Testing the staying power of whackness

Or, Take It Off 17 years later

Very nearly 20 years ago now De La Soul released the classic 3 feet high and rising. One of the many skits/throw-away tracks which filled out the record was Take it off in which the gang, in call and response style, pointed out a selection of whack fashion items they were sick of seeing. (It takes real conviction to forever mark your taste by imprinting it in hot wax! No turning back after that.) Fashion, being what it is, both fickle and recursive I thought that perhaps it was time to re-visit the items and see whether they are still hopelessly whack or, if on the magical valuation scale of fashion, which can change an items status from homeless guy’s ass-cloth to couture and back again in mere months, they had perhaps become dope, fly, or even fresh again. See below.

The lyrics are as follows:


Take take take take take it off…
Take it off, take take take take it off
Take it off, take take take take it off,
Take it off, take take take take it off,
Take it off,
Take it OFF!
Take that suede-front off
Take it OFF!
Take those contacts off
Take it OFF!
Take that horsemeat off
Take it OFF!
Take those shell-toes off
Take it OFF!
Take those track fleas off
Take it OFF!
Take that doo-rag off
Take it OFF!
Take that moth-rag off
Take it OFF!
Take those fat laces off
Take it OFF!
Take that bomber off
Take it OFF!
Take that BVD off
Take it OFF!
Take those Converse off
Take it OFF!
And those Gazelles too
Take it OFF!
Take that Kangol off
Take it OFF!
Take that Jordache off
Take it OFF!
Take that Afro off
Take it OFF!
Take that jheri curl off
Take it OFF!
Take that Le Tigre off
Take it OFF!
Take those acid-washed jeans, bell-bottomed, designed by your mama…
off? Please? Please…


So, where do these street-pariah’s stand today? To find the answer I tapped a fashion designer who, wishing to remain anonymous, we will call “Da Brat.”

Da Brat and I conversed briefly on the subject and the results are as follows…

We were almost, but not totally, in agreement on this item. Da Brat said “I like a suede-front on a man” to which I would have to qualify, “a man over the age 60, with a shuffling walk, maybe.” The populous at large don’t wear them, which would seem to point to a ruling of whack, unless you are forward-thinking and assume that if no one is wearing something it’s cool, in which case the suede-front is pretty fly. Ya heard?

Da Brat and I were in total agreement here: Even for fake-tanned, dyed-blonde asian girls who want to look like they are fresh from a crashing Malibu surf colored contacts are whack with a capital, Billy Joel style, ack. ack. ack. ack. 

Horsemeat? Da Brat and I were similarly mystified by this one. “A Leather product of some kind? Pleather? Fur?” In so much as neither of us were up on our 1989 slang enough to positively identify this item we will have to say whack, if only because it sounds gross and we both like horses.

Da Brat had a definite opinion on this one which sprung forth without hesitation, “they are only cool on people who never stopped wearing them in the first place.” I myself recognize them as classics but also recognize that they have too much baggage to be fresh again any time soon. So we are gonna have to go with wic-wic-whack. 

Track Fleas
Track fleas? Again no clue. Da Brat and I decided to approach this one as though what they are referring to is a track suit of some kind and go from there. Under that assumption the consensus is that though you still catch a D-Train straggler wearing a pink velour Juicy Couture number the plain fact is they are whack. That being said, they sold a shit-load at least twice in the past 20 years so expect them to make a return before too long. Not that that return will nullify their whackness. 

The doo-rag is back in a big way with all kinds of loser celebrity-types rockin’ them in both the classic over-the-noggin style, as well as the Dexies Midnight Runners’ loose-around-the-neck style. Once Nicole Ritchie and other deadweight c-listers have been caught in the pages of In-Style magazine wearing something, well, word on the street has to be that that shit is WHACK!

Moth Rag
I had to seek a third and fourth opinion on this one but none of my sources were able to positively identify what exactly a “moth rag” was. The best guess we heard was possibly a wig or a weave. If that is correct then it is perfectly relevant to todays rampant celebrity fakery. Remember crack is whack, and so are weaves, wigs, and extensions. Da Brat’s final words: “Sounds pretty cool whatever it is.”

Fat Laces
The simple answer here is that unless you are a member of a japanese break dance crew or an aged b-boy being wheeled around a cardboard-floored nursing home then you have no business wearing fat laces. Just say no.

Da Brat seems to think baggy oversized bombers are cool again. I haven’t seen one anywhere, not with an 8-ball on the back, not with top-gun style patches, not Bruce Sterling “pattern recognition” style, not even an embroidered Avirex (course, it is summer) so I’ll go ahead and agree that they must be dope again. 

Hmmm. This one has me somewhat mystified. Underwear? Giant white XXXXXL tee shirts that end somewhere below the knee? I don’t know. I have to beg off on this one. No clue. Da Brat concurs. 

Converse, Kangol, Jordache
I have decided to group these all together because they are all pretty much in the same boat of relative whackness. All these brands have been trying really hard at making a resurgence, to regain even a milligram of the coolness which once swirled around them like a swollen, money-bearing cloud. Problem is all three were so successful in their respective moments as to have become very nearly cliche. Converse and Kangol are perhaps a little better off in that they have been adopted by so many different subcultures of people that they are very nearly meaningless at this point, the first step toward injecting them with new life. Jordache, however… well, one word: wiz-ni-iz-nack! Especially, as Da Brat points out, with Elizabeth Hurley as their spokes-meat.

See the entries for both shell-toes and fat-laces. It’s just too soon. Why do we have to so mercilessly pummel the b-boy fashions? Can’t we let them be for a while? Go grab up some Kangaroos, K-Swiss, Diadoras, or hell even some Doug E Fresh style gucci loafers. Give the b-boy sneakers a rest… A’ight? 

Da Brat seemed irrationally exuberant in her approval for afros “on blonde girls.” I myself am almost completely ambivalent toward them. I think the afro is a style which needs to be taken on a head by head basis. ?uestlove’s fro for example: fresh. Yo mama’s fro: Whack.

Jheri Curl
I am convinced this one has hit the mat for good. The jheri curl has been so mercilessly lampooned by everyone under the sun for the past 15 years that I just can’t imagine anyone trying to rock it again. Unless it’s some ironic Williamsburger of course. I won’t put anything past them. Then again you’d think the same would be true for the mullet, and yet it lives on totally without irony. Da Brat’s take on jheri curl: “Only cool in a London nightclub.”

Le Tigre
See Jordache comments above. Not even that cool in the first place. Off-brand Izod wanna-be whack-attack now and forever. (Even if I do have a 7th grade class photo of myself wearing an turquoise Le Tigre polo shirt with a bangs and a black rope necklace. Aw shit!)

Acid-Washed Jeans, Bell-Bottomed, Designed By Your Mama
Clearly these are the freshest of the lot. Or the whackest, depending on your outlook.

So overall of the 16 our 2006 revised judgement breaks down to 11 still whack, and 5 fresh or indeterminate. Course, that’s only our take, your tally may come in very differently. Beyond that you can be sure that in redoubling the overall whackness of the Take It Off list nearly 20 years on there will be those who instantly regard its items as doubly cool. Such is the precariously subjective round-a-bout of fashion. Please feel free to enlighten us if you have any further insight into the matter. Pos, Dave, Maseo, and Paul included. And thanks to code-name: Da Brat for participating.

Signing off.

08.22. filed under: !. inquiries. life. play.