January 19, 2013

Neo-Victorian bonnets


The hair on our head is the one clear-cut case of ornamentation like the peacock's tail. It just keeps growing and growing and growing for no reason, other than to get noticed. In infancy, it's short, wispy, and subdued in pigment. And in old age, it's short, wispy, and subdued in pigment. It's only during adolescence and early adulthood that it's thick, long, and richly colored, another sign of hair's role in dating and mating.

It's no surprise then that in cultures where women's sexuality is tightly controlled, they minimize the appearance of their hair. This includes not only cultures where a woman has her look policed by others (typically by older women, not by men, who have more important things to do), but also those where the woman just doesn't feel like displaying her sexual maturity in the first place.

Other parts of her appearance, both natural and artificial, may serve other functions and are not necessarily so rigidly regulated. Colder weather tends to favor more skin being covered up, and hotter weather less. Frequent walking throughout the day selects for shorter hemlines on flowing robe-like clothing, so that strides may be taken less clumsily. But since all that hair seems to serve no other function, it can be pinned up and covered up without affecting the woman's daily activities.

We don't live in a pastoralist culture of honor where women's modesty in appearance is enforced mainly for married women, and where unmarried women are allowed to let their hair down so they can attract a husband before it's too late. Rather, we seem to be moving more toward the agrarian extreme where women don't mind dulling themselves down because they aren't chosen on the basis of looks so much as their ability to produce wealth, whether by toiling out in the fields or by getting a degree and a career. We're becoming less Mediterranean and more East Asian.

And it's not just that girls aren't putting much thought into looking pretty, but are otherwise well adjusted psychologically about their sexuality. They come off as awkward. Just read the faces you see in a google image search for "slouchy hats". Their eyes are lost in that whole hipster fairy-child dream they have, of returning to a pre-pubescent stage and roaming the empty fields alone, or at most with a drab-looking non-boyfriend who won't ever make a move to touch her "down there".

See the lookbook of any store aimed at older teenagers, like Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, or Hollister. The pitch is, "The perfect clothes for indulging your awkwardness and lonesomeness." What's truly bizarre is that they're not targeted at the ugly and socially invisible girls. Everyone in the Millennial generation is pretty dorky, so even the cute girls in the dorm fantasize about the freedom to feel awkward with no one else around to notice them and make them feel, uh, awkward.

19 comments:

  1. Wearing a slouchy hat like that allows a young women to create a distinctive appearance without having to spend much money.

    Peter

    ReplyDelete
  2. All kinds of cheap distinctive appearances don't involve minimizing the appeal of her hair, so it's not that.

    ReplyDelete
  3. They don't seem very popular except in winter...

    And I thought burqas were just about as much for young girls in sheepfucker cultures..?

    ReplyDelete
  4. PUAConArtist1/19/13, 1:45 PM

    "It's only during adolescence and early adulthood that it's thick, long, and richly colored"

    Speak for yourself. I am bald :-(

    ReplyDelete
  5. I don't think its so much as advertising herself as a breadwinner, as it is making herself look less intimidating to other women.

    In your past posts, you argued that, during falling-crime times, fashion focuses more on impressing same-sex peers rather than the opposite sex. Men bulk up; women wear army boots and stop wearing makeup.

    but rather than advertising your power to competitors, another strategy could be to make yourself look more harmless. This way, people will at least leave you alone.

    I posted an article here, I forget on which blog post, but it was about how college professors and bureacrats have been given enormous power over students, beginning in - you guessed it - the 90s. The article contrasted this situation with college during the 60s and 70s, the time of student protests.

    Anyway, if you're a young beautiful girl, probably not a good idea to piss off your female professors or any of the college administrators, including your "Residence Director"(kind of like the matron of a dormhouse) who tends to be in her late 20s.

    Or even same-sex peers. I once knew a very beautiful girl who signed up for a townhouse with some strangers, but they then forced her out through an administrative process, claiming she was partying too much, or something like that. Which of course wasn't true. She wasn't a bad girl by any means. She was getting too much attention from their guy friends, or whatever.

    This same girl had some run-ins with her female professors as well, where they would write the nastiest shit on her papers.

