After weeks of controversy and much public comment, the West Hollywood City Council gave final approval last night to its ban on flannel. This ban comes hot on the heels of West Hollywood's ban on fur sales, voted into law in 2012 and effective earlier this year.
One important difference is that the flannel ban is not just on sales of the cotton-wool blend, most commonly seen in plaid, but on wearing it as well. "We staged several fashion shows specifically for focus groups and, not knowing it was just a test, attendees were visibly nauseated," recounted city councilman John D'Amico. "Snickers and whispers of, 'Grunge went out with the '90s' and 'Now I know why Cobain was so depressed' filled the ballroom. It was harsh."
In the press release addressing the ban, it was noted that "residents' well being" was an important consideration in bringing the ban into law, in addition to the recently adopted notion of "vision pollution." D'Amico explained, "If government has the right to curb noise pollution by limiting the volume and discordance of sounds in the city, it likewise should have the right to limit ugliness and tackiness. Vision is hardly a lesser sense than hearing."
It's one thing for the city to say you can't wear flannel, it's another to actually enforce it. When Lt. Mark De La Rosa of the West Hollywood Sheriff's Station was reached for comment early this morning, he sounded surprisingly optimistic.
"There are a lot of crimes that can be hard to crack down on — drug use, human trafficking, prostitution, and frankly, it's a lot harder to track down perps of GPS thievery than you'd think," he said. "But flannel? We got this. Anyone in violation of the law will be easy to spot. And if we don't see them? We can always follow the looks of disdain."
With the ban taking effect and the force vowing to uphold it, there has already been talk about the police of West Hollywood — a city long known for its high style and Melrose boutiques — becoming, effectively, the "fashion police." De La Rosa, asked his feelings about the moniker, commented, "For a force that's required to wear navy polyester slacks with black shoes? That's about as great a compliment as we can ever hope for."
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While status-ticians — gossip bloggers such as Perez Hilton and entertainment outlets like Entertainment Tonight and TMZ — have expressed concern that the ban may exile certain celebrities like Eddie Vedder and Ben Affleck, shop owners are hopeful that it will keep out the likes of Lindsay Lohan.
But what do residents of this fair city have to say on the topic? "It's not that the residents of West Hollywood don't like the lumberjack look," insisted Bryan Laskie, out drinking a mocha latte on Santa Monica Boulevard this morning with his bulldog, Betty, "We just like it better shirtless. Or with handcuffs."
Jennifer Collier, an eight-year WeHo resident, commented,"There's a reason flannel is highly flammable. It should be burned." She went on to say — in many more words — that she prefers her plaids to be Burberry and require ironing, "or be really cute short shorts for going out in winter. You know, that you'd wear with tights."