Crew on Crutches (J. Crew That Is)
Posted on May 28, 2014
A crutch is something used for support or reassurance, though often inappropriate and inadvisable. Addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco are commonly considered to be crutches.
The etymology of the figurative word crutch derives from actual physical crutches, which have been relied upon by disabled people since the middle ages. Unlike a metaphorical maligned crutch, crutches are rarely if ever considered inadvisable. They are often employed to prevent further disability.
My neighbor uses crutches due to a leg amputation. He recently told me that while he looks less disabled when he’s wearing a prosthetic leg, he actually feels less disabled when he’s on his crutches. If disability is about one’s ability to navigate the world around them, do his crutches make him less disabled? Does his prosthetic leg make him more?
Recently someone sarcastically asked “Why not crutches?” when they heard about my YesJCrewCane petition. And for a moment it made me wonder if society’s acceptance of disability is maxed out. Should we prosthetic users be content to wander the streets among able bodied folks? So little has changed since the middle ages.
Just look at painter Hieronymus Bosch’s, famous drawing “The Procession of the Cripples” (1450-1516).
Bosch frequently employed handicapped subjects as his muses. Why? Nobody knows. Some believe his works were simply created to amuse or titillate the viewer. Others believe the answer is more complex. “The Procession of the Cripples” may be the religious depiction of an orthodox man’s views on sinful immorality.
Side Note: If you want to geek out for a moment, check out this 2001 study where a rheumatologist, an orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist analyze each of the 31 disabled individuals in “The Procession of the Cripples”. It’s fascinating.
Just recently, crutches have begun popping up in some pretty unexpected places.
RJ Mitte played the role of Walt Jr. in Breaking Bad. Walt Jr. had Cerebral Palsy and relied on crutches. Mitte does not rely on crutches but does have Cerebral Palsy. He’s in a Gap ad now, and I can’t help but wonder if you see the boy with Cerebral Palsy or if you see a beautiful model rocking some Gap jeans and an amazing head of hair? Would the addition of Walt Jr’s crutches diminish Mitte’s beauty? His arms and hands are nearly in the same position in both photos, his stance close to identical. What difference would the addition of crutches make?
I recently received this Tweet from the wonderful Tansy Hoskins:
At first, it was surprising to see crutches on a flawlessly dressed mannequin. Especially one from a Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit.
But then I realized this mannequin is not disabled. She’s a mermaid. And it feels so playful. Of course a mermaid can’t walk. Her legs are made for swimming. She is as much disabled in our world as we would be in hers. Gaultier gives new meaning to the phrase ‘differently abled’.
It seems to me that crutches don’t necessarily negate beauty. They may even have the potential to create beauty on their own. Check out “Family Bed” by Deborah Alma Wheeler:
I’d love to see you (J. Crew) embrace your inner Gaultier. Five bucks says your shoppers will find a model on crutches to be just as beautiful as your wide selection of clutches (which is what came up when I searched crutches). Question… how does someone on crutches carry a clutch?
Thanks again for your time.
P.S. I have never experienced life with crutches, I am a cane user. If you want to better understand the ins and outs of navigating the world with crutches, check out Living Life on Crutches. Darryl considers himself disabled without his crutches and able bodied with. His Playing in the Snow post is my favorite.