Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Have a Nice Day

Today, class, a history lesson, on one of the most iconic faces of the past half century. One that has had more revivals than Madonna. A face frozen in time--and unlike Madonna's, permanently set to a pleasant expression.

I speak of course, of the Smiley. First incarnated in the early seventies, when the "burn baby burn" sentiments of the previous decade were slowly ceding ground to "peace, man" and thence irrevocably to "have a nice day."

Smileys originally appeared in button form only, and then moved on to tee shirts. And then faded from public view, briefly . . .

Until fashion started ransacking the past in search of imagery to lend personality, instant recognizability, an ultimately, ironic knowingness to its lines.

The first to tee up, quite literally, was Moschino (vintage Moschino Jeans tee below, from ClaireInc). This Italian designer has never shied from humor, even in its boutique lines, and here he one-upped the original with a "turn that smile upside down" spin.

Next, French designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac had a go in Spring 2008 (top). This designer has never found a huge following outside France, arguably due to his extraordinary fondness for cartoons and other childlike motifs in his work. Smiley played straight into that sensibility, hence this dress. The fashion press was far from kind to Livia Giuggioli, Colin Firth's wife, for daring to show a sense of humor in wearing one to the premiere of Mama Mia.

Smiley's latest incarnation is from Aussie designers Ksubi, who cleverly transformed the ultimate 70s dude into a headphone-wearing noughties hipster.

For my money, though, you can't beat the original. Available online from the marvelous UK haberdasher Kleins.

No. YOU have a nice day.


  1. Love this Christa.
    Franco Moschino and JC de Castelbajac are two my my favourite designers.
    I designed a costume many years ago for a dance piece I choreographed to Paul Simon's "Julio and me down my the schoolyard". It was a hugely oversized sweatshirt (you could fit 5 people in it) with a giant smiley on the front and a smiley sticking it's tongue out in the back..
    I love your blog :-)

  2. Castelbajac is curiously cool. I have an original (first time round) smiley ring somewhere, must remember where I put it. Brings back memories ... thanks. Your blog is brilliant!