Dior’s British men’s clothing line is “inspired” by Jack Kerouac. Another appropriation, another victory for consumerism
Say what you want about Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty, they weren’t there for the money or appearance. The two protagonists of On the Road by Jack Kerouac indeed sparked an anti-materialist literary and social movement, aimed at improving the perception and almost certainly a reaction to the conservative capitalist excesses of America in the 1950s. both intrigue and metaphor on the road, the Beat Generation has been reduced to a marketing gimmick on the runway: Dior’s menswear collection, unveiled earlier this week at a parade in London, is inspired by the aesthetics and characters of Kerouac.
Of course, it’s unfair to blame the contemporary fashion industry alone. Che Guevara has long been a medium of selling t-shirts and motorcycles, and the Beat aesthetic has been used to sell clothing, coffee, and even tourism in the United States almost since its inception. And, after all, when publishers sell books, aren’t they already part of the market? Fashion is often seen as an art form, and as appropriations take place, many will say things can get much worse. The many, as they often are, would be wrong.
The difference between substance and emptiness, authenticity and performance, is context. And whenever an aspect of culture that in essence challenges an order of conservatism and inequality becomes a way to make money and look cool – without really bothering anyone – we let’s lose something precious. No, Dior and its creators are not simply “inspired” by Kerouac, nor do they interpret his art in a new context. What they do is steal its depth and sell literature and a worldview like a postcard with costumed models. Kim Jones, the designer at Dior in charge of the project said he liked “the moment when counter-culture becomes culture”. But then, he forgot to add, the first one gets lost.
This editorial first appeared in the print edition on December 11, 2021 under the title “On the Trail”.