    Point is, colleges now have these ridiculous policies which make it easier to enforce conformity and repress individual sexuality, on men as well as women, but especially on young women. The policies work because they have to do with social manipulation and navigating a bureacracy - skills that farmers and merchants are good at. Of course, these same mentalities believe strongly in conformity - unlike pastoralists, they never developed the capacity for hero worship, which is worth a post on its own.

    Furthermore, you've talked about the rise of exclusive, private parties at colleges - as opposed to big parties during rising-crime, when anybody could show up and go off into a corner with anybody else.

    This girl I"m talking about was seriously beautiful, and I'm not some desperate dork who would say that about any girl who talked to him. yet she told she had almost no friends during her first 3 years of college. She wasn't invited to any of those small parties.

    What's going on here? I think it may jsut be that when kids are sheltered, they are too incompetent to form social networks. A few immoral, enterprisnig individuals call the shots and everyone either goes along, or hides themselves away.

    -Curtis

    ReplyDelete
  6. So if a girl wants to pass her classes, not be penalized by the college, and have friends and go to parties, then she has to repress her sexuality. If she doesn't, older female professors can giver her bad grades, other girls can make false allegations about her to college administration, and she'll be frozen out of the social scene.

    How do colleges now differ from rising-crime milieus? I think a big thing was affirmative action and getting lots of older women into adminstrative positions. These women will generally be against an attractive girl, so any complaints will be found guilty. They can easily give her arbitrarily bad grades on her papers.

    Now, this not only gives the older women power, but it also lets female students repress each other. When everyone is against everyone else, the result is lockdown. A girl better not piss off her female peers, or she'll find herself in trouble. Better to make yourself seem like a dowdy old woman and make it out in 4 years.

    I'm still not sure about why the social scene is fucked up, though. Why the rise of small parties? You'd think that the girl I talked about would at least be invited to parties by guys.

    -Curtis

    ReplyDelete
  7. Man, I am sorry to keep posting on your threads, but there is a company out there doing similar work to your "pastoralist-farmer-huntergatherer" personality schema.

    The guy who runs it seems reputable, is employed by the Boston Celtics to do assessments on players, six figures.

    braintypes.com

    I had a subscription at one point. Basically, they assign an athlete an MBTI type - which correlates with the Big Five - based on his body mannerisms and speech habits.

    Anyway, what stood out to me was that they said that Extroverts usually ornament themselves, whereas Introverts have drab clothing. Didn't you correlate Extroversion and ornamentation with pastoralists, and Introversion and drab appearance with farmers and hunter-gatheres?

    -Curtis

    ReplyDelete
  8. http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/10/02/1948550612461284.abstract?rss=1

    "Consistent with findings that dark personalities actively create positive first impressions, we found that the composite of the Dark Triad—Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy—correlates with effective adornment. This effect was also evident for psychopathy measured alone."

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/head-games/201210/why-are-mean-people-so-good-looking

    It seems they also tested for the Big 5 and there does not seem to be an indication that extraversion is linked to adornment, as a personality trait, after its connection to the grandiose aspects of trait narcissism and psychopathy (although I am not convinced the trait narcissism, as measured by the NPI as opposed to the clinical measure, is actually measure a real measure of anything "bad") are controlled for.

    Interestingly, the Dark Triad traits theoretically support a fast life history, very short term, as you would expect to be de rigeur during "dangerous times". A general rise in Dark Triad traits would seem like a good explanation for rising crime.

    One interesting aspect of Dark Triad traits is that those high in them both poach mates more often and have their mates more often poached. Promiscuity.

    ...

    Also, slouchy hats remind me of the tea cosy things those 1920s flappers wore. And their cloche hats. Anything up with that?

    No one in the 20s seems to have rocked "big hair" rather than concealed hair, yet it's a "rising crime" age.

    And notably shorter and more covered hair in that era than the Victorian Age? Less elaborate hats too (the Victorian era hats on google seem often to be elaborate, large and covered in flowers, while the 00s-20s hats seem small, close fitting, unadorned).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I was just thinking of posting something on the differences in adornment between wholesome and manipulative people / cultures.

