For those fortunate readers unfamiliar with the Jersey Shore reality TV series, let me summarize the tawdry details. The show follows the day-to-day exploits of a group of lewd, vain, self-centred, semi-literate, spray-tanned New Jersey friends as they go about preening, binge drinking, brawling and trolling for one-night stands. Rather than being dismissed as tasteless trash, the show has become a phenomenon and the boorish stars now command tens of thousands of dollars for personal appearances and product sponsorships.
The latest spin-off from this vulgar franchise belongs to cast member Mike Sorrentino – better known as “The Situation” – who has been contracted by FLOW Formal to develop a line of tuxedos and formal wear for the younger demographic. Despite his inability to develop so much as logical nickname, the manufacturer figured Sorrentino was the perfect face for a new generation of formal dressers.
“This is great for us and great for the industry” announced FLOW president Brian Weintraub of the six-figure deal. “(Tuxedos have) become an old man thing.” Added Sorrentino in an In Touch interview: “They approached me because I’m a trendsetter. DTF has a new meaning: Down to Formal! I’m really excited to show a classier, more sophisticated side of myself.” In case you’re wondering, the the other meaning of DTF is “down to f-ck” i.e. ready for casual sex. Very classy Mike. Very sophisticated.
I recognize that this “formal wear” is aimed specifically at a rental market dominated by young prom-goers and grooms. And I understand that youth being youth there will always be a demand for novel dress clothes. I also acknowledge that TV-themed tuxedo lines are nothing new as there were a few back in the 1980s that proved hugely popular with this demographic.
But the fact remains that proms and weddings signify the cusp of adulthood and the clothes worn for these milestone ceremonies say volumes about the wearer’s attitude towards this life transition. As cheesy as the Miami Vice tuxedos were (and they were really cheesy) they nonetheless reflected the wearers’ admiration of the grownups who starred in the eponymous show. Formal wear modeled on obnoxiously immature talentless celebrities, on the other hand, reflects a preference to remain in a state of protracted adolescence. The result? Ask the vapid reality-TV star Kim Kardashian who filed for divorce yesterday after being married a whole 72 days.
Ultimately, my beef is not so much the youths who emulate a vulgar lout like Sorrentino but with the society that encourages and even rewards such behaviour. (This includes Jersey Shore producers MTV which also gifted the world with 16 and Pregnant.) One fact that became readily apparent during my extensive research of the history of formal wear is that fashion reflects social trends of the time. Should this venture succeed, what does it say about our time?