Over the weekend I was watching parts of the American Idol finale with my younger brother. There were a lot of performances, including one of “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas.
While I was watching them and the trippy-dressed dancers in the background, I noticed that part of Fergie’s costume were these long cone-like extensions on her fingertips. Surprisingly, the first thing I thought of was PCN. A dance that is sometimes included in the Muslim suite involves girls that dance while wearing janggay – long metallic fingernails.
Fergie’s looked just like them. I watched the music video and she sings wearing similar nails in one scene. Seeing her wear those nails made me think of re-appropriation and Asian culture. The whole vibe of the performance – from the lyrics to the costumes – was futuristic and innovative, but those nails threw me off. Maybe to everyone else they were a crazy, ultra-modern accessory, but all I could think of was the traditional, restrained movements of Muslim suite dancers. I also know that there’s a Thai dance that involves similar props. I don’t know a lot about it, but I do know they don’t dance it to “Boom Boom Pow.” As Kawamura states, “Meaning is constantly flowing to and from its several locations in the social world, aided by the collective and individual efforts of designers, producers, advertisers, and consumers. Contemporary culture has been associated with an increasingly materialistic or fetishistic attitude, and the symbolic dimension of consumption is increasingly becoming important” (Kawamura 94).
I can’t be sure what exactly inspired Fergie to wear those nails, but it’s very possible that it was a form of re-appropriation. Fergie is a fashion-forward, pioneering woman, so it’s likely that she came across the fashion, adopted it, and re-invented it. One of the other members is part Filipino – maybe she found out about janggay through him. Fashion is always about novelty and, as a celebrity, Fergie is expected to set herself apart with unique, ground-breaking fashion. However, she is probably consuming without carrying the original meaning of the fashion. As a celebrity she sets trends for numerous consumers, who adopt the trends and consume the same fashion without the original meaning attached to it. It’s a process that happens all the time with countless other fashion trends. It’s a different look at the consequences of fashion-following consumer culture.
- Carmel Crisologo
Kawamura, Yuniya. Fashion-ology An Introduction to Fashion Studies (Dress, Body, Culture). New York: Berg, 2005.