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

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.

Hear David Lynch Read from His New Memoir Room to Dream, and Browse His New Online T-Shirt Store

We think of David Lynch as a filmmaker, and rightly so, but the director of EraserheadBlue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive has long kept a more diverse creative portfolio. He began as a painter, studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and has also tried his hand at photographymusic, and comic strips. More recently, writes the AV Club's Randall Colburn, "Lynch has also released his own line of coffee, collaborated on Twin Peaks-themed beer and skateboards, and created his own festival. His latest endeavor? T-shirts, which is wild because it’s hard to imagine the ever-dapper filmmaker ever wearing one."

Perhaps a line of Lynch-approved traditional white shirts, made to be buttoned all the way up even without a tie, remains in development. But for now, fans choose from the 57 T-shirts designs now available at Studio: David Lynch's Amazon store. All suitable for wearing to your local revival house, they include "Turkey Cheese Head," "Cowboy," "Small Dog,""Small Barking Dog,"and "You Gotta Be Kiddin' Me." What kind of life, now solidly into its eighth decade, has both enabled and driven Lynch to make not just so many things, but so many Lynchian things? Perhaps we can find a few answers within the nearly 600 pages of Room to Dream, Lynch's new memoir.

"Fans who share Lynch’s pleasure in mystery will approach this book anxiously, hoping that his secrets may somehow be both revealed and sustained," writes the Washington Post's Charles Arrowsmith of the book, an excerpt of which you can hear read by Lynch himself above. (He begins by saying "I'm going to tell you a story about my grandparents" and ends with the image of his young self vomiting into a helmet he'd brought to school for show-and-tell.) And those who fear that the conventionality of the memoir form might flatten out Lynch's idiosyncrasies can rest assured that "in telling his life story, Lynch demonstrates the same disregard for causality and tonal consistency that marks his films."

Despite including not just Lynch's perspective but the perspectives of many others ("surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues in various fields," proclaims the jacket copy), "Room to Dream pulls off a neat trick in drawing back a curtain and revealing relatively little. Despite the book’s heft, there’s not much to explicate the mysteries of Lynch’s work. But then, for him, the mystery’s the thing. To explain would be to destroy. What we get instead is insight into his creative process." As dedicated Lynch enthusiasts understand, the creative process, which throughout his career has led him not to answers but ever more strangely compelling questions, is everything.

Note: When Room to Dream comes out on June 19th, you can download the audiobook version, which Lynch helps narrate, for free if you sign up for Audible's free trial program. We have details on that program here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities 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.

How Dr. Martens’ Boots Are Made

In recent months, we've highlighted how Dr. Martens, the iconic boot maker, has tried to reinvent itself by creating more artistically inspired boots, some actually adorning the artwork of William Blake, Hieronymus Bosch, and traditional Japanese artists. These aren't your grandfather's Doc Martens, to be sure.

But however different Docs may now look on the outside, they haven't changed much on the inside. Just watch the video above, which takes you on a tour of "Dr. Martens' only UK factory on Cobbs Lane in Wollaston, Northamptonshire." The factory "employs 50 workers that make about 100,000 pairs of boots per year," all in the company's tried and true way....

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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