Armagideon Time

The softest of ware

November 28th, 2017

The latter half of the Eighties is a weird dead spot in my cultural awareness. I’m sure the progressive deterioration of my family during that stretch had a lot to do with it, coupled with my general withdrawal into the sounds and fashions of two decades previous. I stopped paying attention to current music after V-66 switched from music videos to a home shopping format, and the only first-run TV I followed on a regular basis was Jeopardy, Robotech, Night Court, and (for some reason) the One Life to Live storyline set in the Old West. Otherwise, if it didn’t involve videogames, comics, or RPGs, I didn’t pay much attention to it.

That isolation complicated the efforts to re-socialize me after my mother’s death. My peers meant well by their efforts to draw me into their little circles, but most of what they discussed was moon language to my ears — names and titles and brands that had zero significance to me, and only made me feel more estranged from kids my age. It persisted right up through my early years in college when Maura, my punk rock pal Leech, and regular access to cable television helped bring me up to speed.

Even so, my awareness of the era tends to be an after-the-fact construct rather than something experienced organically. No matter how much I’ve read or researched over the decades, gaps do persist and reveal themselves in the oddest places. It happened recently when I was working my way through a run of Sears “Wish Book” holiday catalogs from the later Eighties and felt bewildered by the ladies’ fashions on display. Yeah, the topic would’ve been outside my wheelhouse even if I hadn’t spent those years in a psychic bunker, but at the same time I was an adolescent boy when this stuff was trendy.

Maybe Sears’ attempts at pandering towards prevailing tastes fell well short of the mark. Maybe my hormonally directed gaze passed over this stuff in favor of the more bohemian-minded lassies I tended to pine after. I honestly don’t know, yet I don’t think that knowledge would help me parse the weirdness of the 1988 Wish Book’s “Mainframe for Juniors” line of fashions.

Why “Mainframe,” a term that suggests a bulky-ass tape-driven hunk of circuitry secluded in an institutional “clean room?” What was the rationale there? Cutting edge and suggestive of the pink collar ghetto which awaited the young misses of the X Generation?

When I think “technofuture,” I think high cinched waists, floral prints, and pastels.

“Into her study hall slambook, a churning synaesthesia, where her boredom was the taste of Orange Julius, scent of Christian Dior’s Poison, huge lacquer discs hung from her ears.” – William Gimbels’ Mallomancer

Getting really hungry for those chalky mints my great-gran used to stock her candy dish with, for some reason.

“After the prom, Brice and Trent are going to take us to Straylight to unshackle a corporate AI.”

It’s all fun and games until you stand next to a curtain at the function hall and your date can’t find you.

The escalating arms race between big bows and giant shoulderpads threatened to engulf the world in a lace-frilled Armageddon.

I’ve seen the future and it looked nothing like this, thank providence.

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2 Responses to “The softest of ware”

  1. SJB


  2. Dave White

    Now I realize what always drives me nuts about Japanese fashion. They dress like US catalog models from 10 years previous.

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