We may not often think of our clothes as having a function beyond covering our naked bodies and keeping us a little safer from the elements. But to discount the enormous influence of clothing on anything from economic cycles to the future of water scarcity is to ignore the greater meaning of the garments we put on our backs. Disrobed vividly considers the role that clothing plays in everything from natural disasters to climate change to terrorism to geopolitics to agribusiness. Chapter by chapter, Tang takes the reader on an unusual journey, telling stories and asking questions that most consumers have never considered about their clothing. Why do banker’s wives sell off their clothes and how does that presage a recession? How is clothing linked to ethanol and starvation on the African continent? Could RFID in clothing save the lives of millions of people in earthquakes around the world?
This book takes an everyday item and considers it in a way that readers may not have previously thought possible. It tackles topics relevant to today, everything from fakes in the museums to farm-to-table eating, and answers questions about how we can anticipate and change our world in areas as far-reaching as the environment, politics, and the clash of civilizations occurring between countries. Much like other pop economics books have done before, the stories are easily retold in water-cooler style, allowing them to be thoughtfully considered, argued, and discussed.
Hardcover: 182 pages
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (October 16, 2017)
I have a fascination for how often seemingly different things link together so when I read the description of Disrobed, a book that looks at how what we wear and fashion trends can influence and impact economic cycles, the earth, our safety, and even what we eat, I was excited to hop on the book tour for it. I wasn't familiar with the author Syl Tang, who is both a journalist and a futurist, predicting trends and documenting the effects on world events.
Disrobed is a quick (less than 200 pages) and thought-provoking read, that although is full of facts and details, keeps them entertaining and doesn't get bogged down. The book kicks off with how clothing trends predicted the 2016 election (as well as the 2008 election). It shows how every fashion choice we make can have lasting ramifications. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I learned from Disrobed with Tang's almost conversational style. Even the chapter titles and taglines: "Can Clothing save the Lives of Millions?: Can existing wearable technology alter the death rate of natural disasters?" or "Burkinis and the Clash of Civilizations: How terrorism, clothing, and travel became inextricably linked." drew me in and had me anticipating each chapter. It's obvious Tang put in a lot of research--there are over 30 pages of notes supporting her findings and arguments in the back of the book. Most of her points are covered well, but it also inspired me to hit up Google to find more information on some of the topics I wanted more detail on.
Although I have some interest in fashion, you don't need to be a fashionista in order to appreciate Disrobed. Those with an interest in current events, technology, the environment, and the world will find it fascinating reading. Tang says that "clothing has the ability to take the pulse of the world in any given moment..." and also points out "That clothing is a part of so many aspects of our daily lives, our messaging, our choices, our struggles, and our wars provides an unparalleled tool." She leaves how the reader uses that tool up to them. I have a feeling that I will be thinking about Tang's points, observing fashion's impact more closely and thinking about the choices I make and the small actions (microactions) I take that can contribute to a huge global impact.
Author Notes: Syl Tang is CEO and founder of the 19-year old HipGuide Inc. A futurist, her focus is how and why we consume, with an eye towards world events such as natural disasters, geo-political clashes, and pandemics. She has written hundreds of articles on the confluence of world events and soft goods for the Financial Times, predicting and documenting trends such as the Apple watch and other smart wearables, lab-made diamonds, the Department of Defense’s funding of Afghan jewelry companies, the effects of global warming on South Sea pearls, and the unsolved murder of tanzanite speculator Campbell Bridges. Her brand consulting work focuses on helping companies including Diageo, Revlon and the State of Michigan. She is behind the launches of some of the most well-known beauty, beverage, automotive and urban development efforts including category changers such as frozen alcohol and mineral makeup. In addition to developing her site, in 1999 she created the first mobile lifestyle texting product in the market and predicted mobile couponing as it exists today. Her company HipGuide is a case study taught in universities around the world, from Dubai to Nova Scotia to Purdue, through a textbook series.
Find Syl on Twitter, as well as Instagram, @hipguide and @disrobedbook.
You might think there is no food in a book about clothing but in fact there is. There's a discussion on the boom in speakeasy style bars and 'mixologists' pouring botanically infused cocktails. a whole chapter "Is Your Cotton Shirt Causing Starvation?" that centers around its tagline "Food or clothing; we might not be able to have both" that talks about how some of the popular food trends and topics are related to clothing trends--like foraging, farm-to-table, GMOs, and how the competition for land to grow food or cotton for clothing could be causing famine somewhere in the world.
I found the inspiration for my book-inspired dish in my favorite breakfast which turns out to be not the best choice for the planet--or as Tang puts it--"Why avocado toast is the new blood diamond." I won't go into all of the details but it is both interesting and entertaining and more than a bit sobering, the effect the avocado toast craze has had. Tang notes that the Instagram craze "led to a surge of an additional ninety-six thousand households buying avocados," as well as avocado thefts in New Zealand, a deforestation of pine trees to make room for avocados in the mountains of Mexico, the funding of drug cartels, and even cites a Wall Street Journal that "equates the fruit to conflict diamonds."
I do love me some avocado toast and probably average eating it twice a week, once at my local coffee shop, and once at home copycatting my local coffee shop's recipe. Will I stop after reading this book? Likely I will not, but I will think more about it and maybe switch my avocado buying to local avocados (when I can find good ones). This is my favorite avocado toast recipe but since I have already posted it, I wanted to do something different and also find another use for the bottle of Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend I grabbed the last time I was in Portland and got a chance to go to Trader Joe's. I added cream cheese (or technically labne or yogurt cheese), pickled red onions, and softly-boiled eggs--so the yolks are still 'jammy' to round out my toast.
There is no real recipe for this toast. Although if you have no Trader Joe's near you and didn't happen to grab their Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend the last time you were near one like I did, you can easily make your own using this recipe from Food Network. You can also find the recipe for Rick Bayless's lime-pickled red onions here.
Basically, I spread my bread of choice with a thin layer of labne (or use cream cheese), topped it with thinly-sliced avocado, some pickled red onions, a few slices of the "jammy-yolked" hard-boiled egg, and sprinkled the Everything But the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend on top.
Notes/Results: Probably no avocado toast will hold the same space in my heart as my regular one with spicy garlic aioli, but this is a great alternative. I had experiment with the pickled onions on avo toast before and love the tart lime with the creamy slices of avocado, and it only gets better with the cream cheese, hard-boiled egg, and seasoning spice. A great mix of flavors and textures and a satisfying breakfast of lunch--I would happily make it again. Yes, I do feel a bit bad about making and eating avocado toast after listening to Tang's arguments--there definitely is a cause and effect to all of our choices and microactions. OK, maybe I'll go down to once a week avocado toast...
I'm sharing this post with the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post.
And at Souper Sundays, hosted right here at Kahakai Kitchen. Each Sunday we feature delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches from friends around the blogosphere--please join in if you have any to share. Here's this week's post and linkup.
Note: A review copy of "Disrobed" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this TLC Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.