[This week Hooping.org columnist Lara Eastburn takes a look at hooper fashion.]
We’re all familiar with the quote, “Clothes make the man.” But Mark Twain’s immortal maxim is also followed by this one, “Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Fair enough.
But do clothes make the hooper? With a few exceptions, a quick glance around at the hooping world would certainly make one think so. What to wear while hooping is the subject of countless online threads, forums and groups. One’s wardrobe often appears to be a major consideration in even casual hooping photos and videos. The sheer amount of attention we as a community pay to hooping and clothes implies that it’s something we think — and worry — a lot about.
And there are a couple immediate and obvious reasons for this. For one, some clothes aren’t suitable for hooping. Belts get in the way; slippery fabrics are frustrating. But then, I don’t wear those to a Pilates class either, y’know? Then, some clothes – or their absence – seem to facilitate learning to hoop. For many years, I HAD to wear shorts if I was going to have a chance in hell of pulling off knee hooping. Tank tops, as well as a good sports bra, were an equal necessity when I was first attempting torso hooping. Hooping with fire comes with strict clothing rules. And blast if those flowy gaucho pants don’t fall-half way down my ass when I’m getting my groove on. These motivations for hoop-specific clothing we can relegate to the category of “utility.” They serve a mechanical and functional purpose. Okay, so what about the rest?
I’d say that utility aside, many, many hoopers also want to look awesome when hooping. Why is that? First off, I think we can all agree that feeling confident is a major motivation. With that in common, though, hoopers find many different ways to go about creating that confidence. I’m willing to wager that when one is new to hooping, a desire to “look the part” plays into ideas that there are such things as “hooping pants” or a certain hooping “style,” etc. Seeing other hoopers and scrolling through pictures and videos, without a doubt, is bound to give a new hooper the impression that there is a hooping “aesthetic.” So, as we’ve been taught to dress a certain way for a job interview, a party, or church, many of us naturally assume that hooping, too, has its fashion requirements. Some of us even picked up hooping because the first hoopers we saw looked SO cool.
I didn’t see anyone else hoop, in person or online, until maybe 2004. But I’ll never forget the first picture of a hooper I ever saw. I had happened upon Anah Reichenbach’s hoopalicious.com. She and Christabel Zamor were wearing shiny red tribal two-pieces with enormous, matching fur legwarmers. Their hair was filled with bright yarn falls. And this was years before my first Burning Man experience. Now I knew that Hoopalicious and HoopGirl were performers, but that didn’t keep me from thinking that this was a darned cool way for a hooper to look. Not only had I stumbled unknowingly into a niche culture of hooping, I had, it seemed, wandered into a whole new world of looking incredible.
And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. As hooping picked up speed and presence in those early years, the fur legwarmers caught on so quickly in the hooping world you’d think they were reproducing like rabbits. They were invariably paired with “booty” shorts, fishnets, and an array of fun, flirty tops. At the time, I began to refer to the ensemble as “The Hooping Uniform.” It’s common knowledge among hoopers that Anah started a hooping revolution, but she was influencing a whole hooping wardrobe as well. So, while not everyone was dressing hoop-alicious, this eye-catching genre of attire became for many newcomers the more visible portrait of a what a hooper looked like.
Meanwhile, “fitness” hoopers and “festival” hoopers were expanding their own hooping “looks.” Burning Man and belly dancers brought their own flavors to the table. The options for looking fabulous while hooping began to appear boundless (I learned to sew JUST so I could try them all out and make my own experiments). The growing possibilities were ALL Fan-hooping-tastic.
You see, it never occurred to me that it could be acceptable or fun to get my hoop on in a pair of sweatpants. Even now, with the higher visibility of hoopers like Baxter and Brecken – who marry super-casual dress to super-sonic skill – the aesthetic legacy we’ve inherited as a community is still palpable. So much so, in fact, that it’s hoopers like Kari Revolva that now seem truly revolutionary as far as the hooping “closet” goes. That woman blows me away so thoroughly that I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what she’s going to say, do, and WEAR next. And I may just never get over that knock-out white ensemble that Khan Wong wore in the unforgettable Flow Show.
These hoopers, along with the likes of the stylish Malcolm Stuart and others, are clear indicators that our sense of “hooping performance” is changing rapidly. “Hooping Clothes” are becoming part of the story we tell with our hoops, not just a story in themselves. It doesn’t change the fact that I try on three outfits before I hoop publicly, but it HAS changed the question I ask myself in front of the mirror. “Will I look cool hooping in this?” has thankfully faded forever to be replaced by the much more interesting, “What story do I want to tell today?”
“I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.” – Charlie Chaplin
“There is much to support the view that it is clothes that wear us, and not we, them; we may make them take the mould of arm or breast, but they mould our hearts, our brains, our tongues to their liking.” – Virginia Woolf
Lara Eastburn has been dancing in meadows and singing with the moon while spinning in circles for eons at Superhooper.org. Beyond commenting here, you can also discuss this and other topics related to the Hooposophy for living in Hooping.org’s Hooposophy Group and Gorum. Lara is also the planting and gardening force behind discovering our hooping community roots at The Hooping Family Tree Project.