    But briefly, manipulative people have a kind of strategic adornment -- it's meant to enhance their best features, perhaps all of them, in a look-but-don't-touch situation. Like, consciously trying to draw attention to yourself without having to give anything up, and to string the guy along to do your bidding (take you out, buy drinks, buy clothes, pay for rent, etc.).

    Then there's the wholesome adornment which is not self-aware. It seems like girls just couldn't stop themselves in the '80s, and when you look back, a lot of looks like "what were they thinking?" But that's it -- they weren't thinking about how to maximize the flattering potential of their clothes and accessories.

    Wholesome adornment functions not to get what you want out of someone, while stringing them along, but to signal to others that you're low in self-awareness and hence trustworthy. Self-monitoring is a requirement for Machiavellian thought and behavior, after all.

    And to the extent that it signals something about sexuality, it's more that she's open, fun-loving, and carefree. She may end up having more partners than the drab, self-conscious girl, but only because she just goes with the flow, and not for opportunistic gain.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Also, slouchy hats remind me of the tea cosy things those 1920s flappers wore. And their cloche hats. Anything up with that?"

    Cloche hats were pretty form-fitting and sleek. If they were going to hide their hair, they at least tried to make it appealing. The slouchy hats, or those overdone Victorian bonnets, not only make the hair look less lively, but are eyesores in themselves.

    "No one in the 20s seems to have rocked "big hair" rather than concealed hair, yet it's a "rising crime" age."

    They did in the 1900s and 1910s (e.g. the "Gibson girl"). In the '20s, they still tried to voluminize it, but it was shorter and so didn't appear *that* big. It stood a decent ways away from the scalp, not flattened against it, and they put waves in it to lift it away. Like Clara Bow.

    I went looking through old high school yearbooks from the '20s and early '30s, and I didn't see anyone with Louise Brooks' severe bangs and super-straight flattened-out look. It was more like the Clara Bow or the "finger wave" look, depending on how formal she wanted to look for the school picture.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "Interestingly, the Dark Triad traits theoretically support a fast life history, very short term, as you would expect to be de rigeur during "dangerous times"."

    Well, that's only in an isolated context. If everybody acts that way in a rising-crime period, then they get wiped out real fast. The minority predisposed to anti-social behavior does get a lot more exploitative in these periods -- serial killers, cult leaders, sex abusers in authority (Boy Scouts, the church, etc.).

    But the normal majority responds with lower narcissism, in order to band together and look out for one another. Whatever promotes social cohesion will go up when the perceived threat of violence goes up. It's the within-society version of what Peter Turchin talks about on a between-society level.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Here's the link to the online digitized collection of yearbooks from the same high school since its beginning in 1923. It even has grade school pictures in earlier years.

    http://www.uaarchives.org/cdm/search/collection/p116001coll1

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't think there's an increase in Dark Triad traits during rising-crime times. Rather, during cocooning times, those with such traits are kept isolated like everybody else. In a rising-crime time, they are let out of their cages.

    The research on the Dark Triad traits in general is retarded - as much of the research during falling-crime times is - and seems to have been conducted for media consumption. All the bitter losers can look at the research and feel better that they're not successful.

    (That should be a topic of another post - the atrocious quality of academic research during coocooning eras).

    Extroversion is most def. related to adornment. But, as Agnostic pointed out, there are other factors.

    Extroverted + Self Aware = manipulative, uses adornment to enhance featuers

    Extroverted + Self Unaware =
    ditzy, goes with the flow

    And even then, someone who is manipulative is not necessarily "Dark Triad" or evil. YOu have to be manipulative(self-awareness + extroversion) to function as a leader in certain fields of work, like business or the military.

    ReplyDelete
  14. " the atrocious quality of academic research during coocooning eras"

    I think it depends on the area and topic. The physical sciences don't seem to respond to it. The biggest shifts you see are how people conceive of human nature, how good of an intuitive psychologist they are, therefore how much goes without saying and doesn't require some professor to elaborate a theory about, e.g., why a preference for wealthy male mates may have been selected for. (:Neil Page voice: Do ya think so?)

    But even in cocooning times, there's a handful of researchers who do pretty good work trying to understand the hunkering down, lack of trust, hive-mindedness, and so on. We saw a lot of good work like that in the mid-century (the lonely crowd), and there's the whole bowling alone, social capital thing going on now in sociology.

