“They call their series Exactitudes: a contraction of exact and attitude. By registering their subjects in an identical framework, with similar poses and a strictly observed dress code, Versluis and Uyttenbroek provide an almost scientific, anthropological record of people’s attempts to distinguish themselves from others by assuming a group identity. ” – Exactitudes Website

These pictures go a long way to remind me that no matter how individualistic people think they are with their clothes and makeup, in the end we are all divided into relatively homogeneous tribes. These dress codes, both on the street and on MySpace, make it easy to find new friends – or at least they used to. When I was younger, if I saw green-haired girl with weird jewelry on the train, I could easily strike up a conversation on basis of common interests. I’ve met a lot of friends that way. These days, that’s not the case. I’ve met freaky-looking people who had nothing in common with me, and I’ve met people dress completely “normal” who turned to be some of the most unique individuals I’ve ever known. People dress a certain way in order to send social cues to each other about common interests, but now with the Avril Lavigne generation, “alternative” cues that used to mean a lot don’t mean nearly quite as much.

It’s still possible to meet new friends in cities while simply walking down the street, but it’s a lot more tricky than it was when I was 15. Either I’ve changed, or social norms have changed, or both. Now, I pay attention more to what people are holding in their hands, what type of facial expression they have, what they’re reading, rather than their hair color or makeup. How do you find friends in the crowd?

12 Responses to “Exactitudes”

  1. Damien Says:

    I think the fact that we can no longer tell a potential friend by look is a great thing. It means we have to be more open, more adventurous. You have to pay attention to the people around you and what they like, and what they say and do.

    I think this a fundamental problem with most “scenes;” people with the same sense of aesthetics who all think, on some level, that the rest of the group is Jerks. But we stick to the scene, anyway, and then the drama, and the whining commence, and then someone ends up stabbed in the neck with a length of PVC hair, and someone else is going to jail.

    Sad, really.

  2. Gretta Says:

    Well said, Damien.

  3. Jerem Morrow Says:

    Ze latter half of that last paragraph sums up, pretty well, ze approach I now take. Und Damien’s got it too. Walls are coming down und we simply need to be more observant.

  4. nadyalev Says:

    I know what you guys are saying… I rarely meet any new people out in public anyway, because I live in LA, where everyone drives (boring!). In real cities I met interesting people everywhere I went – on the bus, on the street, everywhere. One time in London, I got on the escalator with this girl and this guy who were complete strangers, and by the time we got up to the top of the escalator, we’d decided we were all going to go see Sleater-Kinney together that night, and we did.

    I guess I just feel like I’d be more shy about talking to people now because I have less of an idea who’s who. But like Jerem said, it’s all about being more observant.

  5. Shay Says:

    ‘Exactitude’ is already a word in English, and is not a contraction of ‘exact’ and ‘attitude’ but is the quality of being exact or rigorous. ktnxbye.

  6. Damien Says:

    There is a similar problem in Atlanta, in that it’s harder for people to approach each other, when there’s little walking to do, and everyone is so mad at the mass transit system they don’t even want to Think about their neighbours.

    Most of my recent new friends came from smoking, and talking about random crap, down on campus. People ask for a cigarette, or you ask for one, or a light (or a pack of sugar, or some cream, or whathaveyou), and they hear your conversation, and they either run screaming, or join in, just fine.

    And sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised by who joins in, and sometimes you’re disappointed by who runs. But you make new friends :)

  7. E. Black Says:

    More adventurous is definitely key now. It’s more fun to discover that the tall lanky barista at Starbucks who looks like they’d be more into Barry Manilow is actually into something that I enjoy also.

  8. Mike Jennings Says:

    Maybe it’s living in a big city, maybe it’s the ADD… But I find trying to properly observe everyone completely exhausting. I was always grateful for the visual indicators.

    While I agree that the overall “look” is no longer reliable, the deviltry’s in the details. For example, anyone wearing jewelry featuring taxidermy supplies (http://idolatrieartist.typepad.com/jane_wynns_studio_a_visua/wynn_studio/) is probably going to be someone with whom I can have more than a passing conversation.

    I always found that the most reliable quickie indicator was taste in music, specifically breadth: “What music do you listen to?” “Oh, you know… rock…” “Okay, well… Thanks for playing.” Trouble is that the music taste isn’t as easily identified visually or at least quickly. (“Is she wearing that Velvet Underground t-shirt because she likes them? Or because the shirt is ‘vintage’?”)

    Interestingly, how someone presents themselves on the Internet has proven to be pretty reliable. It’s easy to aggregate their entire net footprint with a quick Google search; the phonies are easy to spot. Of course, they’re scattered to the corners of the earth, so it’s a completely different experience from finding a kindred spirit on an escalator, and not nearly as exciting.

    All that said, I’m also on the business end of the visual-indicator question. At this point, apart from the odd t-shirt, I present mostly as a fat, balding computer geek; all of my goth trappings of yore would look silly on me now. So I routinely get blown off by people that I’m positive I’d be compatible with. It doesn’t bother me that much, I’m just left with thinking to myself “kid, you think you know me… there are scenes I’ve been in, parts of my soul… you’d run crying home to mama…” But whatever. The observant ones figure it out.

    –Mike Jennings

  9. nadyalev Says:

    Guys, thanks for all the replies on this one. It is kind of exciting that this trend in dressing has actually forced us all to be more observant and perhaps open-minded, but sometimes I wish it still was as easy as when I was 15. However everyone I know now is 10 times cooler than most of the people I associated with when I was 15, so perhaps it’s not that big a loss.

    Mike, thanks for the link to Jane Wynn’s work; I’d never seen her stuff before! Little details like that do help. Ties with squid on them, etc. I agree that music is a great, quick litmus test. Too quick maybe; sometimes I wonder if I base my opinion on this too much. But it also depends on how inquisitive people are. Like if you mention your favorite bands and they don’t know any of them but want to find out all about them, that’s totally endearing. I know the feeling that you describe in your last paragraph. You’ve summed it up perfectly. But the observant people are usually the most interesting ones.

  10. Héloïse Says:

    The trouble with music is that oftentimes people with great musical taste have no interest in anything else. They don’t read, for example. And that’s a big turn-off for me.

  11. Io Says:

    You are SO VERY RIGHT about no longer being able to meet similar people just because they look “alternative.” Indeed, just eight or 9 years ago, if I saw someone with piercings/dyed hair/interesting style…it was a cue for me to approach them in conversation at an event or while out and about.

    Now, since Sean and I started our goth/industrial night 5 years ago, it’s been virtually impossible to figure out who to distribute fliers to. Just last week a girl walked by on campus with a nose piercing, dyed black hair, and fishnets… I thought, “Bingo!” Well, it turns out that she doesn’t listen to “that music” at all…rather, she’s into Emo and other flavors of the minute.

    In fact, the bulk of the people that come to our night and are really interested in the music are not the types you’d know to advertise to. That presents a special challenge for us these days.

  12. My Tentacles Are Showing » Blog Archive » What’s with the Name? Says:

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