few examples from the most unlikeliest of the sources of expression.
The link between crime and ink
People choose to draw stuff on their bodies because of what that specific tattoo means to them. With one of the hotbeds of tattooing being the American prisons, The Economist set about to investigate what inferences it could possibly draw about a life of crime from different types of tattoos.
Their question: If people’s ethnicity and sex determines their tattoos, can the same be said of their types of crime?
Using data from the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) – a downloadable database featuring records for all the 100,000 inmates currently incarcerated in the Florida state prison system – The Economist built a series of statistical models to predict the likelihood of criminals committing specific crimes based on their demographic traits and choices of tattoos. (see table below)
For example, their analysis had found that inmates convicted of property crimes and weapons-possession offences have the most tattoos, while sex offenders, particularly those convicted of paedophilia, tend to have the fewest. For a full commentary on this revealing analysis read the full article here.
One big insight based on this analysis is that tattoos tend to be supremely effective in predicting recidivism – the tendency of an ex convict to relapse into criminal behavior. (Of the inmates who have been re-incarcerated, 75% percent had tattoos!)
So non profits like Homeboy Industries – one of America’s largest gang rehabs – have free tattoo removal services. For, the act of removing tattoos reflects a genuine investment in ones change and thereby almost guarantees a step change in how you see yourself.
Bespoke fashion: an investment in self expression
Getting a pair of bespoke shoes is considered an epitome in luxury grooming for men.
One, because of its obscene cost. And two because it requires a considerable investment of time—typically, you fly off to Europe to get your feet measured and place the order (or the shoemaker flies in to your city), there may be two-three more visits for fittings, and then you wait anything from 9-12 months for the final shoe.
These connotations of luxury don’t still capture the essence of the bespoke fashion movement, until one begins to see it as an investment in self expression.
Bespoke, thereby, is a journey where you typically start with shirts, move to suits, and then some men take the logical next step to shoes as a final expression of their overall style and look. So next time you see someone with a bespoke suit you know where they are in their journey of self expression.
Now, given that there’s greater variety in women’s body shapes than men’s, one would expect a greater choice for women’s bespoke fashion. Interestingly it’s the other way round.
Cost is one challenge – more curves mean more measurements, more places a garment might need to be adjusted and more time getting the fit just right, making the whole process more expensive.
But the key challenge could be in being able to support for the underlying vocabulary of self expression dormant in women’s custom clothing. After all, bespoke fashion for women is an ocean of choice for personal expression that goes beyond just body fit, spanning attributes like apparel, color, fabric, style, occasion and perhaps even mood.
Now that’s one heavily under served segment in the super lucrative world of bespoke fashion – if only one could demystify the method to the madness of the infinite variations of expressions that constitute women’s custom clothing.
Anyone that’s sartorially linguistic?
(Featured Image: Bespoke Shoes by Gieves and Hawkes)