The East German Secret Police’s Illustrated Guide for Identifying Youth Subcultures: Punks, Goths, Teds & More (1985)

Ask Germans who lived under the German Democratic Republic what they feared most in those days, and they'll likely say the agents of the Ministry for State Security, best known as the Stasi. Ask those same Germans what they laughed at most in those days, and they may well give the same answer. As one of the most thoroughly repressive secret police forces in human history, the Stasi kept a close eye and a tight grip on East German society: as one oft-told joke goes, "Why do Stasi officers make such good taxi drivers? You get in the car and they already know your name and where you live." But this fearsome vigilance went hand-in-hand with technological limitation as well as plain ineptitude:  "How can you tell that the Stasi has bugged your apartment?" another joke asks. "There's a new cabinet in it and a trailer with a generator in the street."

When the Stasi turned this kind of crude but intense scrutiny to certain aspects of life, the results almost satirized themselves. Take, for instance, this circa-1985 internal guide used to identify the "types of negative decadent youth cultures in the German Democratic Republic," posted on Twitter by musician and writer S. Alexander Reed and later translated into English by a few of his followers.




The chart breaks down the supposedly decadent youth cultures of mid-1980s East Germany into eight groups, describing their interests, appearance, political inclinations, and activities in the columns below. The rock-and-roll-oriented "Teds," dressed in a "50s style," don't seem to rouse themselves for anything besides "birth and death days of idolized rock stars." The "Tramps," a "classic manifestation of the negative-decadent youth in the 70s," adhere to the trends of a somewhat more recent era.

The fans of "extremely hard rock" known as "Heavies" once held a "deprecative attitude towards state and society," but seemed at the time to become "increasingly society-conforming." Other youth cultures considered decadent by the Stasi bore labels that might still sound familiar across the world. The "Goths," a "satanic and death cult," are noted for their "glorification of creepy effects" and for being "fans of the group The Cure." Though they may have been "hardly noticed operationally," the "punks" presented a more clear and present threat, what with their "deprecative to hostile political attitude, rejection of all state forms and societal norms," "anarchist thoughts," and belief in "total freedom."

You can see the chart in a larger size here, and if you'd like to examine the real thing, you have only to visit Leipzig's Museum in der Runden Ecke (or view it online here). The document resides in its collection of the tools of the Stasi trade, including, in the words of Atlas Obscura, "old surveillance cameras, collections of confiscated personal letters, and crisp uniforms letting visitors get a glimpse into the world of brutal state espionage." Germans who remember all the power the Stasi could potentially wield over their lives — a power, for all they knew, about to descend on them any moment — must still feel a chill upon seeing one of those crisp uniforms. Now we know that their wearers might, upon laying eyes on Birkenstocks ("literally: 'Jesus slippers'"), red and black worn together ("contrasts as a symbol of anarchy"), or a mohawk (or "Iriquois") haircut, have felt apprehensive themselves.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Ancient Romans First Committed the Sartorial Crime of Wearing Socks with Sandals, Archaeological Evidence Suggests

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Of all sartorial crimes, none require quite so much brazenness — or simple obliviousness — as the wearing of socks with sandals. But unlike most widely disdained fashions, which usually tend to have enjoyed their heyday two or three decades ago, the socks-and-sandals combination has deep historical roots. And those roots, so 21st-century researchers have found out, go much deeper than most of us may have expected. "Evidence from an archaeological dig has found," wrote Telegraph science correspondent Richard Alleyne in 2012, "that legionnaires wore socks with sandals" — ancient Roman legionnaires, that is. "Rust on a nail from a Roman sandal found in newly discovered ruins in North Yorkshire appears to contain fibres which could suggest that a sock-type garment was being worn."

"You don't imagine Romans in socks," Alleyne quoted the archaeologist heading the cultural heritage team on site as saying," but I am sure they would have been pretty keen to get hold of some as soon as autumn came along."




As with any new discovery about life in the past, this changes the way enthusiasts of the period have gone about re-creating their favorite elements of it: take, for instance, heritage educator and crafter Sally Pointer. "Pointer has been enamored with the ancient world since she was a kid," writes Atlas Obscura's Jessica Leigh Hester, "when she cooked up plans for potions, devices, and craft projects — all with the goal of understanding how things came to be."

Image by David Jackson via Wikimedia Commons

Looking to socks worn in ancient Egypt (see above), Pointer makes her own versions of these "cheerfully striped" socks using a technique called naalbinding, "which is sometimes considered a precursor to two-needle knitting and involves looping yarn on a single needle," and in this case making each sock's two toes separately and then joining them together. Should more evidence emerge about the techniques and styles of the socks Romans seem to have worn under their sandals, Pointer and makers like her will no doubt be the first to make use of them. But for now, we need only make one important revision to the historical record: "Britons may be famous for their lack of fashion sense and Italians for their style," as the sub-headline of Alleyne's piece puts it, "but it appears we may have inherited one of our biggest sartorial crimes from the Romans."

via Telegraph/Atlas Obscura

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The “David Bowie Is” Exhibition Is Now Available as an Augmented Reality Mobile App That’s Narrated by Gary Oldman: For David Bowie’s Birthday Today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvP1ZczQ-C8

Maybe it’s too soon to divide pop music history into “Before David Bowie” and “After David Bowie,” but two years after Bowie’s death, it’s impossible to imagine pop music history without him. Yet, if there ever did come a time when future generations did not know who David Bowie is, they could do far worse than hear Gary Oldman tell the story. Luckily for them, and us, Oldman narrates the new David Bowie augmented reality app, which launches today on what would have been the legend’s 72nd birthday.

