It's been the tech buzzword for at least a year now. And yes, wearables can already help you get fit, interact with your phone via your wrist, spy on strangers and get you punched in bars. And that's great!
But for all the talk of this red-hot new sector becoming a multi-squillion-dollar salon in which tech and style quaff Champagne and eat low-carb canapés together, I'm just not convinced. Here's why I know, for almost certain fact, that wearables will remain purely tech things and never a truly fashionable venture…
1.) Google Glass
This was it. The poster boy for wearables; the new frontier. But while the Google tech specs' prowess when it comes to mapping and taking quite low-res photos was and is undeniable, they also set the bar high early on for wearables' sheer ugliness.
Humans crave symmetry, see – it's how we perceive a face to be beautiful. Glass immediately makes anyone look lop-sided. It also makes anyone look like they're wearing a pair of NHS glasses that have broken, but the wearer hasn't had time to mend them with Elastoplast in the time-honoured way.
Most tellingly, however, while there are plenty of fashion items that make people want to punch the wearer – deep V T-shirts, ironic hats, those trousers that zip off and become shorts – Glass is the only item of “clothing” we can think of that makes people actually punch the wearer. That's never going to be a good look.
2.) Fashion Is Always About To Change. Tech? Not So Much
Fashion: this year it's “marsala”; last year it was “taupe”, next year it'll be “muted azure” or something. Tech: this year it's black or silver; last year it was black or silver; next year it will be too. (Okay, with a smattering of gold and white options for the truly flamboyant.)
Fashion: clothing “looks” change with distressing regularity, leaving you wearing baggy when you should be skinny, casual when you should be tailored, taupe when you should be marsala. Tech: rectangles with screens on essentially. Glass caused such howls of outrage for its futuristic vision, we've rapidly returned to the safety of bands in black, most of which are essentially very small rectangles with screens on… with straps attached.
3.) Have You Actually Seen The Attempts To Mix Style and Tech In Wearables So Far?
We have the Misfit Shine with Swarovski all over it, which looks a bit like a school chemistry crystal-growing experiment that's gone horribly wrong. We have any number of “fashion concepts” that change colour in the sunlight or feature solar-panel shoulder pads, or – most damning of all – are worn by Lady Gaga.
These are not things that are ever going to be fashionable in the sense of being worn by normal people, though they do fill the fashion niche of terrifying normal people, which isn't something I'm going to knock.
While something like the Withings Activité range works well as a stylish wearable, it does so by pretending to be a watch and in turn reducing the number of techy features to such a minimum that it basically is a watch. Which is cheating, really.
4.) The Star Trek Effect
Much as I love Uhura with her bulbous earpiece and Geordi La Forge with his futuristic cataract glasses, who actually aspires to look like them? Not me, thanks very much. I was once at an event when a large number of Google staff all turned up wearing Glass and it was like we had been invaded by the Altrincham branch of the Borg hive mind.
This science-fiction nature of most wearables makes them great for convention-going folk but unlikely to become hip with fans of Mad Men – or even Emmerdale come to that.
5.) The Male Gaze
The fashion world has a genuine mix of male and female sensibilities, albeit that most of the owners of said sensibilities are self-absorbed and mad, irrespective of gender. This enables their milieu to have a universal aesthetic sense, with ideas bouncing between genders, masculine blurring into feminine, curves meeting straight lines. In the tech world, too many of the decision makers are men – and badly dressed men at that.
6.) The Purpose Of Much of Tech is Intrinsically Un-Hip
Monitoring the health of the worried-well, forcing couch potatoes to take 10,000 steps, making you wear odd specs in order to take photos, encouraging the making of phone calls via your wrist? These are all fun pursuits, for sure, but they're never going to be the choice of mainstream fashion.
7.) Legacy wearables
Let's look at what wearable tech meant up until the arrival of Fitbit and Google Glass: Global Hypercolor clothing, Bluetooth earpieces (two looks here: either worn loose for call-centre chic, or close to the face to make it appear like there's a Wrath of Khan-style slug crawling into your ear), deely boppers and those rave T-shirts with LCD numbers counting up to 99. The world made up its mind about wearables long ago, and it’s going to be damn hard work getting it to change.
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