Four score and one year ago, I gazed into the mysterious abyss of late capitalism to bring you the best of WallpaperStore*, a baffling online marketplace serving an audience that I'm not sure actually exists.
Since then, I've been thinking of doing a sequel to that post, waiting for the right target to come into my crosshairs. Last week, someone in a random twitter thread linked to a website called Crisiswear, and I knew I had found my next muse. It was the section for cowls that sealed the deal.
In their own words, Crisiswear is "devoted to pursuing an atypical approach to clothing design; one that celebrates pushing the envelope, while also staying strongly rooted in classic design and manufacturing methodologies. Both practical and striking, intricate and asymmetrical, Crisiswear clothing mates clean military aesthetics to geometrical patterns that flatter the curves and contours of any human body".
I can't help but notice that despite that boast about fitting any shape or body type--a claim repeated on some individual items' description--the site itself features stick-thin or muscular models. For reasons I'll get into later, I severely doubt that most of their lineup would look good on anyone who's even the slightest bit curvy or overweight.
But enough with the preamble. What does "clean military aesthetic and geometrical patterns" mean? We're going to start with Crisiswear's more normal items and progress from there, rating each piece of clothing on the Fetish Club Scale, i.e. on how appropriate it would look in any setting other than a cyberpunk night at a fetish club. 1-3 means the apparel in question can be worn anywhere without raising eyebrows, 4-6 indicates something you could only get away with at a cosplay-friendly venue, 7-9 is full fetish club, while the coveted 10 represents an item so outlandish that even people dressed in full-latex bodysuits with strategically-placed openings would take a second look.
Let's start with the copyright-infringing Netrunner trousers, retailing for the princely sum of $219. At first glance they just look like a pair of stylishly-cut jeans (made from "high-quality black Japanese stretch bull denim", whatever that is). On closer inspection, the cyberpunk flair becomes evident, like the slanted pockets that are apparently meant to keep phones and wallets to the side of your legs, which frankly sounds like a pretty nice feature.
According to the Netrunner jeans' description, they have "reinforced and gusseted knees for durability and extreme mobility". Many of Crisiswear's products come with this unstated assumption that you're going to be doing something rugged and badass in them, touting their flexibility and durability. I guess the idea is that Crisiswear customers are all cool urban explorers or parkour experts, requiring the ruggedness of construction worker clothes with the maneuverability sweatpants at all times.
Fetish score: 1. The Netrunner pants could be worn in any casual (maybe even smart casual, depending on your workplace's definition of that nebulous term) setting without difficulty.
Continuing with the vague cyberpunk theme, we've got the Decker, which is a shirt that you pay $64 to hunt rogue androids in. In practical terms, that gets you a polo shirt with a loose neck instead of the bit that makes it a polo shirt.
I didn't highlight this because it's in any way strange or laughable--it actually looks like something I might wear if I was thinner and had disposable cash to spend on high-end clothes--but because it features Crisiswear's most common male model, a scrawny guy who may be the single whitest person in human history. His presence in so many of the photos really dampens the cool counterculture vibe that the range is so clearly going for.
Fetish score: 1. You could wear this just about anywhere without looking out of place.
Crisiswear's line is mostly male-focused, but they do have some dedicated items for the femme-presenting among their customers, like this cowl dress that you can buy for $119. As the name implies, it's a dress with an in-built cowl that you can lift into a big flappity hood.
Nothing about the dress' appearance is all that unusual, but I do question its practicality, as it seems to be extremely thin and one stray breeze away from revealing your underwear to the non-hacker squares milling around you like switched-off sheeple. The lack of pockets further cements this as something strictly for special (and hopefully warm, indoor) events only.
Fetish score: 3. You *could* wear this to the shop to get a carton of milk, but would you really want to?
Next up is the Sidewinder MK II for $149, which is part of a range of vests with asymmetrical pocket setups sold by Crisiswear. There's also an all-leather variant available for an astonishing $749.
I'm kind of torn on this one. Presented as-is without sleeves gives it a vaguely biker-vest look that makes it seem like part of a costume, but I bet you could pull it off under a nice black winter coat, or maybe over an understated and lighter-coloured long sleeve shirt. Honestly, maybe it just seems so awkward in the photos because Mr. Mayonnaise there looks like he should be wearing a shirt and tie at all times instead of a cool cyberpunk getup.
