Weekly Link Roundup: October 23, 2020

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The Newest Thing in Fashion? Old Clothes (The New York Times): “After years of pushing only new, new, new (while behind the scenes scouring flea markets for inspiration), fashion brands are beginning, finally, to publicly embrace the old. Upcycling is reaching critical mass … Such a development is the inverse of the former conventional wisdom, which held that if you didn’t inundate people with a constant stream of fresh products … you risked losing their attention — and wallet share. That was, it turned out, a short-term way of thinking … It may have boosted sales, but it also led to not only a glut of stuff but also an erosion of the value proposition. After all, if the company that made a garment didn’t think it was worth hanging on to for more than a few weeks, why should the person who buys it?”

The Mad, Mad World of Niche Sports Among Ivy League–Obsessed Parents (The Atlantic): “… the Gold Coast of Connecticut pumps more athletic recruits into Ivy League schools than any other region in the nation. Kids’ sports look a little different here … Backyards feature batting cages, pitching tunnels, fencing pistes, Olympic-size hockey rinks complete with floodlights and generators … Harvard, which typically admits approximately 5 percent of its applicants, reports acceptance rates as high as 88 percent for athletes endorsed by its coaches … Over the past decade, the for-profit ecosystem that has sprouted up around athletic recruiting at top-rung universities has grown so excessively ornate, so circular in its logic, that it’s become self-defeating. More and more entrants are chasing an unchanging number of prizes … niche sports passed their saturation point long before the pandemic hit. There are simply too many kids competing for too few spots … Amid the shifting norms, there’s a growing sense of unease among suburban parents in niche-sport hubs—a dread that they went too far, failed to read the room. And they’re not wrong … The stampede of the affluent into grim-faced, highly competitive sports has been a tragicomedy of perverse incentives and social evolution in unequal times: a Darwinian parable of the mayhem that can ensue following the discovery of even a minor advantage. Like a peacock rendered nearly flightless by gaudy tail feathers, the overserved athlete is the product of a process that has become maladaptive, and is now harming the very blue-chip demographic it was supposed to help.”

Working From Home Got You Down? Try Dyeing Your Hair Pink (The Wall Street Journal): “Now that most cities have deemed hair appointments safe, women who have been barred from seeing their stylists since March are craving an update from a pro. And many … are seizing the moment, opting for extreme hair transformations they might have skittishly shunned pre-Covid … Michael Angelo of Manhattan’s Wonderland Beauty Parlor said that since his salon has reopened, more than half of his clientele has opted for drastic ’dos. ‘My blondes are going pink, my longs are going short,’ he said. Susy Oludele, the owner of Brooklyn braiding salon Hair by Susy, said that since she opened her business back up in late June, she’s seen a swarm of first-time clients.”

He Married a Sociopath: Me (The New York Times): “My husband was lying to me. Gaslighting me. Sneaking. Acting like a sociopath. And isn’t that how we sociopaths are defined — as liars without the ability to empathize? On such days, I saw what it must be like to be married to someone like me. And the irony is almost shimmering. Still, I couldn’t help but smile thinking of the future, of the days when we would be able to joke about the time we almost split up because he started acting like a sociopath. And that in doing so, my husband was finally able to teach me the one thing I have been trying to learn all of my life: empathy.”

No, 94 Percent of COVID-19 Deaths Were Not Caused by Something Else (Slate): “… according to the CDC’s data, more than 14,000 people died also of sepsis, which is known to develop in COVID-19 patients. And over 54,000 people—around 30 percent of the total U.S. deaths—have respiratory failure listed as a comorbidity … From the beginning of the pandemic, experts have warned that people with these conditions may be at higher risk for contracting the virus and may suffer more serious effects from it. But consider that many people with diabetes and hypertension are completely fine until they contract COVID-19; it is entirely possible to live a full life with these conditions, especially if they are well-managed. While diabetes and hypertension may have complicated people’s physiological responses to COVID-19, it is still very much the virus that killed them.”

Review: Oculus Quest 2 (WIRED): “… new $299 Oculus Quest 2 … connects to my Wi-Fi and plays games all by itself, with two wireless motion controllers, a sleeker white design, and a few new abilities … It doesn’t feel like you’re wearing your dad’s binoculars on your face anymore. The head strap is looser, it’s all fabric now instead of semi-rigid soft-touch plastic … Unfortunately, the Oculus Quest 2 … requires a Facebook account to use … It’s a decision born of corporate consolidation at the expense of usability, and it’s the biggest drawback of the Quest 2.”

