The Power Of Science And Fashion: Superego Suits Emerges

Photography by Elena DorfmanPhotography by Elena Dorfman

Photography by Elena Dorfman

The melding of fashion and technology has evolved into a leading trend. From bracelets that monitor fitness levels, to smart textiles and Snapchat glasses, wearables have quickly become a way to streamline life.

Experimental philosopher, writer, and artist Jonathon Keats, based in both San Francisco and Northern Italy (and represented by Modernism Gallery), decided to take fashtech one step further with ‘Superego Suits,’ four intentionally outlandish creations combining style and neuroscience that he is unveiling, starting Thursday, March 16th at Modernism Gallery.

Inspired by both existing neuroscience research which showed selfhood could be manipulated by tweaking perception of vital signs, and wearable computing, Keats found it logical to apply these findings to “a realm that has always been concerned with identity”–fashion. The exhibit, which also includes the fashion photography of Elena Dorfman, introduces four wearables currently in two stages of development:


Sunglasses with irises that open and close to the wearer’s breathing, increasing awareness of the wearer’s internal state, an experience known as interoception. Bracelets positioning the wearer in a ‘power pose’ which causes the release of hormones like testosterone, increasing self-assurance. The pose also releases cortisone, another confidence-increasing chemical. Future versions of these bracelets will measure blood hormone levels, “activating positive or negative feedback loops in which confidence is dynamically amplified or restrained.”

Telescopic rings “engineered to extend the wearer’s reach, mentally increasing the wearer’s sense of personal influence by stretching the wearer’s body schema.”

Shoes with motorized heels that dynamically alter the wearer’s height in response to gaze, and thus their autonomy and sense of free will. You can adjust the heel height to make become taller or shorter than the person you are talking to. “Alternately the stimulus could be sexual arousal,” Keats states. “Height might be adjusted to make you more or less attractive in response to your attraction to potential mates.”

In the future these fully customizable wearables might be able to communicate with each other, so people can try out someone else persona, or become hormonally attuned with him or her.

Seems incredible? Keats highlights the fact that our cognitive abilities are already being augmented. GPS can augment our sense of direction, while the internet has expanded our knowledge space, also serving as a surrogate for memory. But Keats wants the benefits of technology to extend further. “Today’s wearables can supplement wearers’ memories and knowledge and interactivity by connecting them to the internet,” he explains. “But psychologically you still remain your same old self. Glassholes will be Glassholes. Wearing a FitBit, you get a read on steps taken or calories burned,” he specifies. “Wearing my devices, you can get a read on your own psychology, your system of beliefs about who you are in relation to technology. I am attempting to invent wearable thought experiments.”      

All prototypes will be available for purchase through Modernism Gallery, except the sunglasses, which are in LACMA‘s permanent collection. The fashion photography will also be for sale, as well as inflatable Ego Boosters that you can blow up whenever you feel anxious or shy, retailing at $10.

“At their best, Superego Suits can help to make us our best selves,” reveals Keats. “The challenge is that it forces us to ask who and what we want to be–both individually and as a species. Technology may further entrench egotism or facilitate empathy.”

While he has consulted with SpaceX engineers about adapting his neuroscientific couture for astronauts to wear on long-term space missions, Keats “We all need to become futurists.”

// Superego Suits, Thursday, March 16th from 5:30 to 8:00, Modernism Gallery, 724 Ellis St., San Francisco. Viewings available by appointment through April.

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The Power Of Science And Fashion: Superego Suits Emerges
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