The worrying rise of ‘catastrofashion’

The coronavirus outbreak arrives at a time when it is trendy to be hysterical about everything.

Alexandra Phillips

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Forget virtue-signalling – the latest online trend is catastrofashion.

Thanks to the outbreak of coronavirus, quarantine selfies and selfies with masks have become the fad du jour on Instagram. Photo galleries are popping up all over the internet of homemade masks using anything from Tesco carrier bags and paper cups to asbestos-soaked Soviet-era gas masks. Sadly, fashioning a muzzle from household waste, Art-Attack-style, performs no other function than making its wearer look like an attention-seeking lunatic.

A stroll around London suggests the majority of people sporting extreme Covid-19 prevention gear are the same kind of people who gridlocked the capital by joining Extinction Rebellion’s trance-yoga protests. Similarly, the Remoaners permanently protesting on College Green in Westminster no longer have Brexit to wail about and need a new reason to go down to Hobbycraft to indulge in some DIY fancy dress. Along came a pandemic just in the nick of time.

For a certain section of society, there is always a crisis on the horizon, whether it’s the climate emergency or Brexit. And they need us all to know they are worried about it. Coronavirus is undoubtedly dangerous, but there are serious consequences to the hysteria, too.

The usual supermarket sweeps are taking place as fearful faddists stockpile every last supply of hand sanitiser, toilet roll, paracetamol and can of preserved foods. No thought is given to those who might genuinely need those products and will now find the shelves totally empty. Meanwhile, a lifetime’s supply of Andrex and Cuticura clog up loft conversions across the country.

Thanks to panic buying, there is now a worldwide shortage of face masks. Price-gouging has become so bad that Facebook and eBay are banning users from listing them – some eBay bids have been for over $200. Masks themselves do very little to stop ordinary folk going about their daily lives catching the virus. The panic buying of masks, however, is causing problems. It actively reduces critical supplies for frontline medics and the infected at the epicentre of the pandemic. The US Surgeon General has resorted to tweeting ‘STOP BUYING MASKS!’ in capitals amid growing concerns that vital medical supplies won’t be readily available for those who actually need them.

Some people are so engulfed in coronavirus panic that they feel the need to walk around like the missing member of Daft Punk. You would think, given their coronavirus obsession, those same people might have spent a bit of time on the internet doing some research. They might have found out that washing your hands and not touching your face are the most effective measures against infection. Fumbling with a spittle-soaked cloth over your gob after riding the tube, on the other hand, is probably more likely to transport pesky microbes to exactly where you don’t want them to be.

Although coronavirus is incredibly serious, it arrives at a time when there seems to be a craving for catastrophe. For several years now, it feels like we have been lurching from one impending crisis to the next. Perhaps these crises, real and imagined, help to cultivate an otherwise missing sense of purpose for some people.

The fact that catastrofashion seems to afflict the metropolitan middle classes more than anyone else is notable. The real world might not be coming to an end but perhaps these catastrophes are a symbolic reflection of their world being seriously challenged. The march of populism across the West is being driven by ordinary men and women fighting back at the ballot box against the dominance of a comfortably-off cohort which imposes its narrow worldview on every art form, media platform and political party. Those who are still reeling in shock over the audacity of Brexit and Trump had been advertising their misery with public performance art long before the coronavirus hit.

Every era has some form of ‘catastrofashion’ and doomsday cultists. Brexit, the climate emergency and now coronavirus have acted as open invitations for the same self-absorbed, healthy, affluent and privileged few to warn us that the end is nigh unless we listen to them.

Alexandra Phillips is a former Brexit Party MEP for South East England.

Picture by: Getty

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Comments

JPM Culligan

15th March 2020 at 3:34 pm

On first reading of the headline of this article I understood it to be about some weird new style castratofashion, which I thought might explain some of today’s sexual politics of confusion.

I wish I were right.

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12th March 2020 at 2:44 pm

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Ven Oods

12th March 2020 at 2:35 pm

Given that Mrs Oods has long thought my dress sense a catastrophe, it now looks as if I’m finally a trend-setter. I’m so glad I stuck to my guns (not to mention various items of apparel).

