Lately, it seems a certain type of reporter is clutching his pearls about the emergence of NASA jumpsuits as fashion items. In the case of Ars Technica's Eric Berger, this freak-out was precipitated by the appearance of a jumpsuit in Teen Vogue. For Vinay Menon, writing in the Toronto Star, it's model Cara Delevingne wearing a jumpsuit in an Instagram shot. How dare you, they whine. Don't you know you're not going to space?
A spacesuit for everyday wear? What’s next? A beekeeper suit for the gym? A haz-mat suit for formal functions?
Hey, bro: who asked you?That's pretty fucked up, on a number of fronts. First of all, it's a jumpsuit — I don't see any helmets or gloves or breathing-assistance devices, as one does with a spacesuit. Jumpsuits are already popular! The conflation of a spacesuit and a jumpsuit here feels deliberate, like Menon trying to make his audience see this choice as sillier than it is. Hey, bro: who asked you? Why do you think you're qualified to judge this, given that you've already indicated you're sloppy on the subtleties? High-fashion trends on models — like NASA-inspired jumpsuits — don't hit the market exactly the way they were on the runway; when was the last time you saw a civilian in Alexander McQueen's armadillo boots? What you tend to see instead are more subtle forms — people sporting NASA patches on their jean jackets or rocking a jumpsuit, generally, rather than a NASA-specific one.
Second: not everyone gets to go to space, but nearly anyone can contribute to NASA. NASA needs clothing designers, like it needs lawyers and doctors and engineers. Astronauts are an important part of the deal, but they aren't the whole deal and their job is actually not possible without plenty of other people in place. Some of those people, yes, make their clothes.
We've seen this before: it's the Fake Geek Girl all over againThird, scolding fashionistas for adopting NASA jumpsuits is sexist as shit. That's not really a surprise. Fashion is coded female. The space industry is overwhelmingly male, and despite some positive steps toward including half of humanity, a lot of men really want to defend their little clubhouse. The unavoidable subtext is that both writers don't want ew yucky girls taking their Important Man Things and enjoying them. Reinforcing that space is for men is a fast-and-easy way to tell women not to even bother to try to join the club. We've seen this before: it's the Fake Geek Girl all over again. Oh, you're wearing a NASA jumpsuit? Name your favorite five astronauts.
I'd like you to stop and consider: do you think these men have worn bomber jackets without flying planes? Motorcycle boots, without being on a motorcycle? Cowboy boots, even though they don't know how to ride, not even English-style? (Cowboy boots are associated with Western-style riding, for those of you who did not grow up near horses.) Jeans, without working in a mine? Shit, man, I am certain they have worn suits without being officers in Napoleonic-era armies. The entire history of men's extremely limited sartorial choices involves taking an innovation — generally occupational, often military — restyling it in more comfortable cloth or kinder cuts, and selling it.
And these guys should have known that before they wrote their screeds. But no, they proudly wear their ignorance on their sleeves. Take Berger:
This is a Anwar Hadid on page something or other (fashion magazines rarely put page numbers on the pages). I had never heard of this guy, but he is apparently a big deal among the teens. He's the younger brother of "top models" Gigi and Bella and the son of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda and real estate mogul Mohamed. And now he's a model, too. (The article cites something called "Hadid mania.")
It's a little funny watching these guys clearly signal their ignorance before moving on to decry fashion as less important than NASA. But let's forget that the rise of NASA-themed clothing and design elements also reflects the popularity of the current space program (arguably, for space buffs and NASA funding, a good thing.) And while we're at it, we'll forget the history of fashion, too. Instead, I'd like to focus on what Berger and Menon are telling the next generation of designers. It is: get out, we don't want you, fashion isn't important.
The rise of NASA-themed clothing and design elements also reflects the popularity of the current space program
Listen: someone has to design flight suits and space suits and so on, because like all humans, astronauts are vulnerable to death. Those people need to be really good at working with unusual materials, excited about the possibility of contributing to the space program, and willing to take a pay cut to make something for NASA instead of, say, Bottega Veneta or the Gap.
The next generation of people who might want to design space suits are teenagers now, and may very well be reading Teen Vogue, a publication Berger makes sure to tell us is yucky right there in his lede. (Because teenage girls are gross, right? Har har har. Take my wife... please! Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich! Har har har. This was unoriginal in the 1950s.) Berger owes his daughter, and teenage girls everywhere, an apology for that. As for Menon: my dude, there is no way to avoid looking like an old-timey fashion victim if you live long enough. Take "living long enough to see old embarrassing photos of myself" as a win, and have a little more fun. It can't possibly hurt the space program. Besides, having no taste whatsoever is way worse than having bad taste. Ask Simon Doonan, an actual fashion expert, if you don't believe me.