    ReplyDelete
  15. " serial killers, cult leaders, sex abusers in authority (Boy Scouts, the church, etc.)."

    Agnostic's example here also shows the stupidity of the "Dark Triad" research. That research tried to argue that Dark Triad traits were correlated with higher social success. In reality, truly bad people typically live on the margins - as a priest hiding in a cloister, a loner serial killer, living in an isolated compound with cult followers, etc. Obviously there are exceptions, but there aren't many of them.

    As I recall, the Dark Triad researchers also pointed out that Dark Triad men reported higher numbers of sexual partners. They reasoned that such traits were attractive to women. The PUA dweebs wouldn't shut up about that.

    As it turned out, the real reason was that "narcissistic" men had lower standards. In other words, scumbags were sleeping with a lot of overweight and ugly women.

    -Curtis


    ReplyDelete
  16. A more vivid way to see the difference between self-aware and self-forgotten "strategies" is to look at dance moves in a dating-and-mating setting.

    Self-aware mating dances involve moving the hips and butt around a lot, but not moving the legs or feet in a way that might upset balance, not moving the arms or shoulders very much, and keeping the head and neck area pretty still, also to not threaten balance. Very little turning or spinning, again for the balance reason.

    Think of the Hula dance or a Tahitian dance, or the rump-shaking of the past 20 years.

    Self-forgotten dancing does just the opposite. Larger and more frequent steps are taken, weight shifts from one leg to the other a lot, they swivel their shoulders in that breast-jiggling kind of way, they shake their head from side to side or roll it around, they turn and even do full spins.

    It's like spirit possession dancing, showing that you're no longer in control of yourself. Hence incapable of Machiavellian plotting, and even if you do take multiple partners, it was because the feeling just took you over, not because you were opportunistically using them for personal gain.

    ReplyDelete
  17. For the non-dancers, the weight-shifting, spinning, head-rolling, etc., serve to throw the person off-balance.

    The fact that they're still able to continue dancing suggests to the on-lookers that they're not in conscious control of themselves -- who would consciously try to throw themselves off-balance so much? -- yet that there's still some kind of force or spirit or pulse that is in control, else they would've fallen over a long time ago.

    The message is: I can still go through the usual, and even unusual motions of life, so feel free to interact with me. However, because it's not me who's in control, I can't be held responsible for whatever happens -- although by the same token, I won't be capable of manipulating you.

    ReplyDelete
  18. What kind of social organization does self-awareness and unawareness relate to? Or, in other words, what social invention?

    -Curtis

    ReplyDelete
  19. Agnostic's example here also shows the stupidity of the "Dark Triad" research. That research tried to argue that Dark Triad traits were correlated with higher social success. In reality, truly bad people typically live on the margins - as a priest hiding in a cloister, a loner serial killer, living in an isolated compound with cult followers, etc. Obviously there are exceptions, but there aren't many of them.

    In general, the research seems not to say this, and largely confines this to Machiavellianism and perhaps Narcissism, which have low associations with criminality and violence, and even then do not usually say with clarity whether these traits are enhanced in the general population of the successful.

    They're pretty bald about the general associations. They're pretty clear that even if this occurs, such individuals eventually "fall from grace". People like Gadaffi and Hitler do exist, the high trust, high position paedophile (super extraverts like James Saville and a lot of celebrities), etc. do exist and it's obviously of interest to them, and these people (socially successful "bad" people) can cause a lot more harm than isolated bad people.

    I think the interpretation as "trying to make themselves feel better about their lack of success" is very flawed.

    I think a lot of the "truly bad people" are sociable by nature (glib, exploitative, bullshitting, alliance building), but have the problem that their personality traits are rare and tend to be disincline them to form communities or be accepted into communities (i.e. it's true that most pro-social traits). People who are truly bad probably have more tendencies to "be alone", all things equal, but not really to be "loners" (in the sense of not preferring much company).

    ReplyDelete

You MUST enter a nickname with the "Name/URL" option if you're not signed in. We can't follow who is saying what if everyone is "Anonymous."