Book review: "Denim style" by Horst Friedrichs

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The big denim news at the moment has been the release of the book “Denim style”, by photographer Horst Friedrichs. About 90 pages long (“about” as in “they forgot to number the pages and I’m not about to count them”), it’s a collection of photos of various British denim-fans wearing their denim outfits. Friedrichs is a professional photographer and has previously done other books presenting various subcultures, such as “Cycle Style” and “Drive Style”.

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And the photos are good. Friedrichs takes good photos, no doubt about it. The subject matter though is of very varying interest. There are a few authentic characters, but far too many are the predictable young/skinny/bearded hipsters wearing what looks to be brand new denim apparel. This gives the book a feel of being an advertising photoshoot more than the documentary it appears to want to be. It may have helped if the selection of models and outfits was more varied, but this isn’t the only issue I have with the book.

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sadly, this is not the case here. It would have helped a bit if a writer had been employed to add some value to the captions.

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Denim has been around for at least a hundred years, yet the book gives very little sense of the historical aspects of denim. There are a few worn pieces on display, some even seriously worn. Some paint-spatters and repairs as well. Yet much of it looks like it was unpacked for the photo shoot, and much of it also looks the same.

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I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but I feel an opportunity may have been missed here. Apart from a single page of introduction by Kelly Dawson of Dawson Denim, and a three page “denim dictionary” by the same, there is only a single page of tiny, shorthand captions referring back to the main photo pages. Again the lack of page numbers is a little annoying.

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I’m sure a large number of the people portrayed have fascinating background stories to tell, yet there are no stories to be found. The photos are just photos, and once you’ve looked through the book once, there is little inclination to browse it again.

Didn’t anyone at any point in the process of putting this book together stop and say “guys, this book is pointless, zeitgeisty crap of no depth or lasting value”?

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The book appears to be playing to an established, but now marketable, tribe of mainly young men that probably consider themselves “underground” because they have neck and knuckle tattoo’s, beards and an almost religious refusal to wash their trousers. Yet by the very nature of being able to summarise them as “underground” bad-boy denimheads, points to the fact that they are about as underground and exclusive as tribal tattoos and decaf coffee.

This is a book that quite cynically spoon-feeds and profits from the ego’s of 20 something’s that feel the need to be different, as long as it’s an accepted and safe different.

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The summary on the back of the book really says a lot, with the mantra “We are all denimheads” being truly cringeworthy.

Many will probably consider denim and all the facets of it to be an utterly trivial matter. This book really only confirms that this is so.

Sorry, this is one that can be safely skipped.

(All illustrations taken from the book)

Direct link to the book at:

Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Bookdepository

Note: If you buy this book using one of these links, I receive a small consideration from the vendor in question. This is really appreciated, as it will offset a little of the costs of keeping this blog running and will enable me transform into the Woosterish international style icon that I aspire to that much sooner.

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4 Comments

  • WDG 19/06/2014 at 09:11

    “We are the tattoo artists, baristas…musicians”.
    They could just as well have been honest and said “We are the hipsters and wannabes, we have sailor tattoos and insist on being judged by our unwashed jeans”

    Books like this makes me want to swear off denim entirely.

    Reply
  • Scratch 19/06/2014 at 10:33

    I know we’ve discussed this and I must admit I haven’t read the book . To be fair, it is a photography book but I do abhor “fashion” books like this that are lowest common denominator and have more or less zero copy.
    Pick a current fashion sweetspot. Photograph and then make some cash out of a book. Who needs pesky research eh?

    The unsubtle attempts to fetishize the subject still more are awful. When tomes like this are released and employ phrases like “we are denimheads” without irony you know the game has long been up and the cult of denim is about as hip and happening as Urban Outfitters… ready to be filed alongside fixie bikes, full sleeve tattoo’s and expander rings as authentic “underground” style aggressively marketed to remarkably overground people who like to think they’re “edgy” when unfortunately the absolute opposite is the case.

    I like good denim. I always will have an eye for it and be prepared to spend good money on good gear. The brands, the wear, how they age, the selvedge. Does this make me all underground and edgy? I think not and I refuse to believe the hype that sayes otherwise.
    And if you called me a “denimhead” to my face I hope you’d understand that I’d be forced to poke you in the eye.

    Reply
  • Matthew Pike (@mat_buckets) 23/06/2014 at 21:47

    It’s a no then!

    Buckets & Spades

    Reply

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