Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Hodden Grey an' a' that



While researching Viking Textiles I have uncovered mention of a fabric named Hodden, which isn't viking, but which I was lead to in my research of information regarding the Viking Wadmal (trade cloth).

I quote the Mighty Wiki:

"Hodden or wadmel is a coarse kind of cloth made of undyed wool, formerly much worn by the peasantry of Scotland. It was usually made on small hand-looms by the peasants themselves. Grey hodden was made by mixing black and white fleeces together in the proportion of one to twelve when weaving. The origin of the word is unknown.
 So, this is interesting isn't it?

It raises a lot of questions, firstly, is this cloth an inherited tradition from the Norsemen? If so, was it's status as a trading good continued, or did it become a rough word to describe home-spun rough textiles worn by the poor?

Anyway, enough of that. I ask you to look at the above picture of Ben Affleck.

Now, we can all agree that he looks proper bad-ass on the left with the whole 70's repressed-mountain-man look. But observer the rightwards pictorial representation.

My first thought upon seeing this: "love that suit"

That lovely fabric, which is dark without being uniform, which has flecks of white running through it, could easily by the cultural inheritor of Hodden. Is this a case of a common cloth being adopted by the ruling classes? Don't you think that this soft blending of shades in a cloth is attempting to copy mixed-fibre cloths that were previously considered cheap and worn by the lower orders of society?

Isn't this an interesting subject? Could it be that Hodden, previously being the uniform of the working masses of society, has evolved to the stage that, though it's cultural inheritor (the cheap working suit) is commonly worn and made of uniform and high-quality materials, the upper echelons of modern capitalist society are more likely to wear a fabric that more closely copies the qualities of irregularity found in traditional cloth. Could this be an attempt to distinguish one's status by indicating through your costume that you can afford cloth made of unusual and, by their look (subjective, i know), handmade yarns (irregularity is often mistaken for handmade, regularity often mistaken for machine made)?

Interesting thought.

Anyway, I was looking at it all, took a break and found myself on a random website about movies and stuff and saw this picture.

I would ask you to consider denim, in this context.

Consider also, the idea that I as a person on a low income in this society, have two clothing items that I am careful of, one of which I wear regularly.

1: My Kilt
2: my Levis

I would suggest, when talking about my Levis, that what was once a very rough item of working wear for miners in the west during the period of american westwards expansion (wild west, whatever) has become a standard signifier of uniform belonging to the group of working men and women in our society (i say "our society" bearing in mind that most of my visitors are from US, UK and Europe and the general english speaking world). Look at how uncomfortable some politicians look when wearing jeans in public occasions. They're putting on an act, by wearing so-called casual wear in a formal occassion (press-conference/etc)

I, on the other hand, wear my Levis to interviews. They are the best pair of trousers I have, and they look bloody good. It's actually surprisingly difficult to get proper dark indigo jeans these days, everything has the bullshit "worn" look.

I could go on, but I won't. Just think:


Standard Peasant Cloth = High Status Luxury Item


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