Bowie and Oldman were both born and raised in South London. They became friends in the 80s, starred together in Julian Schnabel’s 1996 film Basquiat, and collaborated on the 2013 video for “The Next Day,” in which Oldman plays a sleazy, ducktailed priest. As much the consummate changeling in his medium as Bowie, Oldman brings a fellow craftsman’s appreciation to his role as docent, without any sense of star-struckness. “I see him less as ‘David Bowie,’” he once remarked, “and more as Dave from Brixton and I’m Gary from New Cross.”




The app is based on the sensational 2013 Victoria & Albert museum exhibition David Bowie Is, which traveled the world for five years before ending at the Brooklyn Museum this past summer. Focused on “the colourful, theatrical side of Bowie,” Tim Jonze writes at The Guardian, the show drew “a staggering 2m visitors” with its stunning breadth of costumes, props, sketches, lyrics sheets, film, and photography. The digital version intends, however, not only to “recreate the experience of going to the exhibition,” but “to better it.”

Learn how “Dave from Brixton” (or Davy Jones, before a Monkee of the same name came along) made “sketches proposing outfits for his teenage band the Delta Lemons (brown waistcoats with jeans).” See how that young aspiring crooner learned to love “hikinuki—the Japanese method of quick costume change that he experimented with during his Aladdin Sane shows at Radio City Music Hall.” The exhibition brilliantly fulfilled his own wishes for his legacy. “As Bowie himself puts it,” Jonze writes, “he didn’t want to be a radio, but a colour television.”

Bowie probably would have been pleased to have his friend Gary hosting his variety show. But does the AR app match, or better, the real thing? It’s “no match for seeing the costumes in real life,” or seeing Bowie himself in the flesh. But for the millions of people who never got the chance—a category that will soon include everyone—it may currently be the best way to experience the musician/actor/writer/one-man-zeitgeist’s career in three dimensions. See a preview of the app from Rolling Stone, above, and download the AR David Bowie Is for iPhone and Android via these links. The cost is $7.99.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Getting Dressed During World War I: A Fascinating Look at How Soldiers, Nursers & Others Dressed During the Great War

Not to diminish the nightmare of mortars and shrapnel, but as evidenced by Crow’s Eye Productions’ period accurate dressing video above, one of the greatest horrors of WWI was wet wool.

Decades before the invention of Gore-Tex, Polar Fleece and other high performance, all weather gear, British soldiers relied on their woolies from head to toe.

An army of female knitters sent gloves, scarves, balaclavas and other such “comforts” to the front, in addition to seamless socks designed to last their boys three whole marching days inside their ankle high leather boots.




Alas, no amount of waxing and oiling could keep the trenches’ freezing cold puddles from seeping through those boots.

Nothing’s worse than the scent of three layers of wet wool when you’re catching your death in sodden puttees.

The regiments whose uniform bottoms consisted of kilts had it particularly rough, as the wet material would freeze, cutting across the wearers’ legs like knives.

Prevented from joining the combat on the frontlines, British women helped out where they could, achieving a more comfortable level of dress than they’d known before the war.

Torso-smashing corsets were scrapped to preserve steel for the war effort, though decorum decreed that British Red Cross Society Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses, such as Downton Abbey’s fictional Lady Sybil Crawley, maintain a tidy figure with lighter, front-fastening corsets from hips to just below the bust.

Many of the upper class women swelling the volunteer nursing ranks were unaccustomed to dressing in such utilitarian fashion—cotton dresses, black flat rubber-soled shoes, aprons and sleeve protectors.

Their figures found comparative liberation, while their vanity found humbler outlets in dusting powder and the flattering army-style professional nursing veils they preferred to The Handmaid’s Tale-ish Sister Dora caps.

The greater physical freedom of the nurses’ uniforms extended to ordinary young women as well. Their underwear—a midriff baring chemise, knickers and petticoat—allowed for easier movement, as shorter skirts led to glamorous stockings and—gasp!—shaved legs!

Trendy cardigans, jumpers and waistcoats weren’t just cute, they helped make up for the lost warmth of those oh-so-restrictive corsets.

View more of Crow’s Eye Productions’ short films on the history of dress here.