Fashion Week Is Actually Happening—at Least in Paris and Milan (The Wall Street Journal): “Brands are determined to relaunch an industry ritual that some designers say can’t be replicated online. The biggest houses usually mount spectacular fashion-week sets designed to dominate social-media feeds … Brands closely monitor the attention their shows—and competitors’ shows—garner on social media, and analysts say that a strong showing during fashion week helps translate to market share … The publicity value from traditional and social media for an attention-grabbing show can equal millions of dollars of paid advertising … Part of the reason brands are taking the risk is that some early efforts to connect digitally with audiences have stumbled … Influencers and their followers are less engaged with the shows when the influencer isn’t in the room.”

A $4 Hack That Makes Any Mask More Comfortable Is Going Viral on Facebook and Amazon (InStyle): Simple plastic tools dubbed ‘mask brackets’ are 3D frame-like structures made of food-safe silicone that can be slipped between your lower face and mask to create more breathing room and keep the material of your mask off your skin … The brackets … have raised some concerns about their impact on the efficacy of masks, although there’s simply not enough information presently available to make a conclusion either way … it’s crucial to ensure that your mask still fully covers your face’s respiratory features with no gaping on the sides or top — for some people, this may mean opting for a slightly oversized mask with a snugger shape.

♥ Take an extra 60% off sale styles at Banana Republic; no code needed, discount taken in cart. Shipping is free on orders over $50. My picks:

A Korean Store Owner. A Black Employee. A Tense Neighborhood. (The New York Times): “… the struggles of Black women in the beauty supply industry show that some barriers to success are more complicated. In interviews this summer, Black women who own beauty shops in Dallas, Buffalo and Sacramento said they were consistently denied accounts with major Korean-owned suppliers. One of the women said that as soon as she had sent over a copy of her driver’s license, the supplier stopped returning her calls. These rejections, the women said, prevent them from stocking the most popular hairpieces, forcing their customers to shop elsewhere.”

It Took Divorce to Make My Marriage Equal (Glamour): “I didn’t have to bargain for child-free hours because we had 50-50 custody. I also didn’t have to convince someone else to let me outsource household cleaning. In the end I didn’t need to hire anyone at all, because my house was cleaner. In renegotiating my life, I had negotiated a better deal for myself, and it was court-ordered. I no longer begged to shift even some of the burden of childcare or housekeeping onto my husband. Our custody agreement mandated that he and I bear an equal share.”

In China, Paying With Your Face Is Hard Sell (The Wall Street Journal): “… facial-recognition devices … that would allow people to make payments by smiling at a screen without having to use their phones … has largely failed to gain popularity … as some consumers have found the sign-up process cumbersome and had concerns about how their images and data would be used … Many Alipay users have become accustomed to making payments by scanning Quick Response codes on their phones, preferring that to using credit cards or cash … To encourage shoppers to use the machines, Alipay added enhancements, including a function that makes eyes look larger and skin appear fairer when people see their reflections. The underlying algorithm verifies people’s faces without the filters … A survey of more than 6,000 people in China last October found that nearly 80% were concerned about personal information leakage due to the use of facial-recognition technology. Another 57% were concerned about being tracked … About 41% of those surveyed were willing to scan their faces for payments while another 39% said they weren’t.”

$6,000 for an ‘Aladdin’ T-Shirt: The Exploding Movie Merch Market (The Wall Street Journal): “… the vintage movie T-shirt market is mushrooming like never before … Scarcity lifts the market. Vintage movie merch is in shorter supply than vintage band T-shirts, which were peddled en masse at concerts around America. In some cases, movie merch never even hit stores. It was doled out at a few theaters to drum up excitement or given as a crew memento.”

For Young People’s Sexual Health, the Pandemic Changes the Game (The New York Times): “High numbers of young adults are reporting suicidal thoughts … Many are living at home with parents and other relatives when they didn’t expect to be, many are feeling the stress of working as essential workers, and perhaps taking on increased family responsibilities.”

