Monday, December 7, 2015

A Dark Affair

    That we have repeatedly had long standing affairs with black is not in dispute.  From the Renaissance Spaniards getting the whole to Europe to fall in love with black clothing, to the nearly obsessive blackness of Victorian apparel, to the current inundation of black throughout the ready to wear industry, we have never been able to stay away long from the siren lure of black.
    But what are the reasons behind it?  What makes us want it so badly?  Clearly there is more going on than that having an all black wardrobe somehow seeming simpler.  One could configure a wardrobe of any single color and the effect would be the same in terms of simplifying choice.  The motivators are many.
    First of all is the truly profound effect that the color has on our psyches.  It is a hard wired part of our response system.  Black equals night to us, which in turn inspires unease, and fear.  We cannot see in the dark, so we are limited in a way we find uncomfortable.  Since we are creatures who process massive amounts of visual information constantly, not being able to see well would of course disturb our equilibrium.  The unknown irritates the monkey brain that exists in us, we cannot know if there is reason to be fearful, but we cannot entirely banish that from our thought process.
    How that manifests itself in Attire terms is an association with mystery, and danger.  The person in black is to some degree unknowable to us, which we find compelling, as well as distressing.  What makes our response different from the dark room response, is that we can see the limits of the blackness, as it wraps around the body.  That physical limitation allows us license to engage our curiosity. We want to know more about the person in black.  We want to discover the secrets they have, danger or no.  So, we find black sexually exciting as well as mysterious.
     The connection to sex is one that instantly goes into edgier territory, because the feeling of discomfort, or fear we get when we see black, associates with sexual acts that may be painful, or extreme.  So it is no wonder at all that the predominating color choice for gear in the SM/BD realm is black.  And when we make that black clothing in leather, animalistic, and militaristic associations get layered onto it which amps up the perceived danger, and the fascination.
    But we also see black clothing as chic, modern and sophisticated.  What is going on there?  Part of it is that black is so visually commanding.  The body enshrouded in black becomes a column, because so little detail is readily viewable from a distance.  Even when the garments are complex, the final result is monolithic, implying a strength of character which may be entirely absent.  The continuation of the black color from foot to neck, creates a unified appearance that we read as "put together" and refined.  As well, the notion of refinement is increased because the success of an all black ensemble of Attire words, relies on texture, not pattern, or the presence of other colors.  So, we must be more discerning when we choose black as our go to, and the viewer must be more discerning as well.
    Black is the color of serious intention.  We clad our judges, priests, and undertakers in black.  We associate black with death, loss, and passage.  It is the color of finality, in the Western world.  Wearing black conveys to others that you wish to be taken seriously.  Whether that means you want to be seen as seriously intelligent, seriously successful, seriously moral, or seriously sexy is not the point, but the gravity of your claim is.
    What is curious is that we also put our servant class workers in black, routinely.  How many restaurants have their servers in black?  Walk into many clothing stores and you will see all the staff in black, though they are not in a uniform.  So in the case of service personnel, we are psychologically using black to both mark them as servants, and also to remove a layer of their humanity, just as happens with any uniform wearing group. The person in black becomes their position, no longer a full, distinctly separate human being.
    Our motivators for being so in love with black include, especially these days, it's association with depression, and sadness.  For many people, living in our precariously teetering world, black is a physical manifestation of the unhappiness they feel with regard to the direction our culture is going in.  They are expressing their angst silently, but potently.
    So, we cling to the black, even when it frightens us on some level.  But we have found ways to make it's power work for us.  It's very adaptability to differing situations makes it a logical, though emotionally derived decision.  Black operates like some kind of visual alpha/omega, encompassing a huge range of mindsets, emotional states, and intentions.  So though it is a dark affair, fraught with mysteries, we cannot keep away from its sexy intensity.

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