Symbols

In an interview with Time, when asked about passing the fedora to Shia in the next Indy movie, Ford said, “What are you talking about? It’s mine. I would love to do another Indiana Jones movie. George Lucas is working on an idea now. Shia can get his own hat. I earned that hat.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Jones_%28franchise%29#Future

The quotation above is quite interesting, especially the “I earned that hat.“. I think it exemplifies why simply copying the symbol or style of a person you admire does not work, and why using the distinct characteristics of that person will provide you only with a fetish, but not with anything of real value.

The thing is, even as I can understand why someone would be lusting after that Fedora, it would not work for someone else. Indiana Jones (or the actor Harrison Ford) made the Fedora the symbol it now is by connecting it with his role/person. Another person can buy a Fedora in the hope that some of that symbol value transfers to him, but he did not contribute to it. The flow is unidirectional from the symbol to the person, if at all. It is not his work that made the hat what it is, and unless he surpasses its prior association by his own achievements (highly unlikely), it will forever be a symbol of its former owner, the person who actually made the hat famous (who “earned” it in the first place).

In the same vein it makes little sense to copy the eccentricities of famous creatives, because you have little hope of making them your own. The high symbol value that makes you lust after them and makes you want to copy it for yourself also make it completely useless for you because they will never be associated with yourself.

And I think copying what exemplifies what you want to become (e.g., traits or objects of famous creatives) is actually dangerous, because you change from being an artist yourself to being an admirer, a fan, a groupie. And admiration is cheap and easy and you might actually prefer to become a fan instead of focusing on your own work (which is hard) and finding your own voice and path (which is even harder).

In that sense, leave the Fedoras and berets alone and find things that you like, that are distinctly your own, and make them your own by using them. It might not be a famous symbol (yet) but at least it is something you actually own.

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