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Opinion | Pop Culture

'Homeless Chic' and the Homeless

Does the 'poorgeoisie' fashion trend trivialize a serious reality?

One million children in the U.S. currently face homelessness, and one of the fastest growing segments among the homeless is families with children. Despite these alarming statistics, it's the fashion industry's fixation with "homeless chic" that has sparked the most public debate as of late.

W. magazine's September issue featured a spread called "Paper Bag Princess." It depicted models on dingy streets wearing high-end shopping bags fashioned as clothes. Italian Vogue's September cover showed two models in tattered layers with dirty faces, hobo sticks in tow. Indeed, Details magazine heralds the arrival of the "poorgeoisie" in "How Looking Poor Is the New Status Symbol." Steve Kandell writes:

Just because the cultural moment is dominated by bloodlust for the heads of AIG executives doesn't mean public sentiment has turned against the accumulation of material possessions—it's just that the material in question is likely to be double-brushed flannel. And that's the advantage guys who look like Devendra Banhart have over guys who look like Patrick Bateman: The poorgeois are in cultural camouflage, blending in perfectly with a landscape full of genuine privation. The fact that their accoutrements may cost more than many suits is their secret pride.

This isn't the first time homeless chic entered the fashion lexicon. In spring 2000, designer John Galliano created a stir when his newspaper-clad models took to the runway carrying empty bottles of liquor, tin cups dangling from their ...

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