Category Archives: no thanks

New dumb trend: socks with sandals.

One of my favorite things about summer is the fact that I can pack away all my socks until it gets cold again in favor of bright pedicures and sandals. Well, bad news for me, because apparently socks with sandals is now a trend.

I ask you, does this look cute?

Image courtesy of NYMag.com

That’s actually not the worst example they’ve got – you should really check out the slideshow. This look was all over the spring runways, too.

I don’t get this. Isn’t the point of sandals and open-toe shoes to be… open? Isn’t that why they exist in the first place? So we can enjoy one less layer of fabric in a hot season? I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here in New England it’s hot and sticky. The less unnecessary fabric I can get away with, the better. Even worse, all the socks in the New York Magazine slideshow look like they’re mostly nylon – can you think of a sweatier, less desirable fabric to wrap around your feet in the heat of summer?

Sorry fashion world, I’ll be sitting this one out. I’d rather flaunt my brightly-polished toes in your disapproving faces than deal with sweaty, hot, smelly feet. Also, I’m not really interested in taking fashion tips from this guy:

Image courtesy of Top10Kid.com

What price beauty?

Keep young and beautiful,
It’s your duty to be beautiful!
Keep young and beautiful,
if you want to be loved.

So says the Annie Lennox song:

But sometimes we get a little crazy in our quest for beauty. The search for that miracle cream that will sweep away blemishes and wrinkles, or the magical hair product that will give us luster and shine, can lead us to some outlandish places.

One salon in London is offering clients a protein treatment made from – wait for it – bull semen:


Touted as “Viagra for Hair,” this 45-minute treatment ranges from £55 to £85 ($90-$138 U.S.) and uses semen from Aberdeen Angus bulls. Hari’s combines the sperm with the root of the protein-rich plant Katera. The protein-enriched potion is massaged into the client’s hair after it has been shampooed. Then the client is put under heat so the treatment penetrates the hair. The final step is the blow out, which gives the hair an awful lot of body, as well as shine.

As someone who has spent plenty of cash on different conditioners and treatments in the pursuit of frizz-free, shiny hair, I can honestly say this is a bit much for me. But it’s nothing compared to using urine as a facial treatment. Urine! On your face! It seems to me that if your body had much use for what was in that urine, your body would have kept it in the first place. But don’t worry about that, because you can skip the urine and get a facial that uses synthesized human sperm or snail slime instead.

Total Beauty has a list of ten strange beauty treatments that includes the bull semen hair treatment as well as procedures involving live fish, the feces of nightingales and crocodiles, and placenta.

Vanity is a strong force, isn’t it? We spend so much of our lives being judged on how we look that it can make us crazy and the next thing we know we’re paying hundreds of dollars to have things smeared on us that we’d otherwise avoid in the hopes that it will make us beautiful or keep us young for a little longer. I certainly have nothing against natural remedies – I’m a fervent champion of honey and its many many uses. (I use it mixed with my conditioner and occasionally with crushed aspirin tablets as a facial mask.) But there’s a difference between embracing the idea of alternative methods and leaping into any unproven (and/or gross) new thing just because it’s trendy. A few years back Gwyneth Paltrow caused a stir when it was rumored she was using a facial moisturizer containing snake venom because the paralytic venom was believed to have a Botox-like effect on the face. Like a lot of these types of things, the claims were unproven and the side effects potentially dangerous. But tell women the stars are doing it (or just charge a lot of money) and we’ll line right up.

Some of these things do have a basis in science – the bull semen hair treatment is high in protein, for example. But you can get any number of protein-packed hair treatments without spending that much cash or drenching your head in bovine bodily fluids. In fact most of these trends have lower-priced and less insane counterparts. If you look at what’s supposed to make it work, it’s usually based on the ingredients and science already present in the beauty products you can get at any drug store. (Well, maybe not the live fish that eat the dead skin off your feet… but that’s another story.)

The Beauty Brains are a great resource for topics like this. The site, run by cosmetic scientists, explains the science behind beauty in terms anyone can understand and debunks a lot of the claims made by trendy beauty treatments.

It comes down to research. Before you try any new “miracle” treatment or product, do a little Googling and a little reading. It might save you some cash and some time.

