The Fourth Sex

Designer/Brand

Date Published

2003

Collections Featured

The Fourth Sex is Raf Simons’ second book and consists of 359 images of adolescent extremes. Rebellion is a foundational pillar of Raf’s legacy and design ethos, as he spends significant effort to showcase this in this book. From collages of punk magazines to Tiananmen Square to an uncomfortable amount of males with shaved heads, Raf showcases a critical yet innocent spotlight on adolescence and youth culture. Not only does he capture the pure and innocent transition of the teenager to young adulthood, Raf shines a spotlight on the process with strong and vivid visuals. The book itself is a visual compilation of pain, pleasure, anxiety, curiosity, joy, and contradictions. It is filled with portraits of the youth, juxtaposed with films that have a sentimental meaning to Raf and his upbringing. There are elements of rebellious punk music mixed in with surveillance photos of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine High School shooters. The atmosphere of the pages feel innocent yet severely intentional, creating a very complex mood that is commonly shared among the youth culture.

Teenage iconography exists on every single page of this book. The images of youth fashion trends mixed with rebellious outfits and accessories represent the indecisive and the coming-of-age discovery that Raf’s subjects go through. The beauty of this book and why it’s been considered a cult-classic are the emotions that it invokes as you turn each page. Immediate discomfort yet curiosity fills the audience brain as the subjects of the images stare directly at you. The overarching foundational theme of The Fourth Sex is consumption, or in Raf’s perspective, over-consumption. Teens are often mischaracterized by their younger and older peers due to their overconsumption of mainstream & niche culture, fashion, and trends. They are often looking for inspiration for individuality, but unknowingly become the subjects of inspiration for companies and brands. The Fourth Sex is Raf Simon’s way of visually portraying the fluidity of the adolescent, as they venture onward their journey to self-discovery and self-actualization.

Writer: Art V.

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