Knitters, you can find over 70 patterns for WW1 comforts and necessities in the book Centenary Stitches: Telling the Story of One WW1 Family Through Vintage Knitting and Crochet.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  See her onstage in New York City this January as host of  Theater of the Apes book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Ancient Egyptians Wore Fashionable Striped Socks, New Pioneering Imaging Technology Imaging Reveals

If you grew up in certain decades of the 20th century, you almost certainly spent your childhood wearing striped socks, and you may even have returned to the practice in recent years as they've regained their sartorial respectability. But new research has revealed that this sort of multicolored hosiery has a more distant historical precedent than we may imagine, one going all the way back to ancient Egypt. The subject of that research, the small sock pictured above, evidences the fashionability of striped socks among the Egyptian youth of more than 1700 years ago, though its own stripes have only recently been revealed by the most modern imaging technology.

"Scientists at the British Museum have developed pioneering imaging to discover how enterprising Egyptians used dyes on a child’s sock, recovered from a rubbish dump in ancient Antinoupolis in Roman Egypt, and dating from 300AD," writes The Guardian's Caroline Davies. "New multispectral imaging can establish which dyes were used – madder (red), woad (blue) and weld (yellow) – but also how people of the late antiquity period used double and sequential dying and weaving, and twisting fibers to create myriad colors from their scarce resources."




This and other similarly advanced research, such as the use of ultraviolet light and infrared and x-ray spectroscopy that found the bright colors of ancient Greek sculpture, no doubt has us all rethinking the broadly monochromatic fashion in which we've long envisioned the ancient world.

We may also have to start imagining it a little less elegantly than we have been. "The ancient Egyptians employed a single-needle looping technique, often referred to as nålbindning, to create their socks," writes Smithsonian's Katherine J. Wu. "Notably, the approach could be used to separate the big toe and four other toes in the sock — which just may have given life to the ever-controversial socks-and-sandals trend." It brings to mind the archaeological research that came out a few years ago suggesting that the Romans in Britain two millennia ago may have worn socks with their sandals as well. That information has made it to the Wikipedia page specifically dedicated to socks and sandals; an enterprising reader might have a look at the British Museum scientists' paper, "A multispectral imaging approach integrated into the study of Late Antique textiles from Egypt," and add in a bit about the ancient wearing of striped socks with sandals as well.

via Smithsonian

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Stylish 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

When the Romans pushed their way north into the German provinces, they built (circa 90 AD) The Saalburg, a fort that protected the boundary between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribal territories. At its peak, 2,000 people lived in the fort and the attached village. It remained active until around 260 AD.

Somewhere during the 19th century, The Saalburg was rediscovered and excavated, then later fully reconstructed. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses the Saalburg Museum, which contains many Roman relics, including a 2,000 year old shoe, apparently found in a local well.




If you think the Italians have mastered the craft of making shoes, well, they don't have much on their ancestors. According to the site Romans Across Europe, the Romans  "were the originators of the entire-foot-encasing shoe." The site continues:

There was a wide variety of shoes and sandals for men and women. Most were constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole. Many had large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like patterns. Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. Some very dainty women’s and children’s shoes still had thick nailed soles.

The image above, which puts all of the Roman's shoe-making skill on display, comes to us via Reddit and imgur.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in July 2016.

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Van Gogh’s Art Now Adorns Vans Shoes

While museums remain free for the most part in Europe and still so popular that they are loved better than luxury brands (according to this one article), funding is not what it used to be. As you might have seen with our posts on Hieronymus Bosch on (Dr. Marten’s) Boots, wearable classic art is kind of a thing now.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam announced a series of limited-edition Vans (Van Gogh, Vans shoes, get it?!) featuring patterns based on his paintings: "Skull" (1887), "Almond Blossom" (1890), "Sunflowers" (1889) and van Gogh's "Self-Portrait as a Painter" (1887-1888). There’s even a shoe that uses writing from one of his letters, including stamp and address, as a pattern.




Would ol’ Vincent been happy with this, seeing the public want to wear his work? He was certainly happy in that Doctor Who episode where he traveled forward in time to know he hadn’t suffered in vain. But would he have liked to see his art wrapped around fans’ bodies?

Because the Vans line doesn’t stop at shoes, it features baseball hats, t-shirts, hoodies, and backpacks. There is undoubtedly a lot of detail put into them. These aren’t quick knock offs made for a tourist stall. The shoe interiors contain addition designs, and each product comes with information about the work.

And it’s all for a good cause: a portion of each sale goes back to the Van Gogh Museum to help with funding and preservation.

That’s a sight better than 2017’s Van Gogh bags designed by artist/cultural appropriator Jeff Koons for Louis Vuitton, for which he slapped some masterpieces on a $5,000 handbag and hung “VAN GOGH” in blocky fake-gold letters on the front. (If it makes you feel better, Louis Vuitton burns all its leftover product lest it fall into the hands of the poors.)

The Vans Van Gogh collection store opens August 3, so we can’t even tell you how much these shoes might be. But if the Doc Marten’s are anything to go by, they will sell out quick.

Cool way to help fund a museum, or just pure commodification? Let us know below.

via This is Colossal

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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