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LOVELOCK


୨୧

On
Embodied
Desire



A justification of I <3 MOM Tattoos, 
nameplate necklaces,
blood vial pendants
& raiding your lover’s wardrobe







Words by Lily Moskowitz
12.23


lovelock (n.)

  1. a state of desire-induced paralysis, usually caused by unspoken or unrequited affection.

“the boy was floored by a particularly dire case of lovelock”


2.     a detached strand of hair, given willingly or deliberately set aside as an intimate gesture.

“inside the locket they kept a golden brown lovelock”


୨୧


Why are you wearing your boyfriend’s jacket & stealing your girlfriend’s clothes?


Aristophanes claimed that Love is the pursuit of wholeness. That our bodies, living as fractioned, parceled, and dissected pieces, once existed as doubled beings with four legs and four arms. Split into two as eternal punishment from the Gods on behalf of mortal arrogance, the human dilemma is to find our great return, to actualize a restoration of our once divine forms.


Desire, to Aristophanes, is hunger for completion of the figure.
A constant seeking out of the body once one with our own.
A quest for the carnal soulmate,
the fulfillment of phantom limbs,
the reunion of ghostly joints
and scrappy junctures.







Of course, Aristophanes was a graying white guy in Ancient Greece whose ideas aged like brie cheese. He conservatively positioned, in his tale of these primordial doubled bodies, that our physical origins took on a hermaphroditic form: man and woman in one scrambled incarnation of entropy. Twinned female bodies or twinned male bodies, as the beginnings of queer love, were written off as mere anomalies. If we can excuse this gross dismissal of homoeroticism, if we can re-contextualize these grievances of philosophy in the times of antiquity…


then the myth of Aristophanean Lovers suggests a poignant and poetic explanation for desire – foregrounding the amorous impulse in the bodily/sensory and embedding the expression of love in both corporeal and metaphysical mimicry.



I rolled inside his soul like a ball of wool.


 

from “Flesh”  The Easy Life by Alda Merini



The notion of Aristophanean desire gestures at a familiar assimilation of form that is heavily inscribed upon our image of the archetypical love story. Coupled aesthetic unity is the centerpiece of idolized romance: lovers as mirrored images of one another, inverted question marks fitted into a glass mold. He wears her jacket, she wears his name on a golden chain. 




It is Patti Smith and Robert Maplethorpe in the same slim fit jeans
and close cropped tees.

Rihanna and A$AP in coordinating ensembles of head-to-toe
Louis Vuitton denim.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in matching tuxedos at the 2014
BAFTA awards.


Image Courtesy of Gerard Malanga,
1970.









The Korean language actually gives a name to this tendency of couples to dress with complementary style and coordinated outfits. Called kou-peul 커플룩, it is considered a symbol of love to use fashion as a means to visually convey partnership. Japanese aesthetics define a similar code called osoroi  お揃いコーデ  – translating to “a pair of'' or “match” – as well as link リンクコーデ – a subtler form of coordinating only in color palette, aesthetic, or stylistic reference. Melding appearances, lovers and friends are bound in belonging and clothed in camaraderie. To parallel personal style is to codify kinship and materialize togetherness. To wear unity into the body itself: a distinctly Aristophanean sentiment further exemplified in designer Jean Charles De Castelbajac’s homage to twinned/bound lovers through his 1986 creation of the doubled poncho made for two, inspired by a sighting of two lovers walking arm-in-arm and later replicated by British-Nigerian designer Mowalola in her SS24 collection.















Image Courtesy of Vogue Runway,
Mowalola SS24, 2023. 
 


Image Courtesy of Artcurial,
Jean Charles del Castelbajac x KWAY, 1986.


I must resemble whom I love. I postulate (and it is this which brings about my pleasure) a conformity of essence between the other and myself. Image, imitation: I do as many things as I can in the other’s fashion. I want to be the other, I want the other to be me, as if we were united, enclosed within the same sack of skin, the garment being merely the smooth envelope of that coalescent substance out of which my amorous Image-repertoire is made.

from “Blue Coat and Yellow Vest”

A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes



୨୧

Aristophanean desire holds particular pertinence to queerness and androgyny. It imparts a genderless blur upon sexed bodies. It whispers of a man in the lace panties of his lover, of a woman wearing his boxers under her jeans. It answers the classically queer question – do I want to be her or be with her? – with the suggestion of both. It folds desire and consumption into the same sweet skin. It summons the eroticism of Elio wearing Oliver’s shirt in Call Me By Your Name and the faceless masks of “The Lovers” by Magritte. It calls upon the intimacy of sameness, the unifying quality of shared experience, the harmony of homogeneity.












