Words Gone Viral

You can put your wisdom in one sentence. Sometimes two. Choose a nice sans-serif type. If someone famous said it, you could put it in inverted commas. Visual quotes and aphorisms are going viral and have taken over pop culture and even the fashion world. Concise is nice. Agree? Like. Let your friends see it too. Repost. Repin. Regram. Put it on a t-shirt.

Having moved on from the brief dark period (remember all those Hotmail-forwarded wisdoms and semi-funny pre-memes?), the ‘jpeg generation’ now curates their social media profiles with pretty looking words strung together through opinionated taglines disguised as common sense. These viral words are all about dressing up one’s image and picking up nods of approval—or digital likes, if you wish. Why does the sort of toilet-wall wisdom that sits among the so-and-so-was-here now finds itself on the likes of Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook? Keep calm and carry on.

Quotes and carefully crafted aphorisms just stick. They’re easy to remember, recite and use wherever appropriate – they might even live with you for a bit. Like the earworm of a catchy tune, these viral words can temporarily haunt you as they play in your head. Yet there’s also something soothing about them. They seem a valid way to spend some quality procrastination time. Three little kittens they lost their mittens. Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.

Having grown up with slogans that advertised brands, it seems a natural progression to now brand ourselves. The remnants of this late 1990s’ trend have long been neglected to the souvenir shops next to the “My sister went to Paris and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” stock. There was also the Hard Rock Café t-shirt. I ❤ NY? I ❤ anything! Oh BOY, now Cara Delevingne proclaimed that she Ain’t No Wifey and brands like Zoe Karssen and Wildfox have turned the slogan tee into a profitable commodity that caters to an audience whose main interactions are communicated through devices.

Slogan tees work well on street style photographs. The trend has also been embraced by the fashion world and it was at the womenswear spring/summer 2013 shows where pretty words spilled onto the catwalk. Following Katherine Hamnett’s subversive messages in the early 1980s, Markus Lupfer, DKNY, Ashish, Acne and Alexander Wang spelled out opinionated and punchy statements on garments.

Slogan tees are also a good icebreaker, more often than not in an annoying sort of way. Wear one on a night out and you’ll get slurred, predictable comments from drunken men.

Social Media

Visual quotes on social media are more ephemeral and spontaneous than their ancestor, the car bumper sticker. Now that everyone spends most of their day hunched over their phone, it’s only natural that our urge for displaying our opinion has moved to a different medium. There’s the #quoteoftheday, the motivational bit of wisdom; Dr. Seuss, Coco Chanel, Oscar Wilde et al. have suddenly had a bit of an online revival. Well, in order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.

There’s Rachel Zoe, celebrity stylist who announced at some point that, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Now, the whole web agrees. But does it really? Of course, clothes act as signifiers of identity, but they can also be used to manipulate and craft an identity. When we open our mouth, what comes out might unveil something completely different about us. We now dress our social media as we dress ourselves. Dress to impress. Then again, who cares!? It’s Friday, bitches! #tgif

Published online at The Style Con on 13th December 2013.

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