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KELLY BEST 2431021 VISA 3B47 NOVEMBER 10TH, 2014

As technology progresses, so too does our society and culture around it. The dependency and assumption that we’re incorporating these changes in technology into our daily lives is hardly given a second thought today. But it’s not too difficult to look back and recall the way things used to be, the ways in which our technology has changed. While some may choose ignore these changes, others work towards a brighter, more streamlined future, while others are looking back and reinventing things from the past. There have been names placed on these subcultures, definitions for this social commentary on digital youth culture, curated by the millennials and generation X; however, this specific genre goes by the newly invented title vaporwave. Vaporwave is a product of the past twenty years of the Internet and it’s impact on social changes. It’s widely considered to be a contemporary cultural, editorial response to nostalgia, specifically over the now outdated PCs, game systems, televisions, fashion, and music from the 1980s and 90s. As music and fashion moves towards something so artificial and pre-meditated, the carnivorous nature of capitalism is so inevitable that fighting for “authentic” art forms no longer feels possible. The formation of lo-fi and avant-garde accelerationist art forms was necessary to become what it is now. 4

“What is vaporwave? According to… various music forums, it’s ‘post-elevator music’… ‘corporate smooth jazz Windows 95 pop” (Lhooq, Thump). The entire concept of vaporwave is heavily dictated by it’s influences and an almost exact list of items that encompass it as an idea. As vaporwave develops, it adopts aspects from previous succeeding punk concepts along the way, such as “seapunk”, and renames them as it’s own. Beginning with the early stages of computers, the vaporwave movement glorifies the awkward phases of booming technology and all it offered. Fashion, music, and advertising from the 80s and 90s became the basis for what vaporwave is; a rehashing of the grandeur of dated-sounding, synthetic catchy pop jingles and cheesy advertisements as an essential part of paying homage to this aesthetic. From digital media such as VHS tapes, early LCD monitors, and primary operating systems came glitches and abnormal visual phenomenon from the errors that occurred in them. The pixilation, warped colours and fuzzy static of preHD and low-res screens has been a major part of what vaporwave stands for. With newer changes to the concept of vaporwave, contemporary Emojis from text messaging systems on smartphones have made their way into defining the genre. A seemingly bizarre aspect of vaporwave is its abundance of Japanese and Chinese characters, "The text surrounding vaporwave... often employs Chinese and Japanese lettering whose inscrutably enhances the music's sense of tapping into the airwaves of 5

global techno-capitalism..." (Harper, Dummy Mag)

The fashion industry has quickly been influenced

by the sweep of digital aesthetic cultures, creating new lines of ready-to-wear clothing to fill the desires to project an outward appearance of an online persona. One of the most notorious people known for reinventing the avant-garde digital fashion world is Jeremy Scott. Scott’s S/S 2014 line (A) features the familiar face of the DreamWorks character, Shrek. While the concept may seem like a simple commercial partnership, the reality is very different. For reasons not entirely easy to pin down, the social communities of the Internet


recently, quickly turned the entire concept of Shrek into a strangely sarcastic, satirical meme. “…the joke of Shrek’s mediocrity was then filtered through the internet’s many weird joke filters, which end up in a weird mix of sincerity and surrealism” (Sims, The Wire). The very appearance


of his face is no longer simply a


reference to the 2001 hit animated film, but it has been mutated into something much more poignant. The vaporwave movement has played an enormous role in repurposing and changing media, often for the sake of tongue-incheek humour. Starting at just $120, fashion lovers “in the know” can wear Shrek’s face and project it to others who will “get it”. In Louise Gray’s A/W 2012 line (B), patterns that mimicked QR codes were seen on dresses, bags, and more. Paired with flashy, iridescent fabrics and bubble-wrap gloves, the line reappropriates and commodifies digital concepts and commercial packaging into fine clothing. Reminiscent of computer hardware such as motherboards and wires, Louise Gray’s 2012 line takes advantage of digital concepts in a way much like the vaporwave genre has. For the youth interested in vaporwave and digital punk fashion trends, online shops such as Shop Jeen, Fresh Tops, and O-Mighty have emerged with affordable options for the average teen. T-shirts covered in Emoji patterns, iridescent footwear, and TV bar printed bags (C) make creating a digital, visual aesthetic wardrobe very 7