“The Lovers II” Rene Magritte, 1928 

The notion of bodily mimicry extends into platonic intimacy as well: roommates who absorb one another’s mannerisms, friends who match each other’s vocabulary, creative partners whose tastes collapse into one another over time. Cultural communities that, consciously or unconsciously,  partake in paralleled patterns of speech and assimilate their appearances into a cohesive, distinct style of dress.

Perhaps this take on intimacy endorses codependency. Maybe it encourages egotism and suggests that we are drawn to reflections of our own image, attracted to echoes of our own form. Yet Aristophanean desire does not require that lovers must be spitting images of one another, nor do they have to be identical in all aspects. It merely suggests an impulse to personify unity – not only providing an explanation for embodied expressions of endearment but ascribing meaning to the act of wearing the gesture of another’s body upon that of your own.


Dear little love, you are the best paper dress I have ever had. Do you know why you are my paper dress? Because you are like a big woolen jacket, a straightjacket. You are my madness, and you can’t imagine how often madness is made solely of paper.

from “Dress” The Easy Life by Alda Merini



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Elevating the intimate mimicry of swapping outfits with a partner or imitating a friend’s aesthetic style – instances of linking bodily connection to emotional connection – is the consummation of romantic intimacy through the material incarnation of the loved one’s form:

To wear their initials on a chain around the neck.


To ink their name onto the flesh.


To brand their face onto the body for an eternity.


Aristophanes’ idea of love as a physical union directly informs the decision to appropriate the image of a loved one on the skin itself. It gives reason to faded I  <3 Mom tattoos and the tragically expired Amber stuck on your bicep for all time even though she broke your heart eight years ago and she isn’t coming back. It is the desire not only to mirror the loved, but to envelop, to enmesh, to imprint.

Moving then from aesthetic replication to physical possession, the notion of Aristopheanean desire contextualizes a whole slew of fashion phenomena and aesthetic trends: from blood vial pendants and nameplate necklaces to Victorian cameos and jewelry made from human hair.


I do not replicate your body, I obtain you. I do not mimic, I possess.


from personal prose 











୨୧

Stripped bare, Aristophanean love as bodily cohabitation is represented in the act of literally wearing the loved one. Not their clothes, not their image, not their name. Their raw biology. In eighteenth century England, common practice between lovers was to make jewelry out of the other’s hair. Whether a single curl encased in a crystal locket or an entire bracelet woven from their locks, Victorian hair jewelry consummates the Aristophanean desire to transfix oneself eternally upon the body of a lover. To keep the presence of the lover in close proximity at all times; even in death, as Victorian era mourning rites greatly prized the objectification of the dead as a means to honor their memory.


Molding cameo pendants of the loved one’s portraiture to pin
to the chest or string onto a chain. Studding the teeth of the
deceased into cuffs of silver. Fusing a late relative’s glass eye
onto a ring. Widows painstakingly weaving their husbands short
tufts into braided necklaces. Grotesque, unholy demonstrations
of grief and devotion, these acts of fashioned enfleshment speak
to the desire for love to outlive us. Memento mori. To wear the
physical remnants of a loved one as not only a token of enduring
affection, but as the essence of love immortalized, the body of the loved forever
completed upon the body of the lover.



Making jewellery out of human hair was a manifestation of a relic culture suffused with a desire to keep the remnants of a deceased loved one close to the body. Unlike the rest of the body, which is subject to decay, hair remains the same after death.. Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials; and survives us, like love. It is so light, so gentle, so escaping from the idea of death. 

from The Art of Working in Hair:

Hair Jewellery and Ornamental Handiwork

in Victorian Britain
by Yan Shu-chuan




Alexander McQueen’s twentieth century revival of hair fashion
marks a return to the use of body parts in bodily adornment,
particularly as a display of passion. Rather than dedicating
the use of his physical remains to a subject of endearment,
McQueen dedicated his bodily debris to an object of
endearment: his designs. Transfusing his own body with the
body of his work, McQueen sewed locks of his own hair
into the labels of his late 90s collections. The notion of
Aristophanean love, of inhabiting the same spatial plane as
the recipient of one’s passion, is here applied not to human
but to object – brocade jackets and billowing blouses. Posing
care as on par with corporeal sacrifice, McQueen is quoted
saying that this historical reference to the Victorian tradition “was about [him] giving [him]self to the collection.”  Blood, sweat, and tears shed for the sake of peak artistic performance.


Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2017 film Phantom Thread similarly portrays a clothing designer who lines the hems of his garments with the hair of his dead mother as a re-enactment of the lovelocked tradition. Yet twenty-first century renditions of the amorous talisman and the commodity fetish have generally replaced fashionings of hair and teeth into fashionings of blood.


