Our Town: New cool a symbol for strength, courage

Dr Tom Ferraro

It’s funny how the town of Williston Park never seems to change much. 

But there is change that occurs, just take a look at the kids. The photo you see is of two kids standing outside of Hildebrandt’s.  

I’ve learned plenty during this series on fashion statements of the young. 

Over the last six weeks I have written about hats and tats and bags and beards. This is the look of the new cool.  

I started the series by asking four questions:  Why are so many  kids getting tattoos, why are hats now almost always worn backwards, why do young women spend large dollars on handbags and why is going unshaven for seven days the new cool?

First thing I learned was that it seemed that every person I interviewed was taking a stand in order to get noticed. It’s like they were all afraid to turn into Marlin Brando in “On the Waterfront” who moans to his brother in the back seat of the taxi “I coulda been somebody. I coulda been a contender.” 

These kids want to be more than just contenders. They want to be champs.

There is something heart wrenching about this.  

America is the undisputed global super power with wealth and every imaginable product and service at our fingertips. 

But is seems we’re in endless competition with each other and we all have this ever present fear of becoming a nobody.   

So we engage in endless efforts to gain recognition no matter how expensive and no matter what the cost.  Let’s get that tattoo; I don’t care how much it hurts. What’s that you say that crocodile Gucci handbag costs $30,000? I’ll take it.  Here’s my Visa card.  

I think these fashion statements are an answer to this dilemma we all face.  Fashion has become our new religion and fashion is producing its bible.  

But I also see another meaning to these four trends. 

Bags say “I am packed up and ready to go.”  Tattoos remind me of Popeye saying “I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam. I’m Popeye the Sailorman Toot! Toot!” 

Backwards hats say “I am not afraid to have the sun in my eyes as I set out on my journey on the high seas.” And the unshaven face tells the world “I can relax, I don’t have to keep up appearances for anyone. I am free, free as a bird.”

This notion of escape from imprisonment has been written about by the greatest of writers.  

Alexander Dumas (Count of Monte Cristo), Samuel Beckett (The Lost Ones) Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows) and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick   all have dealt with the idea of the great escape 

America’s prison is this rat race we are in. 

And all those tattoos and backward hats and handbags and beards are at least a little bit of defiance which these kids unconsciously signify.  

Herman Melville took to the high seas for two years and his character Ishmael said “whenever I find myself grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul…it’s high time to get to the sea as soon as I can.”” Melville and his Ishmael and that tattooed Queequeg had a lust for adventure and for a desire for freedom.  

So maybe these kids with their tattoos or handbags or beards and oddly worn hats are also hoping for a little adventure before they give themselves up to adulthood with all its pressure and routine and boredom. 

I think my bemusing question about fashion turned out to be a good one after all. 

True enough this series started out during my post biopsy propofol fueled reverie about winning the Pulitzer. It was all kind of a joke. 

But looks to we learned something on this journey into the world of fashion.   

We learned that fashion may reveal a person’s fear of being a nobody and also symbolize strength and courage and a desire for adventure. As if the kids are saying “hey there has got to be a better way!”   

These fashion trends may be our new religion and are as American as apple pie, Ishmael, Queequeg, Popeye the Sailor, Pluto, Teddy Roosevelt and The Marlboro Man all rolled into one.  

All those guys with the seven day growth and those tattoos on the arm and a gleam in their eye that says “So long Olive Oyl honey, I’m shoving off. See ya next year about this time. I’m going whaling in the South Seas. 

I got a great big itch to find Moby Dick.”

About the author

Dr Tom Ferraro

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