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what will the post-brexit aesthetic be?

A deep dive into the fashion trends that might come to characterise Britain.

by Mahoro Seward
03 May 2019, 7:00am

Picture via Getty Images

“You’re riding high in April / Shot down in May”, Sinatra sings in his cover of the gloomily frank ballad, That’s Life -- a song that deals with the inconsolably fickle nature of human experience, a ceaseless slalom between ecstatic peaks and dark troughs. Some may find the sentiment poignant enough on its own, but if like me you relish in salting your own open wounds, you can sub out the vague ‘May’ for a date a touch closer to heart. Mine, for example, is 23 June 2016. For the wilfully ignorant among you, this was the day 52% of ‘Great’ Britain decided to take a proverbial sawn-off to their own feet in the name of hampered economic well being, ceaseless political turmoil, and new, blue passports (which, ngl, do look quite chic.)

Anyway! What goes down must come up, right? Cool Britannia shall surely rule the waves once more, supplanting the Tillmans and Teller-backed barrage of stunningly fashionable Euro-twinks decked out in gold-starred hoodies, right? Wrong! With European Parliament elections just around the corner (register to vote here. Don’t ask, just do), join me, your ghost of Brexit future, on a sort-of Dickensian trip to see just a few of the things that might come to characterise what we once knew as England’s green and pleasant land a couple years down the line.

In life, there are certain irrefutable truths: the earth is round, the Pope is Catholic, and British people love to tan. Some of the first victims of no-deal will surely be those booked on swiftly-sanctioned trips to Alicante. Their tanning needs confined to the annual three days of sun we receive a year, they will be forced to resort to the potent dark web tanning agents once accessible only to Ariana Grande.

But there’ll be a shade of nuance to their artificially melanated hue: amid the hollow calls for Commonwealth commonality as we turn our backs on fortress Europe, some will naturally take things a little too literally. In what can only be described as a ghastly extension of that twisted blackfishing trend, tanning will, to some, become a mark of open-armed tolerance, a way of saying to the world ‘Xenophobes we are not, for we are one :).” It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

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Cool Britannia revivalism
Striking a visual as our inappropriately tanned friend above may present, they could hardly be described as a style icon of any sort. And quite honestly, the ground looks pretty thin as far as potential Brexiteer-influencers go. The closest we’ll get will probably be those leading the charge to exhume the spirit of the late 90s, perhaps the last time it was possible to publicly express patriotic sentiment without coming across with all the grace of an incontinent bulldog. Those were the golden days when McQueen and a pre-scandal Galliano ran Paris and Geri Halliwell could wear a massive Union Jack on stage without being called a fascist, days before the dreary indie pop bands of the mid-noughties had yet to ruin our nation’s musical credibility, this new aesthetic mode won’t amount to the sort of wry fashion-insider-fuelled renaissance with which you’re surely familiar, but rather to call upon all the best of what’s British, the forging of a new, proud national dress, bumsters, Brit flag dresses and all!

The UK's relationship to sportswear has always been complex: once a maligned mark of a disenfranchised youth, its appeal then broadened to include banker gays that like sniffing trainers, and people with names like ‘Cecily’ and ‘Sholto’ reading ketamine at Bristol and doing Classics on the side. How wonderfully democratic! The thing is though, the moment the M20 pile-ups begin and the tariffs set in, the only people with the means to actually buy imported Adidas will be, well, Cecily, Sholto and the banker gays. Rather than a way of deflecting attention from the ample breadth of their trust funds, sportswear will become a means of highlighting it. But I mean, it’s not like we haven’t slowly been prepared for this -- no-one east of W1 has been able to afford most things labelled “streetwear” since 2016. In a post-Brexit future, owning a three-stripe track jacket will become the same as owning a Loulou’s membership.

This one will already be familiar to you, but I’m mentioning them here just to make the point that they’re not going anywhere. Nothing makes me more proud to own what-will-soon-THANKFULLY-be-converted-to-a-good-British-blue passport than a summer’s day. Lounging in a crowded, brown-by-mid-July park, K Cider in hand -- and then the people… Such is the timelessness of particular characters, that I’m pretty sure Shakespeare, when writing Sonnet 18, must have had at least one of them in mind. Were I to wage a bet, it would have to be the ubiquitous man of a build as fleshy as it is muscular, reclining in a ring of tinnies. Cooked to the colour of a Devonshire crab, he wears swimming trunks that are tight to the point of indecent exposure, but never speedos -- we’re not in Nice, hun, nor will we ever be returning.

Cotweiller autumn/winter 19. Photography @mitchell_sams

There is, however, another seedier figure you may be seeing more of in your local London park, depending on which you choose to frequent. Skulking by the bushes, shooting furtive glances like arrows from the bow of a scruffier Cupid, you’re probably wondering what on earth they’re up to. If you haven’t cottoned on yet, I’d stop reading here in the interest of preserving your innocence…

Those remaining are probably wondering: what on earth does Brexit have to do with a spike in cruising? Well, one thing that few have considered is the extent to which our national critical infrastructure is controlled by large European multinationals, like our telecommunications network -- EE is a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and Orange France, and O2 is owned by the distinctly un-British sounding Telefónica: bye-bye Moto! Indeed, as we cut our ties to the mainland, and cast ourselves out to drift, the comms towers will be the first to fall. Hardest hit by the ensuing 4G outage will be the gays. Cut off from Grindr, the underground cruising culture of pre-EU Britain will no doubt rise again, which, safe practices assumed, we are here for. Anyway, for the innocent that chose to read on, just don’t assume that light blue hankie in the left pocket of the guy staring you down is there because it’s his nose that wants blowing...

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.