Clothing Equilibrium

“Of course, there is much zest of novelty in the cult, and the eventual equilibrium among the senses will slough off a good deal of the new ritual, both in clothing and in housing.” Imagine what this eventual equilibrium will look like? Where might an equilibrium exist? What is the settling point?

Homework from Andrew McLuhan’s Understanding Media intensive, quote from UM

In the 20th and 21st centuries a shift has occured in whcih individuals get to consume and contain more energy than every. This is demonstrated by a world population that is clothed and mostly housed. While centuries of
technological and sociological development evolved to this point, the expression in the age of electricity is shocking.

Humans for most history and all of pre-history had access to alot less energy, much less of the world, and no electricity. Accordingly, their perception of clothing was entirely about separation from the others and fidelity with the clan. This of course, will always persist as it is the formal cause of clothing; but the formal cause of fashion is a contemporary emergence of the generational/cultural zeitgeist.

McLuhan conjects in the chapter titled ‘Clothing: Our Extended Skin’ that “After centuries of being fully clas and of being contained in uniform visual space, the electric age ushers us into a world in which we live and breathe and listen with the entire epidemis” (Understanding Media, p.166). This comment closely parallels his closing of chapter 4, ‘The Gadget Lover: Narcissus as Narcosis’ to which he said “In the electric age we wear all manking as our skin” (70). However, that same paragraph opens with “The principle of numbness comes into play with electric technology, as with any other. We have to numb our central nervous system when it is extended and exposed, or we will die” (69).

Clothing and housing predate most of the other media technologies explored and chronographed in understanding Media. By epochs, really. That’s why chapter 1 of Genesis ends with their inventions. Of course, like all older forms in the newer electric environment, the velocity of expression and change increase exponentially. In the decades since UM was written, housing and clothing have likely taken predictable developments from McLuhan’s framework that “If clothing is a n extension of our private skins to store and channel our own heat and energy, housing is a collective means of achieving the same end for the family or the group” (169).

Accordingly, despite our alleged comfort and self-expression, in actuality we are overwhelmed by the generationally unprecendented experience of being able to experience the whole world from our couches, under our snuggies. While we are deeply connected through screen&sound-based-media, the world is felt right against the body. Interestingly, McLuhan notes the medical need for numbness referencing Syle and Jonas in chapter 4, saying “they find that the autoamputative power or strategy is resorted to by the body when the perceptual power cannot locate or avoid the cause of irritation” (63).

Clothing and Housing have become more powerful in their ability to store and express energy. Simultaneously, this is felt deeply in fashion and home living. As an average person in the the current have more kinds of clothes and materials than their ancestors and more electricity and connectivity next to their bed than their ancestors had in their entire village. It is overwhelming and phsyically beyond the experience of millions of years of bodily development. Not to mention sweeping climate change worldwide. There is a romantic fantasy of the pastoral life. Though this fantasy of going into the woods or building off grid and making one’s own clothes seems popular,
there is a truthful resistive power in it: its fitting that a recently electrified India was led through independence by a man who insisted everyone spin their own cloth.

However, the person cannot live eternally naked or without shelter. Accordingly, the over expression of the material forms of clothing and housing will eventually reach an equilibrium. While they are essentially to survival, their tactile and environmental over-expression in an larger context of all media forms growing richer and more expansive, becomes uncomfortable. Inevitably, such things we reverse to simpler factors. This can be seen in the popularity of minimalist household organization trends as well as the popularity of rustic “farm house” interiors. However, the equilibrium may be impossible to achieve now that Work-from-home has become a standard.