It’s in the bag! A look at one academic’s favourite fashion accessories for Christmas 2010

21 12 2010

Lee Mattocks, a lecturer in Nottingham Trent University’s School of Art and Design, takes a look at some of his favourite bags for this season.

– Envelope bags are among the most practical and chic accessory inventions of the past decades. Simple outfits look fabulous when topped with similar details as it creates the perfect vibe to make a real statement with your look. Inspired by Marianne Faithfull, Alexander McQueen’s Faithful Glove Clutch is the cool girl’s essential accessory. The rock inspired piece will vamp up your Christmas wardrobe and you will be safe in the knowledge that you’ve bagged yourself a serious classic.

– Retro-inspired fashion lives its second heyday for autumn/winter 2010. Handbags for this season also adapt the vision of designers who are eager to re-invent and upgrade the old-style trends. The latest accessory trend breathes life into the classy designs and tailoring of more sporty style bags, some of these are larger in order to provide us with enough space to carry all our essentials when doing the family circuit this Christmas. Crafted from soft crinkled leather and featuring a shimmering patent finish, YSL’s Easy medium tote is guaranteed to make a statement.

– Williams British Handmade’s, contemporary and refreshing take on traditional luggage uses historical craftsmanship to create luxury leather goods completely stitched by hand in the UK. Produced in collaboration with accomplished metal-workers using the highest quality bridle leather, a WBH briefcase is at the top of my wish list this season. Winner of ‘Accessory Collection of the Year’ amongst numerous other awards, it demonstrates the desire and support for historical craftsmanship for the modern consumer. 

– Of all the quilted bags this season, Smythson’s Nancy Tote in dove gray is a firm favourite of mine. Beautifully crafted in terms of leather craftsmanship and understated hardware, this simply elegant piece will be at the top of many Christmas wish lists. No loud colours or big logos to be found, this understated accessory comes in a larger tote as well.

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Why does Santa wear sunglasses?

3 12 2010
Santa Claus on motorcycle

Santa Claus keeping it cool

A suit and sunglasses might be a fitting sartorial hallmark for a glamorous gangster, FBI agent or nightclub bouncer, but surely nothing could be less appropriate for good old Father Christmas. In fact, dark glasses have been cropping up all over the festive landscape – on polar bears, reindeer, elves, Christmas trees, angels… they’re everywhere. What an unseasonal way to accessorise when most western Christmas imagery creaks under a freezing avalanche of snow, ice, and glitter. These are not snow goggles – they’re the kind of sunglasses previously used to suggest sunbathing, blues brothers, even cold-hearted evil; a sharp contrast with the traditional gold wire-rimmed spectacles handy for reading children’s wish lists.  

Over the last ten years Santa in shades has moved from being an absurd comedy image to being a standard feature of the ‘modern’ Christmas (think minimal graphics and the exhortation to a ‘cool yule’ or possibly ‘cool crimbo’ on cards on sale in Tesco and the like).

Ironically, sunglasses are often being used to suggest ‘coolness’ in terms of temperature (as in a polar bear in the north pole), punning on the double meaning of cool as in cold and cool as in ‘good’ – admirable style, attitude and demeanour. Although of course Father Christmas is usually anything but cool. Characterised by rebellious self-possession, cool heroes rarely hold with tradition or sentimentality. A real cool Santa wouldn’t care enough to arrange pressies, or hurry to deliver them, definitely wouldn’t wear anything as obviously jolly as a red velvet suit, and probably wouldn’t be round enough to fill it.  

We might still like the idea of Santa handing over the goods – but as a role model, the jolly rounded epicurean is outdated. To get a gift from Santa you are supposed to be good  just like Santa himself – but a variety of authors now argue that ‘people no longer want to be good – they want to be cool’.

Recent research at Nottingham Trent University about the development of the strong associations between sunglasses and coolness concluded not only that shades are everywhere in visual culture but that they have become a symbol of a cool most broadly definable as being ‘enviably modern’ – able to achieve an identity both strong and flexible enough to withstand the weight and pace of technological and cultural change.

Covering the eyes protects our most vulnerable physical organs but also protects us from exposed emotions, suggesting we are ‘composed’ in every situation. The high-tech associations of hard man-made materials worn so close to the body imply a close and confident relationship with modern technologies. This has been the case since the earliest days of sunglasses when tinted goggles were worn for driving, cycling and rail travel, and adopted by fighter pilots.

So, images of yuletide characters in shades may seem to be festive fluff – but in fact they relate to profound changes in western values. To be as composed as a jazz musician like Miles Davis; as powerfully seductive as a celebrity, in the face of all the challenges to self-identity modernity brings; these are the elusive gifts so many of us would really like Santa to deliver.

Dr Vanessa Brown
Senior lecturer in design and visual culture at Nottingham Trent University

To speak to Dr Brown, call the University Press Office directly on 0115 848 8782 or email christmas@ntu.ac.uk