The week of September 14, 2014

Fashioning the future

By Molly McHugh

When you watch an old sci-fi movie, the same criticisms always roll in. The movie, supposedly set in the year 2010, features flying cars and hoverboards and sleeping pods and robot servants—none of which we have.

What’s even more interesting though about these massive (and entertaining) predetermined anachronisms is what the characters are actually wearing?

You can’t fault pop culture for being unable to figure out how future generations will dress and accessorize; we still don’t know if we’re doing it right now. Are smartwatches trendy or terrible? Is Google Glass revolutionary or repulsive? Am I supposed to want to wear a ring that notifies me whenever I miss a text? And I don’t think we’re anywhere near ready to discuss a dress that disappears when you tweet. Let’s leave that firmly in the conceptual category for now.

While we might not all be dressing in social media-monitoring clothes in the near future, it doesn’t mean the merging of technology and fashion is without merit. In fact, it makes too much sense: Our phones have become extensions of us, basically cemented to our sticky palms and twitching fingers. Why wouldn’t we want to wear them, or more specifically, wrap all the things they can do around us? Despite the blinking LED lights and solar-powered sensors many of these designs come with, it’s all been a very organic process.

And it’s one marked simultaneously by arguably unparalleled innovation and challenges. There’s something very personal about the things we put on our bodies, and the transition from entirely human to, maybe, just a little bit less so has been fraught with tension. As Micah Singleton explores in his piece on the legality of camera-overloaded wearables, how businesses, individuals, and even governments tackle the new generation of electronically-enabled couture is a road being paved at the same time we’re driving down it.

In this week’s issue of The Kernel, we’re diving deep into the evolution of high-tech wearables—a term we should be banning—exploring how everything from high-fashion to health fields are defining it. In our cover story, EJ Dickson, who has been relentlessly covering this niche, takes us into the designer houses and runway shows that are pushing wearables into Vogue territory before most of us had even touched a smartwatch.

While the catwalk is increasingly dominated by biometric and LED pieces, that means less to those of us who buy our wardrobes at Target. Of course, there’s a little something in the wearables department that’s managed to infiltrate even our vocabulary: The smartwatch. Micah Singleton spoke with veteran watchmakers to get their takes on the “updated” version of their labors, and Myriam Joire, chief evangelist at Pebble, sat down with us to talk about where the smartwatch is going and what the Apple Watch means for the market.

You can’t talk about wearables without addressing Google Glass. Early adopter Taylor Hatmaker reflects on her year and a half with Glass and how her semi-cyborg status has brought her both clarity and frustration.

Whether you hate the idea of Internet-connected clothing or have been refreshing for news on an Apple Watch preorder date, it’s difficult to determine how you’ll feel about any of this in three year’s—maybe even one year’s—time. That’s how it is with technology, and even more so with fashion. If you don’t believe me, just go grab your yearbook or flip through old Facebook photos.

Have you seen what you were wearing?

Photo via Internet Archive (PD) | Remix by Jason Reed