My parents looked very odd when they were young. They had peculiar outfits, eccentric hair styles, and listened to outlandish music. I figured they must’ve been goofed on marijuana, although they claim that they weren’t. My father said that he didn’t do drugs in his days. He didn’t get tattoos either, while looking at my wrist in disapproval. But old movies prove that people in the 1920s were walking and dancing way faster than we do now. How do you explain that dad? People in the 60’s were definitely on drugs. They hardly wore any clothes and danced most strangely to Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Ten years later, people listened to the Beatles and had the oddest hairstyles. Although, when putting it in perspective, people wore wigs in the 1500s. We dress quite minimalistic today but stomp on trance music, which can surely be considered somewhat unusual too. History class never quite explained the whole lot. What is it that our teachers were hiding from us? It took me 15 years of irresponsible behaviour to figure it out. 

It first hit me when I went to my first trance party. Someone offered me a small piece of candy that I was guaranteed to like. I’m not quite the sweet-tooth, but it’d be rude to say no. An hour later, it felt as if I was flying over the stomping crowd. I sang along to DJ tunes that didn’t have any lyrics, made Latin dance moves I never learned, and talked to strangers in languages I don’t speak. I wondered if my parents ever had candy. They had Beatniks in their time, who dressed funny and listened to odd music because they took too much psychedelic drugs. Not my parents though, they claim. Mid 1970s cocaine arrived at the party scene, which was first introduced as a treatment for anything ranging from toothache to impotence. It was sold in tonics, pills and even cigarettes, until people found out it was rather addictive. Something needed to be done, and how better to cure a drug epidemic with another drug? Along came morphine, which was processed in pretty much any prescription drugs. It turned out to be quite addictive too, so heroine soon became advertised to people as a safe substitute. It wasn’t so safe, and it’s all illegal now. But the law seemed nothing more than a formality. People can still get their hands on any drugs, and you won’t find a single trance party where candy isn’t offered generously. 

Speaking of sweet things, queen Elizabeth I accidently ate so much sugar that her teeth turned black. Why? Because people didn’t have tooth paste back then. Why? Because they didn’t know sugar was bad for your teeth yet. Why? Because sugar only became popular in Europe in the 1500s, after the Portuguese colonized Brazil. The Portuguese first considered their new territory to be somewhat of an impractical jungle, and reckoned sugar cane plantations would be the only way to make some profit. Because half of the locals were accidently killed by diseases that the Portuguese brought with them, they started the biggest slave trade from Africa in history. But there wasn’t much of a demand for sugar in Europe yet, so the Portuguese started processing it in cookies, drinks and practically anything else. That’s the reason Europeans are addicted to sugar today, why Brazilian dance still has strong African roots, and how queen Elizabeth ended up with black teeth. The funniest thing was that the black teeth of queen Elizabeth became quite trendy at the time, before people realized it’s a sign of irreversible mouth decay. 

It’s interesting how fashion works like that, and might explain why people used to dress so funny in the past. For instance, during the Elizabethan era it was also popular to wear extremely puffy arm sleeves. Men would even bombast the doublets around their waist to hide their skinny ribs and raise the illusion of prosperity. In the 1800s people started to wear utmost bizarre bloomer suits, to accentuate their voluptuous behinds. Not much later, it was the crinoline with hoop skirt that served to highlight a woman’s buttocks. This outfit was so inconvenient and heavy that it wasn’t rare for women to get caught in moving carriages, tossed off stairs, or trapped in burning flames. In contrast to the wide bottom part of the dress, the top part was a corset made out of steel. They were so tight that women’s rib cages sometimes cracked under the pressure. But crinolines were the ultimate depiction of female beauty, so considered worth the suffering. 

