Like my previous post on graffiti and the Classical, these shoes, by Brooklyn-based husband/wife design team Aaron Osborn and Carla Venticinque-Osborn of Osborn Design Studios, succeed precisely because they embody the intersection of very different cultural histories.
In this case, the intersection is the British gentleman’s style standard, the Oxford, and the (very non-European) traditional textile patterns typical of the Guatemalan culture where these shoes are constructed. It is particularly striking that these shoes still come off as ‘dressy’ to me even though they clearly rep the pattern party. This is an accomplishment in and of itself, as ‘fun’ and ‘dressy’ aren’t qualities often present together in men’s clothing.
Of course, Western tastemakers have embraced so-called “native” cultural modes before — notably Picasso’s penchant for African masks and the fashionability of Gauguin with the European and Russian elite. However, most of these Modern-era examples exude more than a whiff of Imperialism. What is exciting about many contemporary cultural mashups is the seeming emergence of a world-wide culture of not just tolerance, but of true incorporation and collaboration. This trend extends across disciplines, from architecture to fashion, and encourages all cultures to intermingle in an unmediated conversation. It is my hope that this mingling isn’t seen as an invasion (such as in the recent Swiss ban on Islamic minarets), but as the start of a new era of decreasing cultural misunderstanding through direct experience.
The languages that we speak, both linguistic and aesthetic, determine how we understand ourselves and each other; And I, for one, welcome the possibilites that arise with the increase in vocabulary that is promised through these new cultural collaborations.
*Thanks to ILGTM for the tip.