♥ One of my favorite cold-weather bottoms, the Uniqlo HEATTECH Ultra Stretch Legging Pants, is now on sale during the Uniqlo Anniversary Sale. They are as comfortable as leggings (I love the soft brushed lining) but have the appearance of real pants. The only thing I don’t like about them is the faux front pockets. Some more sale picks: HEATTECH Turtleneck T-Shirt, 3D Knit Cotton Boat Neck Sweater, Inès de La Fressange Belted Long Cardigan, HEATTECH Smart Slim Straight Pants, and Chiffon Pleated Skirt Pants.

How Covid-19’s Made Flying Business Class Feel More Like Economy (Bloomberg): “Efforts to minimize human interaction and reduce the risk of infection are taking the shine off the most expensive seats onboard commercial aircraft. Gone are the multi-course banquets and warm personal service … These days, what’s left of premium-grade travel is functional, hygienic and closer to cattle class — only with more legroom … It’s also not clear to what extent the premium market, which … generated 30% of airlines’ international revenues in 2019, can recover. Many grounded business travelers have become accustomed to video conferencing rather than making visits in person, and a global recession threatens corporate budgets.”

Even in a Pandemic, Venmo Tells Conned Customers to Pay Up (The Wall Street Journal): “Unlike many other financial firms, Venmo deactivated general customer-service telephone lines during the pandemic. Customers looking for help sometimes faced dayslong lags in email communication … PayPal doesn’t disclose the number of Venmo users who carry a negative balance or the amount it says they owe. Across PayPal, though, as of June 30, there were $221 million in negative customer balances that the company didn’t expect to be repaid.”

He Invented the Rubik’s Cube. He’s Still Learning From It. (The New York Times): “When [Erno Rubik] invented the cube in 1974, he wasn’t sure it could ever be solved. Mathematicians later calculated that there are 43,252,003,274,489,856,000 ways to arrange the squares, but just one of those combinations is correct … More than 350 million cubes have sold globally; if you include knockoffs, the number is far higher.”

YouTube’s Plot to Silence Conspiracy Theories (WIRED): “YouTube was a gateway drug. One academic who interviewed attendees of a flat-earth convention found that, almost to a person, they’d discovered the subculture via YouTube recommendations … Once you convince yourself that well-documented facts about the solar system are a fraud, why believe well-documented facts about anything? … YouTube was playing … social media whack-a-mole. A video that violated YouTube’s rules would emerge and rapidly gain views, then YouTube would take it down. But it wasn’t clear that recommendations were key to these sudden viral spikes … a mix of organic link-sharing and astroturfed, bot-propelled promotion—is powerful and, say observers, may sideline any changes to YouTube’s recommendation system.”

Firms Conduct ‘War Games’ to Prepare for External Threats (The Wall Street Journal): “For years, companies have dabbled in scenario planning, also known as war gaming or tabletop exercises, to help understand and reduce risk … Consulting firms often design and oversee such exercises to simulate real external threats that might derail a company’s operations. The players, from executives to rank-and-file employees, gather around tables, sometimes for hours, responding to and attempting to resolve simulated emergencies. Similar to a choose-your-own-adventure book, every move a player makes leads to new and frequently unanticipated consequences that can have ripple effects throughout the company as the multiround games advance. The drills can be designed to help companies work through multiple types of external threats. Cyber-threats are common, but other examples can be weather-related disasters (including climate change), tariffs, changes in interest rates, active shooters and other forms of risk. Of course, pandemic-related threats are also becoming an increasingly popular tabletop exercise.”

Is It Street Wear or Is It Art? (The New York Times): “In less than two years, Gallery Dept. has moved from a crowded workshop … to its new space in part because its hoodies, logo tees, anoraks and flare-cut jeans — each designed and hand-painted by Mr. Thomas on upcycled or dead-stock garments — have become unlikely objets d’art in a crowded street wear market. This corner of the fashion industry is a crowded one, and in recent years there have been a glut of collaborations and merch drops that have taken on a corporate cadence. In contrast, Gallery Dept. is something of a bespoke operation, offering street wear basics that are blessed with an artist’s … singular touch.”

♥ Recently purchased: Halogen Plaid Trench Coat, Stuart Weitzman Women’s Gabby Embellished Flats (heeled version here), Topshop Funnel Neck Sweater Dress, Free People Fuji Off the Shoulder Thermal Top, and J. Crew Polartec® Sherpa Fleece Jacket.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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