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Seeing Race in Modern America$
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Matthew Pratt Guterl

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781469610689

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9781469610696_Guterl

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(p.182) Chapter Nine Ambiguity
Seeing Race in Modern America

Matthew Pratt Guterl

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter describes a new category of actor, performer, and model, described by fashion writer Ruth La Ferla as “ethnically ambiguous,” that appeared, seemingly overnight. “Ambiguity is chic,” La Ferla noted, “especially among the under-25s, members of Generation Y, the most racially diverse population in the nation's history.” Describing a fascination with this “melting pot aesthetic,” she calls attention to the efforts of H & M, the “cheap chic clothing chain,” which ha[s] “increasingly highlight[ed] models with racially indeterminate features,” and the continental clothier, Benetton, whose newer ads “play[ed] up the multiracial theme,” foregrounding bodies that offered a confusing hodgepodge of racial details. Advertisers, La Ferla concluded, are intensely interested in “neutral” bodies, capable of appealing to multiple constituencies, and capable of being read in different ways by different groups of people.

Keywords:   fashion, Ruth La Ferla, ambiguity, Generation Y, aesthetic, race, Benetton, H & M

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