Fetish score: 3, although I'm bumping the leather version up to a 5.
The Shosen MK1, from the site's "bulwark collection" and retailing for $439, is an example of what happens when your design goes badly wrong.
Worn open, it manages to make even the male model look kind of cool and alluring. But worn closed, with the hood and zipper all the way up, it bares an uncanny and unfortunate resemblance to a fisherman's coat. Like, a stylish future coat worn by fishermen working off the coast of cyber-Hong Kong of wherever, but still a fisherman's coat.
Fetish score: 1. When not fending off mutated radioactive whales, you could wear this as a standard cold-weather raincoat.
(Is it just me, or is Vanilla Ice doing the alt-right "okay" hand sign in this photo?)
The Accomplice Tank, $56, highlights the duality of many of Crisiswear's items. Providing a "tactical approach to comfort", the product description absurdly claims that its deployable flappy neck bit can be used to protect against both the elements and "surveillance", as though wearing this thing as intended wouldn't instantly make you the most recognizable and easy to track person on the planet.
Worn with the loose neck bit down, it could be a perfectly normal sleeveless shirt, totally inoffensive except to the extent that wearing sleeveless shirts inherently makes you look like a douchebag. But pull that neck all the way up, and you're either a superhero or attending some sort of club night with a very specific theme.
Fetish score: 2 with the neck down, 6 with it up.
Now we're getting into the good stuff. The very aptly-named Samurai Vest, for $399, is...
I mean, just look at it. You don't need me to describe it. There's is nothing I can say that would accomplish anything that the photo hasn't already.
Fetish score: 6. Can you *imagine* wearing this anywhere except an anime convention?
The Draga, which Crisiswear ambitiously describes as a waistcoat, retails for $149 despite being made from the same amount of fabric as a large-sized thong.
There's no reason why you *have* to wear this over a bare chest, paired with a leather slave collar and a zipped crotch pouch. Even the description points out that you could wear it with a standard shirt and tie. Except if you showed up to the office party in this--or, god help you, a wedding--everyone would spend the entire night asking how the front of your suit vest got torn off.
Fetish score: 8, if you embrace your destiny and wear it as god so clearly intended.
For 149, the unisex Variant Shrug will protect your neck and arms while leaving the rest of your torso-covering up to you. No, the skimpy top in the photo isn't included; you're paying for what is essentially a pair of sleeves with a front zipper to hold them together.
As soon as I looked at this, I was instantly transported back to about 2003 or so, browsing through people's terrible online anime-inspired comics. I think this might have been in Megatokyo or one of its pretenders.
Did you guys know that Megatokyo is still going? I didn't, until I just googled it. Yikes.
Fetish score: 6. Suitable for cyberpunk LARPs and absolutely nowhere else.
The Sector Vest, which you can buy with $149 of actual money, is the most baffling piece of clothing I’ve ever seen. Even the model guy is like “I can’t even with this.”
No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. The undershirt isn’t part of the vest. What you’re paying for is a Rob Liefeld-esque shoulder halter with little pockets on it, presumably to hold vape juice and phone chargers. The product reviews mention loosing spare change in the pockets, which raises the terrifying possibility that someone wore this while going out to buy a loaf of bread or something.
Why? Why, outside of a home-made Netrunner film, would you ever wear this thing? Again, “fetish club where everyone pretends to be horny cyborgs” is the sole use case that comes to mind.
And this isn’t the only one! They have a whole line of chest vests.
Fetish score: 7.
The $79 fringe halter is where the site’s dubious claim to cater to all body types starts to feel a little hollow, as it appears to be a scrap of fabric designed specifically to show off your belly and midriff. Which, hey, if you’ve got the confidence then go for it, but it was clearly designed with a certain svelte profile in mind.
Other than that, there’s not much to say about it. It’s a skimpy tank top with a big flappity hood, for when you really need to keep your head away from the elements but are for some reason find with exposing the rest of your body. Or you’re cosplaying as a cyber-elf or something.
Fetish score: 8.
