Tinfoil and couture. It's not very often that the two words collide in the same sentence. Perhaps it's never happened. Unless, of course, some self-indulgent, Zoolander-inspired fashionista thought, "You know what would be amaaaaaaazing? A chiffon and tinfoil couture show for the everyday person!" Well, thanks to Patrick Blanchfield, we might soon have a Artisinal Tinfoil Haberdashery, which he bills as "couture headwear for the cutting-edge security state!"
"Do recent revelations about the American Government's wholesale data mining of internet and phone providers have you feeling like a lot more eyes are on you than usual — and that you have to look your best for them?," asks Master Haberdasher Blanchfield on his Kickstarter page. "Do you have the PRISM blues - and is your hair looking the worse for it? Do you feel a compelling need to keep your head down — and look great while doing it?"
Blanchfield, fusing the hipster obsession with artisanal goods and the post-Edward Snowden-NSA-leak paranoia, is intent on crafting "aluminum-leaf-based caps for discerning men and women of all ages."
To that end he plans to offer bicornes, baseball caps, trillbies, berets, tricorns, top hats, cloches, and more. Clerical and religious headgear will also be made available—everything from mitres and yarmulkes to fezzes.
Blanchfield's motivation? To finance an escape from America, so that he might settle down in some beach environs with very little telecommunications infrastructure. From there, he plans on drinking himself into "oblivion."
I had a chance to speak to the Master Haberdasher via email. We talked about paranoia, conspiracy theory, Alex Jones, the NSA, PRISM, Twitter, DARPA, and how he plans to scale up his operation if demand requires it.
Blanchfield came up with the idea post-Snowden, when, as he put it, he was unable to deal with the NSA leaks any longer. So, he resolved to get drunk and then slept like shit. "First thing that occurred to me when I got out of bed the next morning was that making tinfoil hats was a fairly reasonable way to cope with the situation going forward," says Blanchfield. "I submitted the project to Kickstarter that afternoon." As one does with any project. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
At present, Blanchfield's haberdashery only features designs for panama hats, berets, and baseball caps. He professes that his favorite model is the "classic Large Triangle," which he admires for its "dashing, Napoleonic flair."
"Through experimenting with different kinds of foil, I've found that heavy duty, restaurant and bakery-quality foil can support some really impressive architectonics," notes the Master Haberdasher. "You can make Triangles that are really massive, epic even, and miniature ones, too, and put stickers and glitter on them, etc." Blanchfield, with a keen mind for sales, promises miniature Triangle hats to backers who invest $10. These hats will ship "decorated with a small American flag."
Right now he doesn't have any images of his designs. "I'm going to post photos of these [designs] on the Kickstarter soon," Blanchfield promises. "And, thankfully, I'm getting some help with photos, because I'm not great with a camera and lighting tinfoil headgear can be a bitch."
Commissioned offerings require, as Blanchfield points out, days of focused laber by master craftsman. Entry level models, on the other hand, can be crafted by a "suitably trained apprentice and journeymen haberdashers." And scaling up production of this line of couture tinfoil headwear should be no problem.
"If demand were to skyrocket, then I would have to see about renting a dedicated workshop and perhaps engaging additional help," Blanchfield says. "I'm resistant, though, to assembly-line-style mass production. Constructing tinfoil couture is all about working with the material in a direct, soulful way, and I wouldn't want to jeopardize that aspect of our work."
"Needless to say, we're also committed to keeping the Haberdashery in the US—American manufacturing needs all the help it can get."
Curious about other potential target markets, I asked Blanchfield if the Alex Jones and InfoWars contingent would dig his headware.
"It wouldn't surprise me if Mr. Jones already retains the services of an in-house haberdasher," says Blanchfield, though he'd welcome the aesthetic and design challenges of that sort of commission. "In design terms, Jones is an animated guy, moves around a lot, makes a ton of florid gestures, and is always bobbing his head. Crafting a hat appropriate for that kind of lifestyle—tinfoil activewear, if you will—would require a lot of thought, but I'm sure I could pull it off."
For instance, Blanchfield believes it might be difficult to pair Mr. Jones' "flushed, even shiny" onscreen complexion with a metallic hat. "I'm not certain about the availability of unburnished or matte aluminum foil, but something of that order would be ideal," muses Blanchfield. "He should call me, I'm sure we could work something out."
"On a related note, I was recently told by a colleague that metallic headgear may actually amplify the reception of various signals," says Blanchfield, citing a Popular Science article that investigated tinfoil's ability to block mind-reading. Blanchfield doesn't buy it. "I'm not in the sciences, so it's hard for me to assess that claim. But, I'm naturally skeptical. That sounds like exactly what the authorities would want people to believe."
When asked if he is satirizing the tendency amongst Americans to assume the worst in every government action, Blanchfield invokes the British dandy and serial aphorist, Oscar Wilde.
"Wilde once observed that 'fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months,'" says Blanchfield. "I can't speak to the durability of what's fashionable in terms of government invasions of privacy, but I think the need for tinfoil haberdashery has existed since at least the Bush administration, and now more than ever."
Blanchfield says it is difficult to pinpoint a specific moment of profound paranoia because he has it on "good authority that human knowledge is essentially paranoiac in its structure."
"I did, however, once use an ATM in a foreign airport during a layover and moments later receive a call from my bank, on a phone with a brand-new SIM card and number," Blanchfield says. "This was rather disconcerting."
The Master Haberdasher formerly found David Ickes' work on reptoids "really compelling." But, as Icke added various other species "to his list of races that had secretely infiltrated human governments," Blanchfield had difficulty tracking the manifold conspiracy theories and lost interest, just as he did with George Lucas's expansion of the Star Wars franchise.
"At this point I find myself more interested in theories that involve pretender popes or Hollow Earth Nazis," says Blanchfield, the latter idea cementing his conspiracy theory bona fides. "Also, I'd like to inaugurate a theory of my own; namely, that the reason Twitter hasn't appeared on the list of internet services targeted by PRISM is because it's already secretly run by DARPA."
The plot thickens.
Blanchfield also thinks it is important to remind people, as a terminological matter, that tinfoil is something of a misnomer. "Since WWII, what's commonly referred to as tinfoil has actually been made of aluminum," Blanchfield says, before noting that if his Kickstarter campaign is successful, he plans on living as an American exile in Cartagena, Colombia. When not occupying his time with Hemingway-esque drink, Blanchfield would very much like to observe the feral hippos that roam Pablo Escobar's estate. He likes their simplicity and nobility. Long periods of time will also be spent in a hammock reading Montaigne.
"I should additionally mention that I would try to stay on the rails long enough to attend the wedding of my good friend Phil, who will be getting married there this Spring," he says. "As for the drinking, I hear the rum is good, and I'm sure that there's at least one nationally celebrated lager that's a passably solid choice for consumption at earlier hours. It will of course take some time to determine the ideal regimen of hydration, intoxication, nourishment, and recovery for the local climate, but I'm confident I can figure it out."
And if the apocaplyse comes, expect Blanchfied to be, as he puts it, "high in the saddle on a pale horse."
We wish him and his company well.