Even though our school system has adopted a “unified dress code”, fashion statements continue to be an issue. The thing that most attracts my attention is anything gang-related.
It is the tradition in most Latino gangs to wear a military-style webbing belt that coordinates with the colors of the gangs. Usually, those belts are either navy blue or black and have silver nickel or chrome flip buckles. The other characteristic is that the buckle should have a letter stamped into it. The letters are always in Old English Gothic lettering, but the initial often does not match the first or last name of the wearer. Usually, the initial stands for the person’s gang nickname. Sometimes, not.
The belts are very long, usually so that they can be cut on one side to fit the wearer. The gang members take advantage of this length for more customization to their belt. They often ink in symbols and phrases recognizable by other gangs on the metal end of their belts. Then, the belt is left dangling so that everyone can admire their artwork.
These days, because the school uniforms have blue shirts – and the students don’t have to tuck them in – it’s harder to see the belts. But, once seen (at least by me), they cannot be “unseen”. I have to confiscate them and send them to our school resource officer. Sometimes, they just take the buckle off. But technically, that style of belt is against the school rules, so they take the whole thing off.
That got me to thinking. What happens to those belts after they go to the office? I would jokingly tell my students that we were going to weave them all into a hammock, so recycling must have always been at the back of my mind.
So, the other day I sent an e-mail to the resource officer and asked him that question. He said that they are all thrown out at the end of the year, or the custodian uses them to tie things down. He told me I was welcome to come down and get some. So I might.
After doing some internet research on lawn chair frames, I found out that they were sold by macrame companies. Unfortunately, the companies I looked at were out of stock. Apparently, macrame lawn chairs are popular – there were designs and patterns and instructions on how to weave them. I considered buying an old chair on eBay and stripping it, but they were kind of expensive – not even including shipping. So, if I do this, I will have to wait a bit.
In the meantime, I worked on an illustration of what I had in mind. Here it is:
Now, here I was, thinking this was a completely WACKY original idea, but nothing is new on this planet. I was surfing for pictures of belts and buckles (because NO ONE seems to have illustrations of gang belts – why not? How are people supposed to prevent something they don’t recognize? But, I digress…), and I found this:
Paris-based designer Yahïa Ouled-Moussa has a way with reinventing old clothing or fabrics into funky and functional design objects. He studied interior architecture in Paris, but it was through a job with a French cabinet-maker who specialized in restoring period furniture that he developed his passion for furniture and design. Ouled-Moussa transforms sturdy vintage French linens, army sacks or antique porcelain tea sets into stylish smocks, small sitting stools and bound sculpture.
His “Strap Bands Chair” uses old canvas belts that you may have worn in the 1980s (and that those born in the 1980s may be wearing today) and weaves them onto discarded wooden chairs to create the seat and back. The unwoven part of the belts hang under the seat, giving the piece an added, looser dimension in contrast to the tight weave above. The strap bands chair has been made in shades of pink as well as in a mix of bright yellow, red, blue and orange. There is also a military version which incorporates old canvas military belts in green, brown and beige.
Chairs can be commissioned by the piece or bought directly from his boutique (Yoming Gallery) on rue Nollet in Paris’s 17th arrondissement.
Isn’t life wacky? I really liked the wooden chair idea, because I can see where it would be easier to tack the belts on wood. I hadn’t quite figured out how I was going to make them stick on the lawn chairs. I also think that having the belt buckles hanging is interesting.
Next move – contact the gallery and find out how much they sell for – I’m gonna be rich!