Oct 22, 2011 12:00AM

Don't Mind the Gap

A serious affront to modern day orthodontics.

As a thirteen-year-old I was spared the misfortune of braces. What I endured was much worse. Chances are you're not as well acquainted as I with orthodontic headgear, but rest safe in the knowledge that its use involves sacrificing a lot more than a couple of fluro-coloured rubber bands (read: one's dignity). Bestowing upon its wearer the appearance of a futuristic oompa loompa, it promises, after a period of 12-18 months, to straighten the most stubborn of crooked ivories. It's funny, then, that at modeling casting calls, diastemata, the medical term for 'gap between the teeth', has become a highly coveted attribute. Sixties model Lauren Hutton was the first to make a mouthful of imperfect canines sexy. Jane Birkin and Brigitte Bardot had just the right amount of moxie to make their gap-toothed grins work too.

These days, the look is everywhere. Care of Lara Stone, Georgia May Jagger and Lindsey Wixson, we're no stranger to spaced out pearly whites on runways and shoots. Model Jessica Hart, when she was starting out in the industry, was asked to wear a prosthetic insert to cover her gap - she's now in hot demand because of it. With Anna Paquin, Vanessa Paradis and Madonna flashing theirs all over Hollywood, and an endorsement from The Whitehouse courtesy of Condoleezza Rice, modern orthodontics faces a serious affront.


Lindsey Wixon


Georgia May Jagger

Historically, the Western world has had a gripe with gap-toothed women. According to Colin Jones, a professor at Queen Mary University of London and author of a book on the history of dentistry, in medieval times a gap was a visual signal that a woman was "lustful and licentious". In the 14th Century, Geoffrey Chaucer wrote in Canterbury Tales of the "gap-toothed wife of Bath", referring unfavorably to a middle-aged woman of insatiable desire.

But in Ghana, Namibia, and Nigeria, a gap in a woman's teeth is an admired trait. Considered a sign of beauty and fertility, it's not uncommon for women to undergo dental procedures to create an artificial gap. In Japan, there are apparently so many people with Colgate commercial worthy smiles that those with slightly wonky ones (coined 'yaeba') are considered more attractive and approachable. A salon in Ginza, Tokyo, has cashed in on the phenomenon with 'imperfect teeth implants' - plastic teeth extensions that are attached with a non-permanent adhesive.

Perhaps the recent fashion-fueled gap-tooth trend is a reaction to the air-brushed perfection of the digital age. Stefano Tonchi, Editor-In-Chief of W magazine, says it stems from "a love for the imperfect, and the authentic. These are values that are more and more important for younger generations." Heather Muir, beauty editor of Allure says it's part of a general movement away from cookie-cutter beauty: "We're shifting to a more quirky beauty, and I think that includes women who have very fair skin, many freckles, or frizzy, big hair."

 
Given the current hype surrounding Andrej Pejic, Lea T and Stephen Thompson, that shift seemingly extends to androgyny, transsexualism and albinism. We're hoping this trend isn't a fickle one, and that the gap in the market for unconventional beauty doesn't close up anytime soon. Because we would never wish the ordeal that is an orthodontic contraption upon Lara Stone's pretty, gap-toothed, head.

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