The internet has been flooded with confusion and ridicule after Balenciaga released a controversial new item.
Balenciaga’s recently released T Shirt Shirt, a simple blue T-Shirt with a button-down sewn to the shoulders, has been priced at around $1,290. The garment has quickly become the subject of online scorn, spawning memes and diatribes. Balenciaga suggests two options for sporting the shirt, either letting the button down hang loose, or tossing it over one’s shoulders as a cape.
Some outlets, like GQ, have analyzed the eccentric release as being a take on “boardroom to bar.” The merging of the simple T-Shirt to the much more polished button up does contain allusions to the concept of business casual. After all, the lines between certain contexts have been blurred, and it seems much harder to assign a particular type of clothing to any one occasion; as evidenced by trends such as athleisure and sneaker-chic. The New York Times reads the shirt as a commentary on people’s “obsession with becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg by shedding corporate uniform.”
However, as countless tweets and Instagram posts have demonstrated, many view the shirt as an unironic offering of couture. After all, high fashion has often been criticized for its perceived frivolousness and lack of functionality. Many postulate that the shirt is a reflection of the fashion industry being out of touch.
Many view this as a clever publicity ploy on the part of the brand. After all, the shirt has become a phenomenon, even if most people are not rushing to buy it. Designer Demna Gvasalia is no stranger to this level of internet controversy and certainly knows how to get people talking. Who could forget last year, when Balenciaga debuted what appeared to be their own version of the well-known Ikea Frakta shopping bag (typically priced at 99 cents) for $2,145? The bag was met with a similar amount of comedic fervor and could be viewed as evidence of the brand’s tendency to flirt with controversy.
GQ defines much of Gvasalia’s work as being centered on “bizarre nonsensical design.” Aside from these two pieces, Gvasalia is also the brains behind a pair of ornate Crocs sold for $850 as well as a pair of large, chunky dad sneakers, both of which were met with widespread attention and even financial success in their own right.
One could say that Gvasalia has a knack for taking that which is thought of as plain and undesirable and flipping it on its head, giving audiences a fantastical reimagining of the item; a true master of the highly sought after not-cool-but-cool concept.
In an age wherein hipster culture has brought a variety of things that are aesthetically interesting but technically impractical– hello typewriters and Edison Bulbs– back into the mainstream, this should not really come as a surprise.
The fact of the matter is that the T Shirt Shirt, while certainly humorous in its concept, probably has achieved its ultimate purpose. Everyone, even people who typically would not address high fashion, is talking about it. In that sense, Balenciaga has mastered the art of shock value. After all, whether you love the T Shirt Shirt or not, it probably still has your attention.
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