Galliano’s tirade went beyond race and ethnicity, however, and is disturbing across its entire spectrum. According to one version, Galliano not only erroneously attacked at least one woman for being Jewish and professed his love for Hitler, but also ranted that
You’re so ugly I can’t bear looking at you. You’re wearing cheap boots, cheap thigh boots. You’ve got no hair, your eyebrows are ugly, you’re ugly, you’re nothing but a whore.
So, Galliano reasoned in his stupor, “people like [her]” should be gassed, as Hitler did to European Jews. Certainly, Galliano revealed an anti-Semitism of his own in this reasoning. But he also seems to have been drawing a chilling and self-aggrandizing parallel between Hitler and himself, one autocrat to another. Hitler, atop his actual empire, murdered his out-groups. Galliano, atop his cultural empire, apparently wished that he could do the same. Hitler mainly cordoned his out-groups along lines of ethnicity—but also of religion and, ironically for Galliano, sexual orientation. In drawing his lines, Galliano seems to have employed his own haute couture sense of beauty—a sense that evidently conflates wealth with ethnic heritage and genetic good fortune. Ugly people with cheap boots are Galliano’s Jews, and Jews are ugly to Galliano.
Ethnicity is obviously both immutable and widely protected against discrimination by law. Physical beauty is to a large extent also immutable, but not protected. As for wealth, it is arguably mutable, especially from a plucky American point of view, and not at all protected. But when it comes to haute couture, the sum of these attributes is greater than its parts. The real currency is exclusivity, which is woven from heritage, genetic good fortune, unattainable expense, and, oddly enough, French law. It must by definition remain so far out of reach as to be statistically nonexistent. The whole idea is that you can’t have it. You can’t be it. You and everyone else belongs to the out-group, along with everything that entails.
Fashion is a potent vehicle for human self-expression. It’s also a basic building block of human society. What we do with fashion as individuals influences in the aggregate how we interact at the societal level. The social norms that govern fashion in turn govern access to opportunity. Meanwhile, fashion designed around status will, as it intends to, always generate out-groups. Even if we stretch credulity in accepting Galliano’s repudiation of ethnic prejudice, we’re still left with an out-group and a clear picture of what it means to belong to it. That picture might be a little less dark. But the scene is still grim.