THE UGLIFICATION OF BROOKLYN (OR: “The Philosophy Of Dog-Butt”).

Matthew D’Abate
6 min readOct 15, 2022

Let’s start with this. I’m no fashionista (I’m sure you could have guessed that one by now). If you were to come over and open up The Bartender Knows closet space, you’d find 20 black short sleeved T-shirts, 5 pairs of black jeans, a couple of hoodies (blood red and raven black), one or two funeral suits and some cool jackets and shoes (I do splurge on jackets and shoes). I’m basically bartender chic, which translates to: whatever you would wear to work for a dive bar shift. It just stuck, I suppose. Also, didn’t all the great scientists and doctors only wear the same thing every day in a way to save time to focus on saving the world? I think Einstein did too. Of course, I’m not a doctor or a scientist, or even an Einstein (you could have guessed that one for sure). But I am a goddamn artist and I know what looks good and what doesn’t. This includes fashion (which some claim is an art).

There’s a theory running around out there that ones fashion sends a message out into the world about who we are…like, fashion transmits ones identity. I can see that. I’m down. I’m hip. For instance — when I wear a suit around New York City (even just a sport coat and black jeans with a T-shirt), folks treat me differently. Maybe it’s because I live in the most greedy, venal and corrupt city in all of the world, but people change around me — even when I only have five bucks and two maxed out credit cards in my wallet. It’s a pretty traditional look. Same thing applies for summer dresses on the ladies. Every woman knows, the shorter the hem, the longer the looks you get from strangers. It’s just an aspect of human biology.

Whether I like it or not, I know way too much about women and their clothing. I grew up with 3 sisters, 6 aunts and my highly functional and independent Mother. First things first, as a young man, I never got to use the bathroom once. Talk about being completely occupied. I’ve watched them attempt all manner of ‘fashion statements’. I’ve watched them take hours to get ready. I’m talking about the hair, the make up, the eyelashes, the perfume; the list goes on and on to the additions these ladies apply to alter their natural appearance. When I was finally a brazen teenager and feeling brave, I asked them: “Why do you spend hours getting ready for some stupid guy?” I was promptly lectured, with simultaneous shrieks: “WE DON’T DO THIS FOR MEN! WE DO IT TO LOOK GOOD FOR OURSELVES!”

Well, I didn’t ask that question again. Years later, in university, I was an English Major. If you stay long enough in that tripe of a field you’ll end up studying all manor of what is commonly referred to as LITERARY THEORY. It’s pretty simple. LT (as us snarky graduates would utter through gritted teeth) basically takes a certain ‘lens” to analyze the great works of literature. You don’t just read the books, you apply certain “theories” about the works. It could be several subject matters, ranging from the Psychoanalytic Lens or the Queer Lens — there’s even Northrop Frye (my personal favorite), who broke books down into “seasons”, which I thought was pretty cool. Like: “What books have Winter qualities?” Pretty neat. Eventually, one gets to Feminist Theory. That’s when we learn about the dreaded “male gaze”. I think this has bled into modern culture by now, so I’ll let you assume what they are talking about here. But for those in the cheap seats — the “male gaze” is a theory that a writer (if they are male) can never write a true female character because essentially we are biased, etc, etc, male patriarchy, blah, blah, blah. Cool, got it?

Over the last couple of decades, these ideas have spread through all genres of capital ‘A’ art. This includes fashion. Now, drinkers, stick with me here. Put an invisible pin in this discussion we’re having. I promise we will link this back around. Let’s deal with the question.

What is the “uglification of Brooklyn” mean — exactly? I’m going to take a long sip of my drink now. You should too.

At or around 2005, I was hanging out with my very stylish sister at a cafe on Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We watched all the world saunter by together, sipping on espressos. Out of nowhere, my stylish sister said: “Why do all these gorgeous women dress like shit?”

I was surprised by this out-of-nowhere question. Seconds later, I noticed she was right. In 2005, Williamsburg was THE hood to live in for the artist or the wanna-be artist. Back then, you could throw a rock and hit an oil painter or a playwright. Today, in 2022, you throw a rock, you’re going to hit an investment banker or a trust fund kid. But my sister was right. These ladies, no doubt emerging supermodels, were dressed like total trash. I get it — most famous people I know dress down so not to be recognized. But this was excessive.

“It’s a shame, really,” she said. “I mean, we can’t all look that hot. You should use it before you lose it.” (NOTE: My family is chalk full of aphorisms from the Depression Era, as am I).

Interesting. Now. Fast-forward to 2022. I can’t even believe what I’m seeing. As a bartender, we watch everybody. As a writer, we analyze everybody. 90% of the women around these parts dress in several ways that are simply put — Dog-Butt. Yeah, Dog-Butt. My sister and I came up with this description. The “Dog-Butt” phenomenon is when someone who could look ‘attractive’ doesn’t do it on purpose. Again, I didn’t go to FIT. But what is this pandemic of tragically terrible choices in clothing?

I’m talking ill-fitted Mom Jeans. I’m talking frizzled hair. I’m talking about short shorts where the shorts are screaming out to breathe. I’m talking about the Saudi Arabian style cloaking of the female form. You know those cool jump suits that look super cute on certain women? Well…some of these ladies look like they’re walking over to fix my sink or were stunt actors on a Ghostbuster movie.

I had to investigate. I was confused. I, very carefully, interviewed some of the women who embraced this style of clothing. I asked: “What’s with this?” Most said the exact same thing: “We’re not dressing up to be sexualized! We’re NOT dressing up for men!” I thought to myself: Wow. This is how far we’ve come. My Grad classes were right! These women are so against the traditional beautification of female clothing that they are willing to dress and look like an Union Iron Worker to avoid the sexualization I studied about the ‘male gaze’.

But then it hit me — there was a contradiction here. If these ladies’ hypotheses were true and they were not dressing up or catering to any sort of sexualization (or using modern hygiene, in some instances) and costuming to repulse the ‘male gaze’, aren’t they therefore, still, dressing up for men? Even if it’s to repulse them?

I mean, trust me, the message is clear. We get it. But listen. I feel you. NOBODY in the world feels like they can compete with the beauty standards of the media. That’s why it’s fake. But we’re not fake. We’re human beings.

But to purposely look bad? I think we should analyze why this is happening. If girls and women really are dressing for themselves, then why in the world would you want to dress like a gas station attendant in New Jersey? If fashion really is identity, then who, really, are we identifying with?



PS: My Mother came to Williamsburg this year to celebrate my birthday. First thing she said was: “Wow. Brooklyn’s kind of dirty.”

I answered: “Yeah, it’s New York, Mom.”

Second question she asked, a little quieter: “Also, why do these pretty girls dress so…badly?”

I let out a huge sigh. “I don’t know, Mom. I’m still trying to figure that out myself.”

I didn’t tell her I was writing a whole column about it. Some things are just best kept to ourselves.



Matthew D’Abate

Matthew D'Abate is a writer and host of @KILLTHECATRADIO. He is the founder of @LITERATESUNDAY and the bartender @THEBARTENDERKNOWS.