Rather than a gesturing at remembrance and loss
through the use of elements immune to death,
the contemporary trend of the blood vial necklace
requires the byproducts of the living.
Exploding in popularity on Tumblr in the mid 2010’s
and resurging in the age of TikTok, the blood
vial pendant alludes to vitality and sacrifice.
It is the offering of the
life-force itself to the lover, the ultimate climax
of bodily devotion.  Extraction and masochism,
the blood vial necklace is the vessel
of the Aristophanean merge at its utmost gore.




Artifacts of amor solidify the abstract ideas of both desire as consumption and lust as shared inhabitation of one body. Reduced to object – a name, an accessory, a fragmented byproduct, a sampling of biological fluid – the loved one is wholly commodified, indicating some strain of love as possession. I can wear the item that represents you, I can sell the object of your symbol. I can burn it, I can swallow it, I can smash it open or throw it at the wall. I can cherish it when you are with me and I can destroy it when you are gone. It is your presence in your absence: the mark you’ve left on my body, the stamp you’ve etched on my heart.


Werther multiplies the gestures of fetishism; he kisses the knot of the ribbon Charlotte has given him, the letter she sends him, the pistols she has touched. From the loved being emanates a power nothing can stop and which will impregnate everything it comes in contact with, even if only by a glance.

from “The Ribbon” A Lover’s Discourse
by Roland Barthes





I used to give clippings of hair to my ex-lover in small satin pouches. Each time I cut my bangs, I gifted the material essence of my debris to her as a gesture of affection. A piece of myself for her to keep, alongside the garments we shared and the likenesses we wore into one other. 

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When I returned from a semester abroad, a friend picked me up from the airport and presented me with a late birthday gift: his entire head of hair in a cardboard box. Knowing my off-putting infatuation with human hair and the art made from it, he had thoughtfully set aside all that he had shaved off after deciding to get buzzed. To this day I have yet to receive a gift that felt so intimate or so kind, even though the two of us have never been sexually involved or will never be romantically inclined.

୨୧

My grandmother used to ask me, only half-jokingly, to give her just one single curl from my head. When my hair was long, falling just below my waist, she would pick a ringlet to twirl between her fingers while we would chat for hours over card games and cold coffee. I still think about cutting one off to give to her, though my hair is short now and she does not so often pull one out to fiddle with.











My bottom row of teeth is shaped like love. To love other people.. Really love them, the kind where you are seeing their snarled hair, the snot from their nose… You begin to get something. Love is terribly human. It’s supposed to snag on you. To catch like food in the teeth, like a coat on a hanger.

from Anonymous

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Often I will dress my roommate when he has an important date or a big presentation or a jam-packed day ahead. He will ask me to make him look “hot and nonchalant.” I style him in my clothing but his shoes. We have the same haircut and though he doesn’t have my figure, I sometimes double-take at the finished look, as if I am seeing the spitting image of myself. He had told me that on these days, he will smell my scent on the garments and feel comforted by the trace of my presence.

୨୧

I like to be at a friend’s place and see a piece of my wardrobe hanging in their closet. An old relic of myself reincarnated in the spirit of a person I love. As if we are composed of small pieces of what we mean to one another.
Adorned in the imprints of our endearment.
Embellished in the threads of care.
Ornamental, infatuated, cut from the same cloth.


Maybe it’s narcissism, maybe it’s romance, maybe it’s lovelock.

୨୧












References


Barthes, Roland. A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments. Translated by Richard Howard. Hill and Wang, 1978.

“Jacket, Autumn Winter 1996.” Jacket – The Museum of Savage Beauty, www.vam.ac.uk/museumofsavagebeauty/mcq/jacket/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Merini, Alda. The Easy Life. Translated by Camilla di Liberto. Arkbound, 2018.

Phantom Thread. Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps. Universal Pictures, 2017.

Plato. The Symposium. Penguin Classics, 1999.

Sabukaru. “Osoroi Coordination and Link Coordination- The Love Language of Matching Clothing with Others.” Sabukaru, 15 July 2023, https://sabukaru.online/articles/osoroi-coordination-and-link-coordination-the-love-language-of-matching-clothing-with-others.

Shu-chuan, Yan. The Art of Working in Hair: Hair Jewellery and Ornamental Handiwork in Victorian Britain, The Journal of Modern Craft, 12:2, 123-139, DOI: 10.1080/17496772.2019.1620429

Wallace, Megan. “Does the Couple That Dress Together, Stay Together?” Highsnobiety, 14 Feb. 2023, www.highsnobiety.com/p/couple-dressing-analysis/.
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