New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, October 19, 2009


It is safe to say that in a wired world, sights of individuals like those in the photo are no longer unusual. It is also a reasonable assumption that in many places, even outside urban areas or college towns, people like this can be found in the flesh.

But I would guess that businessmen in pinstripe suits do not often wear their hair like our subway rider in the photo, and tattooed individuals brandishing mohawks do not usually walk the streets with a t-shirt reading "Misfits." I imagine the word is embraced for its dictionary meaning and not just for the punk rock band of that name.

I have avoided using the word misfit in this blog for a number of reasons, one of which is that the word generally has a somewhat derogatory connotation. But, assuming social misfits exist, New York City is certainly a place to find them. This is an environment where virtually anyone with any manner of dress or lifestyle can feel quite at home. In fact, it is questionable whether the word misfit is really applicable in a city where such a large number of nonconformists exist and where one is often not very far from another.

A trip to Tompkins Square Park can easily make the societal conformist feel like an outcast or misfit.
In the case of the individuals in the photo, there is a strong element of exhibitionism. However, I have met many individuals here who, by any reasonable definition, really are social misfits, with extreme and very self-indulgent lifestyles, the nature of which may not be apparent to the outsider at all.

Such a large number of misfits should come as no surprise in a country which has seen such a upsurge in the radical individualism of youth since the 1960s. The US Army has had to market with campaigns such as "Be all that you can be" and "Army of One." This is, of course, rather ironic, since the Army never has been and never can be a place for individualism. But the ad campaigns do reveal how systemic and important individualism really is in this country.

In a society without strong cultural scripting and where individualism and self empowerment are constantly trumpeted to be such laudable personal goals, we must accept the consequences. Here, in a city where there is such a a melange of iconoclasts and misfits, many live unaware of how outside the normal constructs of society they really are. Others are quite aware and proud enough to identify themselves with a t-shirt...

Related Postings: Out There, Spike, Narcissism Gone Wild, Water Sprites, Wood Nymph, Spring Madness, The Dance Parade, Dyke March, Twelve Tribes, Penny Farthing, Homeless Art, Superheroes, Snake Charmer, Circus Amok, Fashion Forward, Piercing Al Fresco


Gunn White said...

Both text and photos have a clear message!
Thanks for sharing.

DaveinNYC said...

Uhh The T-shirt is for the Band "Misfits" pretty famous band that has a heavy influence on a large number of rock bands.

Anonymous said...

While the people in the photo may be misfits the shirt they are wearing is representing the band, the Misfits.

Brian Dubé said...

DaveinNYC & Anon - Let's just reword to say that I assume the Misfits and their fans identify themselves with the word and it is not an attempt at ironic use :)

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Yeah, Brian, the Misfits are a band, but I also think the guy in your photo is embracing the term, derogatory connotation and all.

Regarding the ponytail guy, I work in advertising. I also have a ponytail. When we have to dress up for big deal client meetings, my non-ponytailed art director partner gets pissed. He says he looks like an insurance salesman when he's dressed up, but I'm still obviously a creative guy.