Security Breach – Fashion Meet Airport

Security Breach – Fashion Meet Airport

few years ago I was detained at Charles de Gaulle Airport,
told to open my carry-on, and asked to explain why I was attempting
to transport several rounds of ammunition on a transatlantic
flight. The items in question were spiked and studded Balmain
belts, being brought from Paris to New York to be worn by Kanye
West in his upcoming Saturday Night Live performance. The belts
were harmless, yet to the penetrating lens of an X-ray machine,
they did bear a menacing resemblance to bandoleers of

It was silly folderol and resolved quickly, but it was also
impossible to deny a sense that people’s possessions take on
potential or latent violence at an airport. Indeed stilettos,
sandals, sabotines, and shoulder pads all trace their origins to
the battlefield. Even in civilian garments, there lies a tension
between fashion’s innocuous capacity to express a personality and
its potential to endanger other passengers.

In the buttoned-down and skeptical zone of airport security,
some of today’s flashier fancies of fashion can raise eyebrows,
questions or alarm. Fashion in transit submits to a specific type
of inspection: it is less a quantification of the value and
legality of your goods (as is the case in clearing customs) than it
is a qualification of your threat to others around you. Richard
Reid, his black suede high-top basketball sneakers and his
monstrous plot to blow up an airliner in 2001 are responsible for
the enduring charade of dressing and undressing as your body is
scanned barefoot – but with clothes on.

Taz Arnold, an artist and hip-hop producer, made headlines in
2011 when his own footwear, spiked Christian Louboutin ‘Rollerboy’
slippers, was pulled aside for further inspection at Washington’s
Dulles Airport. Arnold tweeted, “why did airport security TSA try
and jAck my ‘louboutin$’ these are weApon$! wtf?” along with a
picture of the shoes being handled by at least three security
agents. Though the shoes were eventually cleared to fly, fashion is
riddled with wry ironies and stylised allusions to violence that
regularly cause concern in transit. One traveller’s Alexander
McQueen knuckle-duster skull clutch was confiscated as a weapon at
Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and while Louboutin’s new line of solid
lipsticks in metal bullet-shaped cases might not breach a person’s
allotment of carry-on liquids, they’ve been taken away by security
agents who take issue with cartridges of ‘Diva’ and ‘Let Me Tell

Those who own a Cartier ‘Love’ bracelet can also expect a
thorough patdown after their manacle-bangle sets off the airport
metal detector. The bauble, which requires a special gold
screwdriver to remove, was allegedly inspired by the medieval
practice of knights locking their fair maidens in chastity belts as
they rode off to war. Small airports that handle big name
celebrities, like Aspen, are familiar enough with the item to turn
a blind eye. Indeed, Frédéric de Narp, the former president and CEO
of Cartier North America, observed that Paris X-ray screeners
sometimes remark, “Let her through – she has a Love bracelet

Though contemporary contretemps between haughty aesthetes and
screening personnel are often humorous in their false opposition
between style and security, some of these misunderstandings may
indicate broader trends in our culture: the pervasiveness of
surveillance that we undergo daily, the constant insinuations of
violence that surround us and the paradox that these references to
conflict flourish in an already tense climate of security

While camouflage featured in recent collections such as Dries
Van Noten, Valentino, Kenzo, and A.P.C., the decorative
militarisation of fashion today differs from the subversive
intentions of camouflage prints worn ironically in the 1960s by
Vietnam War protestors. Rather, modern interpretations of arms and
armour are more mainstream than countercultural, and often
trivialise violence as a potential source of humour or

Consider the Fembots and their machine-gun ‘jubblies’ from the
Austin Powers franchise, which Lady Gaga reprised more literally
with an AK47 bra in her 2009 video for Alejandro, directed by
fashion photographer Steven Klein. Madonna wore Chanel’s ‘Miami
Vice’ shoes – killer heels where pistols provide the height – to
the premiere of her directorial debut for Filth and Wisdom, perhaps
a wry flirtation with threat just after her split from director Guy

It is no surprise that these issues of surveillance arise at
airports, which are the key nodes in the global network of
successive fashion weeks, pre-fall, and resort collections. Leandra
Medine, a humorous blogger about serious fashion and the front row
face of The Man Repeller, Instagrammed a video of her grommeted
denim with studded metal cuffs and fringed cowboy booties,
captioning it, “Airport security, here we come!” The act was
somehow petulant but joyous, referring not even to the ultimate
destination of travel, but rather to the willful caprice of a
security breach and the certain knowledge of a looming, beeping

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