All well and good, but why on earth did grown-up men wear wigs back in the 1500s? Apparently, it wasn’t so much fashion but more of a necessity. Many people suffered from sexually transmitted diseases in those days, which made men smelly and turned them bold. Wigs, made out of goat hair and scented with lavender, were a desperate attempt to mask the symptoms. The trend mainly caught on when naughty-old Louis XIV started wearing extravagant wigs after suffering from syphilis. But these wigs weren’t quite as extravagant as in the 1700s. In those days, men wore wigs five times the size of their head as part of the macaroni fashion. It related to supremacy, which carried on well into the 19th century. Even today, full powdered wigs remain part of proper courtroom outfits. We’re not ones to judge though, not ever since the manifestation of mullets. Mullets came into fashion in the 1980s and somehow never fully disappeared from the scene despite its repulsiveness. 

Male genitals have also been quite a fundamental focus of fashion throughout history. In the 15th and 16th century it was perfectly normal to acclaim power through the penis. What Viagra is today, codpieces were back in the days. They were made out of wood or metal and worn on top of clothing to mimic a massive boner. The bigger the better, which still holds true today. Not in Ancient Greek times though, where sculptures of hulky men were given tiny penises. They considered a large erect penis to be a sign of weakness, as real men should show strength instead of lust. Roman Catholics agreed and started to cover vulgar and disgraceful penises with fig leaves. It was still the exception to the rule though, as penises were floundered proudly almost anywhere else. Some native ethnic groups wore a koteka, which is basically a decorated horn-shaped cock holster, others mutilated the penis with subincisions and circumcisions, and some underwent stretching rituals by hanging stone weights from their dagger. This day and age, we make dick-picks. No woman ever really enjoys receiving them, but they’re grateful that men aren’t wearing codpieces anymore. 

As for women, breasts have been the foremost centre of attention. Ancient Egyptians wore jewelled dresses that centred the most precious stones around the bosom, which was fully exposed. Up to the 19th century, it was perfectly normal for women to accentuate their voluminous front by a deep décolleté. Court fashion, and even queens, exposed their cleavage with the helping hand of push-up corsets and dark-coloured areolae cosmetics. Suddenly, when the Victorian era hit, décolletages became uncivilized and exposed breasts uncouth. Women went through great lengths to hide their bosom by wearing loose dresses that extended all the way to their chin. They remained to be prudish until 1990, when Madonna went on stage wearing only a corset with nothing but cones to cover her boobies. After an initial response of shock and disgrace, women slowly started to dare displaying their breasts again. Many musicians have since tried to be as controversial as Madonna, until they eventually ended up wearing tight leather outfits that practically covered the nipples only. Today, we leave nothing up to the imagination. Nipples are brazenly displayed by see-through shirts and women go topless on most inappropriate occasions. We even pump our boobs up with silicones, sometimes until they accidently pop. 

So all in all, fashion explains a whole lot and drugs a few things more. The one can even be explained by the other. For instance, women wear pants today, which was unheard of in the past. The latest high fashion is activewear, which makes it look as if ladies are at the gym when in fact they are at work. It became trendy because celebrities started wearing it in public as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. But it’s not normal. Wearing dresses is, or was at least, throughout most of history. Why the change so suddenly? See, it might be explained by drugs. Drugs only kicked off in the 1900s and didn’t reach its full potential until 30 years ago. Youngsters today consume it limitlessly, and their options range from XTC and crack to LSD and ketamine. But it was never like that before. Drugs causes dependency and indifference, which could perfectly explain the activewear. Temporal drug trends often go hand in hand with sequential fashion trends. Perhaps, when drugs fall out of fashion in the future, crinolines and bloomer suits will return. Dick-picks might one day display kotekas, and nipple caps may well become frowned upon again. But it can go the other way just as easily. Men could start wearing tight corsets with hoop skirts, and the next queen of England might pose for Playboy. If we would like the future to head in that direction, it might be worth considering to put morphine and cocaine back in our headache tablets. Whatever our choices and whichever the outcome, that the future generation will judge us for our lack of style seems to be inevitable.