Speaking of skimpy outfits (which describes most of the site’s selections for women, funnily enough), we’ve got the Kurumaku, a vaguely kimono-esque top that stops just under the boob-zone. For all your cyberpunk neo-Geisha fantasies.
(For those not in the know, in the cyberpunk future Japan—and possibly China as well if the author doesn’t know the difference—will consist entirely of businessmen with cybernetic brains and robot Geishas. This is because a lot of cyberpunk is racist).
Fetish score: 6. Wear it to an anime convention and say it’s from Ghost In The Shell, most people will believe you.
The chest vest for men was already pretty revealing, but what do you get if you design a version for women? The $99 variant harness, which is so skimpy that it doesn’t even have pockets. It’s basically a neck zipper with some bits of fabric to attach it to your body. I’m not sure how it even stays on with the zipper open.
Fetish score: 9. The description says you can wear it over a t-shirt, but come on.
The element gaiter, retailing for only $39, includes the most ridiculous description on the entire site: “…our first active-wear type cowl. Perfect for anything from hiking to jogging…”
Active-wear cowl. For hiking. Or jogging.
Can you imagine jogging in this? Everyone would stop and stare, and you’d be like “It’s an active-wear cowl! Its moisture-wicking fabric helps keep the upper one-eighth of my torso dry!” If you were out hiking and you saw someone wearing this, you’d call the police, just on principle.
Fetish score: 9. There’s no setting where this would look appropriate that doesn’t include the phrase “slave auction” in its title.
Crisiswear also has a line of “subzero” cowls, such as the $89 subzero rogue cowl pictured above.
This…this needs to stop. The cowls looked dorky enough already, but rendering them in thick fleece makes them look like the cheap cosplay version of the standard item. The description claims you can use this as a substitute for a scarf, but can you? Can you really? Would you really prefer something you have to unclip from your body when you’re inside over a simple length of fabric?
Humans have been using scarves and scarf-like apparel for millenia. When our ancestors sat down and devised a way to keep rain off their heads or the sun from their scalps, they invented a handy, multi-functional piece of clothing that’s easy to make, transport and wear. They didn’t create a stand-alone hood that needs a shoulder harness to support it. Until CrisisWear.
Fetish Score: 10, not for necessarily being super kinky but for being ultra stupid.
And rounding out CrisisWear’s more esoteric selection, we’ve got the LIMITED EDITION KRYPTEK TYPHOON REAVER SHRUG, which sounds like a piece of armour from Destiny but is actually an clothing of some kind that you can buy for $128.
I can’t give a more detailed description than that, because I have n idea what this thing actually is or how you’re supposed to put it on. It looks like something you’d wear if you were a cyber nomad roaming the far-future cyber desert, as opposed to a cyber-goth roaming the only-semi-cyber aisles of you local supermarket.
Fetish score: ???
And finally, to round out your collection, you can buy…a plain t-shirt with the CrisisWear logo on it. Because nothing says “cyberpunk” like subsuming your identity into the corporate megastructure.
That’s it for our tour of the CrisisWear collection. We’ve had a lot of fun in this post, but you know what’s not fun? That’s right: capitalism.
But you know what’s also not fun? Mocking people for their fashion choices or aesthetic appearance. I don’t want anyone to read this post the wrong way, so let me make clear that if these clothes were made by an enthusiast designer or sold by your friendly local fetish wear supplier, we’d be having a very different conversation. In fact we wouldn’t be having a conversation at all, because people should be able to wear whatever they like, no matter how strange of non-socially conforming it is.
My mockery of CrisisWear stems mainly from two things: a) the ridiculous prices of some of their products and b) the strange and insistent claim that pieces obviously designed solely for aesthetic purpose have practical uses. In that regard, it feels like the site is catering to the same kinds of people who deck themselves out in camo gear 24/7 and carry around a variety of “survival” gizmos (including guns if they’re in the US) that they’ll almost certainly never use.
And for as much shit as I’ve been giving CrisisWear, they do show an admirable open-mindedness when it comes to gender representation, modelling several feminine pieces on Mr. Plain Hummus and featuring what appears to be a non-binary or gender-nonconforming model. As we all know, embracing gender fluidity is the most cyberpunk AF thing you can do, despite what some of the genre’s current luminaries would have you believe.