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The new meaning of total black

A uniform in times of crisis

The new meaning of total black A uniform in times of crisis

The season of the shows is still about to begin (and is already preparing to be discussed) yet from the first fashion happenings of the year it seems that a new importance attributed to total black is about to emerge. A few days ago, Kanye West shared the music video Heaven and Hell, which is also a kind of video-campaign for Yeezy x Gap hoodies, made available globally on the same day. The video, which imitates the biblical painting The Fall of Babylon by John Martin, one of the first paintings to be commercially distributed as a serial print by the same author, shows a bevy of figures moving in an apocalyptic setting wearing the black hoodie of Yeezy x Gap which, replicated on hundreds of figures all together, seems to become a sort of neutral uniform – a concept that makes even more sense thinking about how Kanye West himself, since the beginning of his creative partnership with Balenciaga, has increasingly transformed his clothes into a kind of uniform, not without adding a kind of connotation of religious severity. 

Black has always been the color that has dominated the last four seasons of Balenciaga (Couture included) but also those of other brands such as Givenchy, Rick Owens, Raf Simons or Celine to name a few. In many of these cases, however, this return to total black has only partially had to do with a recovery of goth fashion but has rather concerned the cleanliness, severity and, in some ways, the neutrality of a style that renounces the flashiness of clothes and instead focuses everything on construction and materials – as if to bring out the pure essence of a certain garment,  without covering it with the bright colors of which the dopamine dressing trend has recently covered the catwalks of half the world. That the absence of color of total black is not an obstacle to creativity has been demonstrated over the decades by many of the best designers on the square today, from Yohji Yamamoto to the aforementioned Rick Owens, passing through Ann Demeulemeester, Rai Kawakubo and so on. But far from pushing into the constructive or deconstructive acrobatics of these avant-garde masters, the new total black speaks of functionality and simplification.

The return to the functional and the utilitarian was a very hot topic in the early stages of the pandemic, a kind of general revival after the explosion of colors and graphics brought to the scene by streetwear. But now that the cultural scenes are so codified and remixed together, to a part of the industry that celebrates color and inspiration, there is another part that responds with sobriety – sobriety that is not synonymous with basicness or boredom or gloomy morbidity, but with a search for practicality and a measure in everyday life. The author and associate editor of the Financial Times Josh Spero wrote in a recent article entitled Why I wear black in which he writes that his choice to wear almost only black «is a way of expressing that disassociation, of opting out. It's nothing miserable, though, quite the opposite: it's a bracing freedom to realise that your future lies open, untied to your past. Black is what's now, new, next». The remarkable part of the article, which reviews the various meanings of the color black in clothing through the centuries, lies precisely in emphasizing how color has stripped itself of its connotations gradually rebellious, anarchist, pietistic and so on, to become an instrument of self-expression devoid of further connotations, restful precisely because it is neutral in the face of an increasingly polarized world – almost like a uniform,  with the added possibility of expressing meanings through different cuts and constructions. 

The fashion month that is about to begin will hopefully be an opportunity for young and old designers to express their personality and their vision in a complicated, difficult world, where the idealisms of the best part of society clash with an often poor reality, to quote the Fabietto de It was the hand of God. Before seeing what the future has in store for society, and before catapulting into a fashion season that promises many changes and many new debuts, immersing yourself in total black will perhaps serve to cleanse our palate, after two years that have been sweet and sour together, and face the future with more balance.