The Bad Taste Bug
You can behave in poor taste. It can even be used to describe one’s choice in men. Ultimately, bad taste is always seen as… bad. However, we all secretly have it and we should celebrate it. We must discard of the entire concept of “good” taste. Throughout history, one’s taste has been used to mock and pass judgement in one’s choice in fashion and personal style. Judging taste is a snobbish pastime and the concept of “good” taste creates a divide in society, so surely good taste is a bad thing. Taste is a personal preference and therefore good taste cannot be defined or perhaps can never really exist, thus the eternal debate continues, how does one judge another’s taste? Well to do so is utterly tasteless. Good/bad taste works on a visual level. For example, if I said “silver shiny leggins”, the majority of people would immediately think, “gross!” Whereas a small majority would already be planning which shoes to put with them. So who decides which opinion is good or bad when taste is personal and open to interpretation?
We then have the debate of timescale; something which was in good taste once may not be in fashion or on trend now, and therefore something which was once popular becomes something which is now ridiculed. Taste is constantly changing so how can you judge it? To discuss taste we must consider time. We know that tastes change; who you were and what you liked when you were sixteen are inevitably not the same things you like at forty (thank goodness). Everything about your tastes will change – your taste in friends, music, literature and even your physical taste buds change. So something you once thought was in good taste, such as those pink kitten heels, gradually morphs over time into something you now find foul. It is perhaps wise to assume that our taste will continue to grow and change right up until we die. We are never in a permanent state of good taste. That taxidermy swan you adore now might not stay on display once you hit your fifties. However, it might rear its ugly head again and come back into fashion once you reach your seventies. Fashion is guilty of always recycling trends so what was out will inevitably come back in again, perhaps not in this lifetime, but it will be back. John Waters states that,
“Fashion can use bad taste. Fashion can take the bad thing that everybody threw out and make everyone want to… buy it again.” And just as quickly as it came back into style, it will be cast aside once more. So, frustratingly, trying to assess one’s taste can be a rather pointless exercise. Thus, just because you have bad taste (for the moment), does not mean you have no taste, which surely has got to be worse, by conforming to what everyone else likes and wants without forming opinion or taking risks. If you follow what is always on trend and supposedly good taste, surely your “taste” becomes bland. It is pompous to assume that what you personally like is always right and that others will share your opinion. Also, it is often misconstrued that if something is expensive, it therefore has quality, and is in good taste and worth having. This applies to everything and in fact neglects one’s personal taste! Indeed, this is not a true grasp on what you really like and following the majority is just the easy way out of making any personal choices when it comes to style. Many consumers are guilty of buying what they think they should buy because they are told it looks good and therefore live in mundane homes which mirror each other. Indeed, what we like and what we pretend to like are completely different. To flip it, sometimes we like something so much we simply must have it. That passion and need to own something, is true taste, whether it be good or bad. These compulsions to buy out of instant love at first sight throw out all sense of good or bad taste because without the influence of any other element, that item was loved and wanted and liked in that moment., simply because you liked it… I mean really liked it. The suggestion of what you really like brings me to my next question; how can one begin to understand why we find some things beautiful and other things make us recoil in horror? Could it be that we only keep that disgusting plate on the wall because it reminds us of our grandmother? These things we keep and wear and display are not our usual ‘taste’, yet we hold onto them because we like something about them, rather than actually liking them. Perhaps taste is a constant battle with one’s self.
Taste should not even matter. There should be no good taste and no bad taste, there should only be personal taste. Victims of good taste live in fear of being told they have bad taste, whereas people who revel in their bad taste, or rather, their own taste, are shielded from the judgment of others, because they know you should never scorn someone else’s taste. Instead, put on your most hideous dress and revel in your own bad taste – but only if you like it. You know, really like it. Your taste is part of your identify so the fact that your guilty pleasure is in the form of a chintz armchair, is not actually your fault. Grayson Perry argues that,
“Taste is woven into our class system”. Thus, when it comes to our choice in taste we actually have no choice at all. So why not buy the whole chintz set? As when it comes to your bad taste, there’s nothing you can do about it!
Illustration by Kerry Dawn http://www.kerrydawnillustration.com/
Words by Loo Loo Rose