Starting with music, moving into art, and then into fashion, vapor-

wave has worked to transcend any one form of artistic expression. The entire concept of digitally curated concept aesthetics stays very much alive on websites such as Tumblr. Users strive to only post and reblog images, music, text posts, and more that they feel reflects their very distinct


personal aesthetic. The phrase "this is my aesthetic" is often used to attempt to relate something to oneself, even when it could be something as strange as an oversaturated photo of a dolphin cut-out and placed in a photograph of outer space. Other users rarely question this, and support each other in their quest for achieving this concept. With this strong desire to reflect these things in both digital and physical formats, fashion designers have created clothing lines that fit into these aesthetic concepts. Christopher Kane’s resort 2011 line (D) features clothing made entirely out of galaxy and space-patterned fabrics, which have quickly become some of the most coveted pieces for those interested in the “galaxy aesthetic”. As it grows and becomes more than just clothing and extend to digital formats, these aesthetics soon become a desired lifestyle. Vaporwave has been adopted as a lifestyle achievement, ranging from the music one listens to, the clothing they wear, the furnishings of their home, the image of the blog they maintain, and even their online representations of themselves. In the digital world of video games and customizable characters, users contribute self-made clothing for the community to use to better express themselves online. “This presents the opportunity to


explore ideas and implementations of ideas in the virtual world without

material or construction costs,” (VISA 3B47, pg. 332). As clothing moves towards a digital format, anyone can be a designer, and designers are without limits of comfort, material, or even real-life possibilities such as shape and colour-shifting “fabrics”. Vaporwave’s entire meaning is subject to change as the means of expressing it expand.

Currently, vaporwave’s identity is based in

1980s and 90s technology. But as technology progresses and time passes, that concept of what technology is dated and what isn’t will quickly change as well. Will the idea of vaporwave remain the same when dated tech moves further away, or will it change with the times, perhaps even gaining a new name to better define itself? However, in the meantime, while it’s motivation is clear, it’s direction is something ever changing. The nature of vaporwave, and other digitally generated genres, is subject to change as the very thing it’s so heavily based in changes around it. As computers and personal technology progresses, as will the rebellious concepts that have spawned from them. Vaporwave, being born from the Internet, is designed in and of itself to be short lived. Even the name is evident of it’s unlasting life span, as the users who created it will soon move onto something new. The future of these digital cultures is unclear, but their influence on contemporary art forms is unavoidable.


IMAGE sources Sea Punkâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d! 2013. Meg Grey, Ollie Henderson. <> What Do You Mean Vaporwave Is Destroyed. 2014. <> Inspired by a 50 Cent Song, 2013. 2013. Ed. Nick Kegeyan. <> Jeremy Scott X Shrek S/S 2014, Sweater. 2014. By Amy Ratcliffe. < jpg?22a92a> Louise Gray A/W 2012. 2012. <> Static Fuzz Backpack, <>


Emoji Print T-shirt,, Maddie Young. <>

WRITTEN sources Lhooq, Michelle. “Is Vaporwave The Next Seapunk?” Thump. Vice, 27 Dec. 2013. Web. <>. Harper, Adam. “Comment: Vaporwave and the Pop-Art of the Virtual Plaza.” Dummy Mag. 7 Dec. 2012. Web. <>. Sims, David. “Why Is the Internet So Obsessed With Shrek?” The Wire. 19 May 2014. Web. <>.


Farren, Anne, and Andrew Hutchison. “Digital Clothes: Active, Dynamic, and Virtual Textiles and Garments.” VISA 3B47: Art and Fashion. Berg, 2004. 332. Print.

Vaporwave as Fashion  

An analytic essay on the digital aesthetic of vaporwave.

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