Study Guide

Pierre Bourdieu Files

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Rough notes on my book: Distinction: The Sequel, or Why Is It Cool to Look Like a Slob?

  • Need to think about my dust jacket image. My piercing handsomeness and pinstriped shirt may send the message that I am not hip enough to write a book about being sloppy hip.
  • The whole "what's at stake" question—or thesis, if you will—is: what in the blazes happened to cultural capital?
  • A few general ideas: people just don't pull it together the way they used to. Don't get me wrong—they're probably spending more on those distressed jeans and chop-shop haircuts than anyone ever spent on looking "fancy." Even using the word "fancy" sounds dated. 
  • People purposely underdress—they actually pay good money for clothes that have been cut, burned, singed, shredded, etc. I really don't get this. Don't people like quality fabric and a nice bespoke suit?
  • Idea for introduction (I hope this one doesn't date me too much): how about when John Galliano trotted out his whole homeless chic couture collection? That guy has been stirring up trouble for years. Check out Maureen Dowd's description (maybe she can do a blurb for me?): "[The models] came down the runway raggedy and baggy, some swathed in newspapers, with torn linings and inside-out labels, accessorized with empty little green J&B whiskey bottles, tin cups dangling from the derriere, bottle caps, plastic clothespins and safety pins." 
  • Corporations are behind this, anyway. They're turning out trendy junk. Now the thrashed and damaged vintage T-shirt–wearing image is being sold back to us. 
  • To review: corporations oppress the workers. The workers do what they can to get by—wearing overalls and boots for their blue-collar jobs, getting tattoos to claim some sense of ownership over their bodies, driving old trucks because they need to actually move things, and having facial hair because they aren't working for The Man, who requires everyone to shave and wear a three-piece suit.
  • So then what happens? Well, along come the corporations. They take the working-class look and commodify it. So then we get $400 jeans and $200 haircuts, and it all gets sold to the bourgeois suckers who stand around drinking $6 boutique coffees. Why? Because they don't have jobs.
  • In the first Distinctions, I coined the phrase "working class aesthetic," but now it has a whole new meaning, because it's become a hipster contrivance.
  • Will work on tone as I throw together the proposal. Don't want to sound irritated. Must maintain the cool perspective of the social scientist who cares.
  • This one may not make the "Books of the Century" list, but it will sell well in Silver Lake, Williamsburg, and the Mission.

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