The Burning Man look(s)?

Share your views on the policies, philosophies, and spirit of Burning Man.

The Burning Man look(s)?

Postby Organgeboy » Fri Oct 31, 2003 1:35 pm

This was my first burn and I cobbled together a single costume real quick out of some work cloths (a day-glo vest) and a few other pieces. I was surprised to get some genuine admiration for the look. I thought, cool, I have a costume people dig...

But later on in the week I began to notice (or thought I noticed) that my costume, while maybe impressive in its own right, was off somehow. I began to notice that, as people came out in the evenings, ready to party, definite sartorial types appeared that seemed to be drawn together in certain places. Of course there was variation within these types, but that didn't negate the impression of a certain type on which many people drew. My costume was very much not of any of the types I saw.

I realize my case is a little flimsy, since I lack an ability to describe these types and what was typical in each case. But I thought it was interesting to see this phenomenon. I think the idea of no commerce at Burning Man is best viewed not as an indictment against capitalism, but as a neccesary part of an experience that lets one escape for a while the immense amount of subconscious calculations that are required to negotiate civilization successfully (Civilization's growth depended on a the sophistication of exchange which is money). And while price cues are banished, other social guidance systems are not. One of these is fashion.
And though it is probably inevitable, I felt it to be somewhat of a let down to see exclusivity arise here (albeit in an unconscious manner).

Did anyone else notice this? Don't get me wrong, BM blew me away and I'm coming back strong next year, but I would appreciate any thoughts on this.
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Postby madmatt » Fri Oct 31, 2003 2:14 pm

Just be yourself.
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Re: The Burning Man look(s)?

Postby Flux » Fri Oct 31, 2003 2:17 pm

Organgeboy wrote:And while price cues are banished, other social guidance systems are not. One of these is fashion.

And though it is probably inevitable, I felt it to be somewhat of a let down to see exclusivity arise here (albeit in an unconscious manner).

That's the way it is, Orangeboy, and it seems to be fundamental to human nature. We evaluate one another in countless ways, and appearance is one of the most powerful.

Naturists talk about how stripping off all of the clothes removes another aspect of that, and to some extent that works. However, we still have hair style, body modifications, physique, skin tone, etc. to judge people on before we ever meet them.

Once we do meet them, we can base our evaluations on accent, facility with the language, vocabulary, speed and volume of speech ... all without even getting to the content of the speech!

As individuals, we may make an effort to eschew such internal evaluation, but it's far from easy -- and I think it's safe to say that most people don't even try. It's just another symptom of the insanity we're all heir to, and which very few truly escape.

Anyway, we all know that these judgements go on constantly in our own and others' minds. Another aspect of human nature is the desire to feel like we belong and fit in with others. As a result, consciously or unconsciously, people design their appearance to facilitate being accepted in whatever environment is at hand.

Many people are remarkably successful at setting some or all of this aside for the week of Burning Man, but it's no surprise that a great many only succeed partially, and that a great many don't try at all.
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Postby PetsUntilEaten » Fri Oct 31, 2003 2:34 pm

Orangeboy -

You did a pretty good job of describing a fairly abstract thing.

I think I understand what you are getting at. My somewhat simple version of this is that people are attracted by certain arts and signifiers while some may be using those mediums to get attention. Perhaps the same way insects & animals have certain colors to attract and repell other creatures. We use it to simplify social sorting.

Certainly I love costumes & like dressing up & being appreciated in that way - however there's a huge group of people at burningman who could really care less about costumes.

I have a friend who does metal sculpture and he was often locked in conversation & commeradery with other metal workers. They would gather around each other's pieces & discuss the finer points of construction & generally have a big metal working love fest.

another example : in a dance club my friend asked me why so many girls were wearing strappy fuck-me shoes instead of sneakers. my answer was so he would know not to date them.

Its less commerce than part of being an animal.


edited to add:

ps - orangeboy - were you at 8:30 & evidence with the doubledecker bus?

pps - flux - we posted at the same time - ha! similar but not the same.
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Postby shitmouse » Fri Oct 31, 2003 2:39 pm

in regards to being judged on how you look, is a bit of that vain, macronomic, california culture. sorry but it's true.
you gots to have the look mang........... and wheels. did i mention a car?
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Postby Chai Guy » Fri Oct 31, 2003 3:00 pm

I'm not sure if this is what you are really asking but here it goes...

