a scientific investigation into why lift selfies are the best selfies
For starters, i-D basically invented them.
The doors clang shut. You're alone. The faint hum of some indeterminate jazz twinkles in the background. The low lighting hits the right parts of your face and none of the wrong, and why hello there convenient floor to ceiling mirror. Faced with your reflection, your iPhone, and the 7.4 seconds it takes to get from the penthouse sexpad to the nuclear bunker you installed when Trump took office, there's only one option.
If Instagram is anything to go by, and it obviously is, elevators are an excellent place for selfies. Kim Kardashian knows it. Helmut Lang's new 13-year-old campaign star -- and Insta-celeb -- Yoshi (@_____226_____) knows it. i-D knows it. In fact, we actually knew it first -- all the way back in 1999 when we made an entire issue about elevators, aptly named The Elevator Issue, which exclusively featured images of people in -- yep, you guessed it -- elevators. We are the Leonardo Da Vinci of Elevator Selfie.
Ok, maybe not selfies per se, because a lot of these images were taken by other photographers. But still. AN ENTIRE ISSUE OF EVERYBODY IN ELEVATORS. If that's not as trendsetting as Paris Hilton singlehandedly keeping Juicy Couture afloat then I don't know what is.
Question: What is it about this claustrophobic cube of moving steel that provides such an ample backdrop for any selfie snapper worth their salt?
Hypothesis 1: Floor to Ceiling Mirrors for Uninfringed Self Observation
When contemplating the question "Why is the lift selfie is so good?" our first port of call was i-D's Senior Fashion Editor, Julia Sarr-Jamois. Well versed in office lift selfies, her Instagram boasts an extensive catalogue of different outfits, same lift (despite the fact our office is on the first floor, as one colleague notes in the comments). So Julia, why the lift over, say, the bedroom or bathroom? "I'd say the mirrors, best place to do a full length!" There we go. If you're going to document your flawless head to perfectly pedicured toe, where better to do it in elevators -- which 232%, without fail, always seem to have mirrors.
Hypothesis 2: It's One of the Very Rare Three Second Windows in Modern Life (/Lift) That You're Actually Alone
Obviously if you're dying to get that killer shot en route to the top of le Eiffel Tower to make sure all your loyal followers know you're looking #hottotrot in Paris, you're not getting a solo joyride. You'll just be sardined amongst fellow sweaty tourists who have similarly eaten way too many croissants to wheeze their way up the stairs.
But if you're creeping up to floor three in the cantankerous elevator of a tres chic Hotel Ibis, chances are you're getting some alone time. Which is the penultimate selfie snapping period -- no one to judge you for you taking 89 photos of what someone else would call the exact same photo (but that you know is, like, totally different). It helps if you have a giant trolley to wheel downstairs to pick up the rest of your office's Net A Porter orders -- meaning that there's physically no room for anyone else. Then you can take your sweet, sweet time snapping away and coming to the realisation that you look like a certain emoji:
Hypothesis 3: Distraction from the Fact You're in Pulley Suspended Death Trap 148 Floors Up
When I was a kid I was told something profound and life changing: If you find yourself in an elevator plummeting to the ground, you're meant to jump just before the lift hits the ground so that it absorbs most of the shock, and you'll sort of float down like a rogue eyelash. This is dumb because a) unless you're in Willy Wonka's glass elevator, how the fuck are you meant to know when the lift is about to hit the bottom, b) I repeat, a falling lift, you are not going to be in any rational state to do anything logical, and c) idk I'm not a physicist but it sounds like you'll probably still die?
Nevertheless, every time I entered a lift I started preparing my Olympic worthy high jump to calm my catastrophising pea sized brain. Guess what would have solved this? A phone. A camera. A distraction. Then I could have spent hours immortalising my youthful glee instead of envisaging how my imminent death would unfold approximately 2913 times.
Just look at The Great Elevator Saga of Kylie and Kendall, who got stuck in one in New York -- something we were made well aware of thanks to extensive Snapchat coverage. Heck -- Kylie even had time to squeeze in a first rate elevator selfie, because duh, have you even been reading this article?
Hypothesis 4: V Industrial Chic
Fluorescent lighting, exposed metal, minimalist design -- there's just something about them that screams 'Balenciaga Store under Demna Gvasalia's Creative Direction' no? He's turned the blockbuster brand's stores into sparsely decorated, silver lined spaces that look like a cross between a futuristic rocket ship, an industrial robot laboratory, and a lift. Let's not forget that this is the same Demna who is head designer of Vetements, so he knows what he's doing and then some.
Why the steely storefronts then, Demna? Apologies folks, I didn't personally ask him (I assumed one of the most hyped men in fashion is not going to respond to my enquiry about why he wanted his stores to look like a giant elevator). My theories -- you can focus on the clothes; it's modern; it looks really cool.
And while the prospect of even setting the overhanging nail of your pinky toe on Balenciaga's doormat is a tad out of reach for some of us, that's the beauty of elevators. They're a democratic haven of (blue)steeled bliss.
All the above.