Gordon Das Gopher

12th March 2020 at 8:23 am

I think this catastrofashion is very serious issue and could well change the world as we know it. You’ve written nothing about how we can protect ourselves from this phenomenon and I think it’s just going to spread and spread until we’re basically all just one big nervous wreck. Or dead. Or zombies. Or feminists. Or feminist zombies.

This is a disaster!!!

KATHLEEN CARR

12th March 2020 at 12:49 pm

The sort of person who panics has probably always been with us , but there wasn’t the mass media who need to fill space to report on them in the past. In the 1970’s when there were world shortages of various things , my mother would decide she had a sudden need for sugar , seville oranges or the old favourite, toilet rolls and made me miss school and queue up for hours for these items. We don’t know how people behaved during the War as it is upper middle class women , who had servants , who reported on things and newspapers had ‘d’ notices , but they certainly wrote in their letters that they stocked up on sanitary products. I hope this virus is not something dreamed up by a think tank to see how we all react ,as there is a strange ‘phony war’ feel at the moment where there seems a massive over-reaction to a virus which gives (apparently ) flu – like symptoms to those who have it and is only fatal to those with underlying health problems.

Mark Houghton

12th March 2020 at 7:06 am

“The usual supermarket sweeps are taking place as fearful faddists stockpile every last supply of hand sanitiser, toilet roll, paracetamol and can of preserved foods.” – I have stocks of food and other supplies. In fact I always have such stocks. And I’d rather be called a fearful faddist than starving when I’ll have to self-isolate and the supermarkets for some weird reason no longer deliver.

steven brook

12th March 2020 at 6:30 am

“fashioning a muzzle from household waste, Art-Attack-style, performs no other function than making its wearer look like an attention-seeking lunatic.” I beg to differ! I have found wearing my wife’s G string as a face mask extremely effective. On reflection it probably doesn’t protect me from any external viruses however, well, let’s just say it’s comforting. Does that make me a panicker?

Ven Oods

12th March 2020 at 2:37 pm

One assumes, Steve, that this only occurs while said item is not ‘occupied’?

Jonnie Henly

12th March 2020 at 12:20 am

“A stroll around London suggests the majority of people sporting extreme Covid-19 prevention gear are the same kind of people who gridlocked the capital by joining Extinction Rebellion’s trance-yoga protests.”

Does it? How?
Not very convincing proof.

“The fact that catastrofashion seems to afflict the metropolitan middle classes more than anyone else is notable”

So notable the author cannot provide on piece of actual proof that their claims are true.

It seems this claim reflects more on the prejudices of the author than any genuine true about society.

‘Some people are acting silly? Well it must be people who I disagree with on everything. It must be the other side, because only they act bad’.

Do Extinction Rebellion protesters usually have much to do with the stock market?

alan smithee

12th March 2020 at 4:05 am

Wrong. Face masks don’t work, just another silly fashion trend.

Jonas Pedersen

12th March 2020 at 11:58 am

Why do people in the front Line and medical staff needs the mask if they dont work anyway. People have had plenty of time to buy food and toilet paper, little by little, but just like now, the lax attitude towards this has been one of inaction and passivity.

Jonnie Henly

12th March 2020 at 2:04 pm

I never claimed they did work. That’s not the point.

Ven Oods

12th March 2020 at 2:40 pm

I always assumed that medical staff wore masks to protect patients (with healing wounds or other vulnerabilities) rather than themselves. In which case, these fashionistas are doing the rest of us a favour in the event that they’re virus-carriers. But, I wonder if they realise? Or even care, come to that.

NEIL DATSON

12th March 2020 at 8:20 am

Jonnie, I can only agree with your objection that there’s no obvious reason to assume that the same people obsess about Covid-19 as obsess about Brexit and the ‘climate emergency’. But the critical point is that all such obsessions are a product of the same sort of mindset. Most people of my circle and acquaintance are just quietly trying to get on with their normal lives as best they can, maybe being a bit more careful to wash their hands (which can only be a good thing, let’s hope that it helps instil a permanent shift in behaviour). Again, most have far too much to do in their day to day lives to make much of a drama of any of these things. Yet some people clearly seem to enjoy it and appear keen to publicise their obsessive behaviour, which in its turn feeds the media’s constant need of sensation.

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