Yet another dumb way to cover your assets.

Remember the Backtacular? The silly-looking bedazzled patch made to cover your ass crack in low-waited pants? Well apparently ridiculous crack-camouflage is a growth industry. I give you the Hip-T:

Image courtesy of Refinery29.com

In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, yes, that is a band of fabric made to do nothing but sit around your waist and look like you’re wearing a tank top underneath your shirt. To which I ask… why not just wear a tank top underneath your shirt? Most retailers make nice long tank tops now – I have a long waist and I own plenty that are more than long enough for me. And all of those tank tops cost less than the $14.95-19.95 that they want for the “Hip-T.” $20 for a band of useless fabric! For the price of two of these things, you could get a pair of jeans that covers your ass! (I’m sorry, Hip-T calls it “bum cleavage.” I guess that’s better than calling it a “coin slot.”)

I really just don’t understand why there’s a market for overpriced items like this. This one is especially confusing – what keeps it from riding up? Or just bunching itself up into a rumpled sloppy belt? What’s the point of paying money for a glorified ace bandage to mummify your middle? I have to agree with the folks at Refinery 29 who covered this before me: you’re better off just buying pants that cover you. Or invest in a few long tank tops for layering.

Don’t believe what you see!

It used to be you could trust a photograph to show you a factual representation of a source or subject. But not anymore! Why? One word: Photoshop. I confess, I am a Photoshopper. Any photo of me that touches my computer gets “fixed:” teeth whitened, color corrected, blemishes banished. But magazines and advertisers go a lot further than that. They use Photoshop to take an existing image and turn it into something that not only doesn’t exist, but sometimes can’t possible exist.

For example, Ralph Lauren caused a controversy last year over this image of an impossibly proportioned model (her shoulders are wider than her hips!):

Image courtesy of the Huffington Post.

Before that, Redbook caused a stir with a heavily retouched cover shot of Faith Hill. More recently, ads featuring Demi Moore and Julia Roberts have been so heavily altered that it’s hard to tell that these already beautiful women are even human.

Not even Betty White is immune! She’s 88 years old and they’ve removed all her wrinkles. Is it no longer acceptable for an 88-year-old woman to have wrinkles?

In a world where women are expected to aspire to beauty ideals, these types of images create an even more unattainable idea of the beauty norm. (Though if you can find me an actual adult human woman whose shoulders are wider than her hips, I’ll consider a retraction.) We’re constantly bombarded with images of women who are impossibly thin, ageless, and devoid of imperfection. How can any woman feel comfortable in her own skin surrounded by this crap?

Fortunately, the wide exposure of recent years has started a backlash and is – slowly – beginning a movement in opposition. Jessica Simpson famously posed for the cover of Marie Claire with no makeup and no retouching a few months ago. (And if you ask me, she looks fantastic.) And now a UK department store is openly displaying before- and after-Photoshop shots of a swimsuit model in their stores:

Image courtesy of NYMag.com

It’s a refreshing move, but there’s still a long way to go. The truth is that Photoshop is never going away. It will always be used to clean up flyaway hairs and blemishes and correct color at the very least (and you can pry my copy from my cold, dead hands!). But until the fashion and beauty industries scale back the usage to those parameters we’re going to have to treat every image we see with skepticism. Jezebel has a really interesting gallery of Photoshopped images here. Check it out and see just how much you’re being fooled.

Wash before wearing!

This one is not for the faint of heart or obsessive compulsive.

A while back the Today show performed a little shopping experiment:

The news team removed price tags and hygienic strips from panties, stained them with baby oil, and marked tags with two black dots for identification purposes.

Wouldn’t you love to be the intern assigned that job? Anyway, they then returned the panties to several retailers in the metro New York area and then went back to the store later to find that the untagged, soiled panties had been returned to the sales floor.

Gross.

They went back for a post-exposé check and found that all the stores they had busted had changed their dirty undies – or at least stopped selling them. That’s the good news. The bad news is they caught new retailers selling soiled panties and swimsuits this time around.

The full story and list of stores is at the link, but the point is always wash before you wear when you buy swimwear or lingerie no matter what the corporate office says their policy is. There’s always the chance that some lazy employee didn’t correctly process used garments.