People come to Burning Man and check out other peoples costumes, get inspiration (or just plain copy what they saw) come back next year, rinse, repeat.

The first year I came to BM ( 98 ) my girlfriend attached some fun fur & glitter to her breasts, since then I've seen a variation of that about a million times.

You can check out Piss Clear's Fashion issue this year to get a handle on the different "types" at Burning Man. This article was so true that my friends and I were able to pretty well fit each of our costumes in one of the catagories provided (more or less).
http://www.blue-period.com/pissclear/PDFArchives/

As for why people tend to hang out with people that dress like they do, I guess it's human nature. That and I've never really been comfortable chatting up Death Guild in my yellow Sari and flower leigh.
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Postby blyslv » Fri Oct 31, 2003 3:13 pm

Sounds a little bit like insecurity, or perhaps I'm just projecting. But I felt similar the first year I went. But I made a concisious decision to say "fuck it" I really don't care what people think. It was a force of will but it worked.

Or you could try dating a costume designer.

I really really really enjoy dressing in costume, but I don't care if people don't.
Fight for the fifth freedom!
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Postby pixie mcGiver » Fri Oct 31, 2003 5:39 pm

My best advice is to ware the most bizar thing you can think of... ...and don't take anyone more seriously than you can yourself, dressed the way you are!!
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Re: The Burning Man look(s)?

Postby BlueBirdPoof » Fri Oct 31, 2003 6:02 pm

Organgeboy wrote: I began to notice that, as people came out in the evenings, ready to party, definite sartorial types appeared that seemed to be drawn together in certain places. Of course there was variation within these types, but that didn't negate the impression of a certain type on which many people drew.


But if you think about it, BM draws on a bunch of types recognizable off-playa: The Punk Rock leather type, various flavors of queer, the raver type, the hippie type, the I never grew out of holloween type, the surrealist type, even the frat boy type. No reason to expect that that would dissappear. Some people come to playa to break their useal roles, others to go more deeply into them.

Organgeboy wrote: I thought it was interesting to see this phenomenon. I think the idea of no commerce at Burning Man is best viewed not as an indictment against capitalism, but as a neccesary part of an experience that lets one escape for a while the immense amount of subconscious calculations that are required to negotiate civilization successfully (Civilization's growth depended on a the sophistication of exchange which is money). And while price cues are banished, other social guidance systems are not. One of these is fashion.


My best guess for the idea of no commerce at Burning Man comes from the Cacaphonists and their quest for a solidly meaningful life, instead of the trivializing effect of advertising--commerce's handmaiden.

Fashion is inevitable. Look at anthropoly/archeology sources some time. What I noticed during my beading phase is that every culture has beads. They may differ in material, significance, and a hundred other ways, but everyone has them. Ours is an odd culture in that our most powerfull advertise their power by not wearing them, but you'll notice they decorate themselves with women who wear diamonds instead.
Also think of the notion that the first clothing wasn't developed to hide (for instance) a man's penis, but to make it more obvious, attract more attention.
All that is still a lot of fun and that's one of the attractions to BM. After all, we are not a bunch of monks mortifying our flesh and vanity.



And though it is probably inevitable, I felt it to be somewhat of a let down to see exclusivity arise here (albeit in an unconscious manner).


Sorry, insies-outsies is just one of those human games. I think the best we can ever do is learn not to take it so seriously. Which is very difficult at times. But status is just to important to us biologically for it ever to just go away.

And then there's the developement of in-group languese. An invisible marker that still defines the boundaries.
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Postby Isotopia » Fri Oct 31, 2003 9:42 pm

I hear you can't go wrong with wearing nothing.
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Postby Organgeboy » Sat Nov 01, 2003 6:25 am

Pets, I don't know if I was there. I usually had on a day glow vest, a hard hat with a flower sticking out of it, and a yellow cape. Also a bunch of garlands wrapped around me.

Who are the Cacophonists?

