Books on the beach

Books on the beach

I was born in a city that is by the sea. People usually start to go to the beach in May, but the nonnas and nonnos from here actually never stop going, so you can find them by the shore even in January if the weather is sunny. Since I was a child I had this tradition with my parents: as soon as school finished, we went shopping for a new bathing suit and toys to play with my friends, mermaids whose hair changed with water and tins to make sand castles. Growing up, toys were replaced by books: every year, around the start of June, you can make sure than one day me and my mum will look at each other and say “We should go and by some books to take to the beach, don’t you think?”.

If you live by the sea too, you know that people go there every chance they get, being a free evening or morning, the weekend, or just a little more than an hour for lunch break. When I do so, I can never forget to put a book in my beach bag, so I thought that maybe I should write down a few fashion-related titles, hoping that they will be a pleasant company for you bookworms while sunbathing, being it a daily routine or just a few days of paradise far from the chaotic city!

“A visible man” by Edward Enninful

I had already talked with you about how much I have loved reading this memoir, full of behind the scenes on how fashion changed during the 90s in underground London, along with the strength and determination that Enninful had to claim his place in the industry, breaking down racist and homophobic stereotypes to open fashion to everyone that wanted to express their creativity in it. The Italian translation of this book has been published just two weeks ago, so run to the closest bookstore and grab yours!

“La moda” by Georg Simmel

If you want to read a short essay about how fashion influenced people behaviors and beliefs in the 1910s’, well I’ve got your back: we’ve already talked about Simmel’s book, so I won’t bore you any longer with thoughts and spoilers, but I have really enjoyed this book, and if you love sociology and philosophy of fashion you will like it too. It’s also a really small one, so it will fit in your bag perfectly without taking space from sunscreen and fruits.

“Specchio delle mie brame” by Maura Gancitano

Maura Gancitano is one of the most acute contemporary female philosophers in Italy. In this book, published in 2022, she covers many topics, all related to the myth of beauty that has been thought to women since they were young girls. Women have to be flawless and never age, always stay skinny and fit, they can cultivate their brains but never at the expense of beauty. With the help of fundamental feminist essays, Gancitano dismantles the strategies of politics and social stereotypes that have brought women to be obsessed with beauty, ‘cause they have always been told that it is what matters most and what people need from them to think that they are deserving of love, no matter if it may take them to cross the line between a healthy taking care of oneself and falling sick, both mentally and physically, for it.

“Scrittrici e giornaliste di moda” by Daniela Baroncini

This book is a walk down history, telling us about the lives of all the amazing Italian women that gave birth to fashion journalism. At the times, in the 19th century and early 20th, fashion was considered frivolous, a girly thing, and so magazines used to hire women to write about it: little did they know that fashion was much deeper, and that these women would have been able to make it relevant in everyday life, not just for the beauty of clothes but also for the social meaning that they hold, and so pave their way in journalism.

“Il sistema della moda. La moda nei giornali femminili” by Rolland Barthes

This reading suggestion actually comes from Laura’s mum (we love our MaM’s team mums!). Published in 1967, this essay by the French semiology professor Barthes is about how fashion journalism is perceived and given meaning to by women of different social classes, being the middle class the one that gets fashion messages that are both mundane and deep diving into the meaning of clothes. Along with another one of his books, “Il senso della moda. Forme e significati dell’abbigliamento”, Barthes depicted a rich sociological and philosophical image of how fashion takes place in our everyday lives, influencing us in shaping our identity and showing or not our naked bodies, that are not just flesh and bones but bearers of meaning.

“Contro la moda” by Ugo Volli

This book too was suggested to me by the one and only Laura, the woman that holds this blog together <3. Written in 1988, this essay by Volli is another interesting semiotic analysis, rather than a socio-economic one, that covers topics such as how fashion influences  our social lives, from which values matter to us the most to how our aesthetic taste is shaped. Fashion is like language for Volli: it shapes us but it is also shaped by us, it gives meaning to our body, making it not just mere flesh, but also takes after how our society is shaped on a larger scale in terms of cultural beliefs and acts.

Sadly, the book seems unfindable on the internet, but summer is not just meant for the beach: I’m sure that if you visit local vintage markets you might be able to find even a first edition copy!

“Leggere Lolita a Teheran” by Azar Nafisi

This is not a book about fashion, but a marvelous novel about the strength of a group of young women and their literature professor. It starts in the 70s, and goes on into the years of Khomeini’s dictatorship, times where women were secluded due to Islam’s principles being exploited by politics. It’s during the regime that Professor Nafisi invites her female students to her house, to hold a secret book club where they’ll be able to read literature classics from all over the world. All the girls are different, some want to wear the Hijab and some don’t ‘cause they want to show their hair, some paint their nails and wear colorful clothes, others are more minimalistic. No matter what these girls choose to wear and be, in the house of Nafisi they are free to be who they want, something that they can’t do outside, where the regime is watching them, in the streets and at university, and every choice, especially religious beliefs, loose meaning if they are dictated and not freely chosen.  I think that this story, among every important thing that it says, tells us about how we should not take for granted our freedom of being able to express our identity through our clothes, hair, makeup. “Long live red socks”: if you read the book you’ll understand!

And you babes, what are you going to read on the beach this summer?