An example from my retail experience:

I worked for a popular mall store that sells prank gift items for a year in college. During one of my first shifts I learned that one of our assistant managers had been taking returns on “personal massagers” and returning them to the sales floor. Nauseated, I asked him if he did this a lot and wound up spending the rest of that shift going through the entire product shelf looking for open packages to drop in the damaged merchandise bin. (That was not my favorite job and I should state for the record that I’m pretty sure re-selling the used items in question was not the company norm.)

I also worked for a popular clothing retailer a few years ago, however, and we had a strict policy not to re-sell any clothing that had been worn by the customer. Swimwear, intimates, winter coats, it didn’t matter. If it was used, it got sent back to corporate. (That was a much better job.)

But like I said, all it takes is one lazy employee to give you some free bacteria with your purchase. Personally I tend not to buy intimates or swimwear without a tag or hygienic strip, but it’s always a good idea to wash those items before you wear them anyway. Even if the item isn’t used, you never know if you’re getting a formaldehyde bra like Victoria’s Secret was apparently selling a few years back.

The “simple” math of fashion and attraction

Ladies, are you trying to attract a man? (Of course you are!) Do you go out to clubs every night just hoping someone will ask you dance, but instead you go and you stand there alone like you’re living inside a Smiths song? Well fret no more, for England’s Telegraph has solved your man-hunting woes once and for all!

And the answer is this: you’re not showing the right amount of skin:

Using tape recorders hidden in their handbags, the researchers took note of what female clubbers were wearing and how many times they were approached by men asking them to dance.

For the purposes of the study, each arm accounted for 10 per cent of the body, each leg for 15 per cent and the torso for 50 per cent.

Women who revealed around 40 per cent of their skin attracted twice as many men as those who covered up.

However, those who exposed any more than this also fared worse. Experts believe that showing too much flesh puts men off because it suggests they might be unfaithful.

It’s so simple! All you have to do is show exactly 40% of your body’s skin. Too little and men will think you’re a prude; too much and men will think you’re a tramp. And what’s really nice is that this super simplification of human attraction isn’t insulting or patronizing at all.

It does raise a few questions, though. For instance, does my face count? Is this like the SATs where I’ll get 200 free points just for not leaving the house in a ski mask every day? And given that the study was performed in England it seems only fair to ask what women are expected to do in the winter. Should we just suck it up and get hypothermia or expect men to ignore us if we choose to avoid frostbite? Do men find amputated limbs sexy as long as their uncovered? A truly thorough study would have addressed these things. After all, we women need this information so that we can achieve our true purpose for existing: attracting a man!

Obviously we need more information. For that, I direct you to this clip from The House Bunny. At 47 seconds in there’s a primer on “skimplifying” which I think is very helpful for just this sort of thing. Except of course for the part about revealing your torso, because that will make men think you’re going to cheat on them. So just ignore that part.

Ladies, you do not need this.

The fashion world is full of genius little innovations that make our lives easier. I’m talking those little stick-on treads for shoes with slippery soles, bra strap extenders, those cool towel turbans that button on so you can actually move your head, etc. I’ve even come to find the Snuggie brilliant for sleeping with a fresh manicure, because I can keep my arms warm without risking sheet marks on my shiny new nails. (So thanks for the Snuggie, Mom!)

But some products are really just stupid.

For example, I give you the Backtacular:

The Backtacular is a patch, bedazzled with little crystals, designed to cover your ass crack (they’re calling it a “coin slot,” but let’s not get euphemistic now) when you’re wearing low-rise jeans.

Here’s my question: if you’re so modest where said crack is concerned, why are you wearing jeans that will show it off in the first place? Maybe this product is just a lower back tattoo for the commitment-phobic, but even then they make better looking removable tattoos that cost less than $15. That’s right, $15. For a sticky patch covered in fake crystals that goes on your ass.

I might understand if the actual patch was flesh-toned. Then it might just look like a newish take on the vajazzling trend. But the patch is black and quite obvious, so I just don’t see the point.

Ladies, if you think you need to throw down $15 on a sparkly ass patch, please reconsider. Instead I suggest putting that money aside for a pair of pants that will cover your assets in a less ridiculous way.