There is currently a line of men’s footwear (that I saw in a surf shop) called ‘Custom’. Right…

Mel has a new post up on Footpath Zeitgeist on customisation where she discusses a paper from the recent Fashion stream of the CSAA conference. In part she writes:

Indeed, what I really liked about Silvester’s research is the way that customisation isn’t presented as a purely stylistic gesture or as mark of singularity for its own sake. Instead, it is a pragmatic acknowledgement of the relationships that people form with their clothing, and the way those relationships change over time.

Depending on how Mel is using singularity here I would suggest that it is not so much a case of being singular or not, but of different types of singularity correlating with different forms of multiplicity.

I think ‘singularity for its own sake’ actually means distinction for the sake of territorialising the stylistic gestures of others. This is the spatialisation of another’s virtuality, what Bourdieu called distinction. The emergent vertical hierarchies of difference are posited in relation to enduring structrations of such fields of spatialisation. Endurance here may be of a single fashion cycle, a single weekend, or for an entire decade. For example, Reebok Hi-Tops may have been released in 1987, but they are now sooo 1980s, and you won’t wear yours again after being shown up for some fucking dandy wearing brilliant white and green versions last weekend (bastard).

On the other hand, the customisation that Mel is interested and highlighted by the CSAA paper is in fact a way of tracing “the way those relationships [between clothes and wearer] change over time.” The singularity here pertains to a virtual multiplicity of duration. That is a multiplcity (and correlative singularity) that manifests a necessary temporal dimension. The elements of customisation here arrest the changes over time — that is, the duration of ownership — rather than attempt to fix differences in a spatialised field of distinction. It was this difference that I was getting in my question I asked of Mel on her other blog regarding subcultural capital in the way Sarah Thornton described it and a subcultural capital for an event-based conception of (fashion) subcultures.

The difference between the two forms of customisation is one of the great divides of modified-car culture. On one side are the restorers through to the resto-modders through to the modifiers through to the customisers through to the tuners. I discuss this to great length in my section about becoming part of the scene and buying a car. Part of buying a car is accounting for the duration of ownership: how well was the car maintained, its condition for its age, and so on. This is very different to the abstract sign-commodities of the so-called postmodernist school of commodity culture. This all becomes incredibly complex when you think of situations such as contemporary street rods that are built to look exactly like 1950s rods, but using technologies that simply did not exist then and even producing a car that is far superior in terms of technological development compared to the 1950s cars. What is arrested here is not so much an individual field of virtuality, thus pertaining to distinction, but a field pertaining to an entire cultural formation. This is what I trace when I talk about the series of social organisation from street rodders to street machiners to current day imports.