I do agree sometimes you should say fuck it, just be who you want to be. But there are always limits to this, depending on what social setting you find yourself in. "Be yourself" is always a helpful reminder, but with each new social atmosphere we take the temperature. Do we feel comfortable, or is there a slight chill? The extreme example would be showing up terribly under- or overdressed to a party. This is a fear everyone has. But that situation, I would say, is an extreme along a continuum that never really flattens out to zero. And one consciously rebels against it, fearing conformity. One wants to flee from the question "How do I fit in?" by imagining one can simply ignore it. I suppose the best solution is to find the happy medium between the deep need for association and the equal claims for self expression. And try not to mock so much those who are trendy in clothes, listening tastes, etc. (though God is it tempting - and fun!) because you make the same negotiations, in your own way.

(Maybe Halloween is a time when one can more freely and comfortably express one's self through costume? I think this is because Burning Man, being a repeated event, discrete in both place and time, has developed norms.)

Once again, I come not to bury Burning Man, but to praise him! Part of the appeal for me is looking at it through a critical eye.
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Postby BlueBirdPoof » Mon Nov 03, 2003 10:19 am

Cacophonists are members of the Cacophony Sociaty. (I don't know that they call themselves that, but it seems within normal usage to me.) They were early attenders of burning man--think baker beach burns--and from what I hear, the discoverers of the playa as a alternative when those were shut down.

http://sf.cacophony.org/
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Postby tzimisce1313 » Mon Nov 03, 2003 1:16 pm

madmatt wrote:Just be yourself.


i'm glad to hear of a place where you won't be ostracized for being yourself.

that's always nice to hear :)
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Wear what makes you happy

Postby robbidobbs » Thu Nov 06, 2003 4:03 pm

pixie mcGiver wrote:My best advice is to ware the most bizar thing you can think of... ...and don't take anyone more seriously than you can yourself, dressed the way you are!!


True Pixie, it's sometimes therapeutic for one to try to push the envelope of their own inhibitions. What's nice about BM is that even if you go WAY over the top in your estimation, there will always be someone who's more outrageous than yourself. It's about radical self-expression, duh. Trying to keep up with the Jones' is moot out there. Who cares if you're naked, but does it make you a bigger person to go for it? Maybe. I've never flashed my tits out there, but in 2001 I felt it was important to do a hula in front of 100 or so people at Alien Love Next topless. It worked for me, and they probably didn't blink twice. Exhibitionism turns out to be not what I'm about. This year for Poop Patrol I dressed in unbleached muslin prairie dress. I stood out like neon in the Land of Blinky Lights because it was so novel. And when I wasn't in my Poop Patro "uniform" I was in my Gate Supervisor uniform. So really the "look" isn't what everyone else is doing, it's what YOU'RE doing that counts.
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Postby madmatt » Fri Nov 07, 2003 10:17 am

Robbidobs said: "it's what YOU'RE doing that counts"

Yeah!
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Chaos is Order, Order is Chaos

Postby Jordan 10-E » Fri Nov 07, 2003 11:11 am

It's ironic that even in diverse or chaotic systems, various identifiable patterns will inevitably emerge. This principle is demonstrated again and again in such things as physics, biology/genetics, history and society, architecture, music, art, etc... It can be argued that classification systems of whatever sorts are artificial human constructs, however it's just a natural tendency to classify things based on various characteristics. Humans are not the only ones that do it. Even the "universe" does it. Not all things are completely relative. Though theoretically the variety of fashion (or whatever) is limitless, it will still tend to fall into general patterns. Much of the explination for this phenomenon has to do with that fine balance between form and function. You can argue the it is built into the mechanics of the system. Think of insects for example. A wing is a wing and a leg is a leg and an eye is an eye. The reason an eye is not a leg is because of it's function.

Even those people that come up with fantastically wild unique costumes can still be classifed. We will never get away from this. The exciting thing is to see what direction someone chooses to express their own personal fashion statement. It reflects who they think they are. Even those that choose to wear no clothes at all or "not dress up" are making a statement about themselves. The cool thing about Burning Man is that it allows a more open exchange of diverse fashion than the normal conformity of regular life, yet inevitablly there will be similarities when looking at the entire population. You can look at that as shallow or exclusive, but it's just the way it is.

I hope that made sense. I am sure there is more that can be said about this, but I will leave it at that for you to ponder upon.

For another example, among countless examples, think of the structures you might see at Burning Man. There is a huge variety, yet certain principles invariably manifest themselves through time. Basically it is a weeding out of what works well and what doesn't work so well, or not at all. "Natural Selection"
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