What is it like to live in a world with fashion as a principle? We become chronically stimulated by a steady stream of new phenomena and products, but we also become bored more quickly to a corresponding extent. In Jay McInerneys novel Model Behaviour it is said that we are in the sphere of fashion, where breathless enthusiasm sings in harmony with poisonous boredom.
We try harder and harder to express our own individuality, but paradoxically do so in a way that very often merely becomes the expression of an abstract impersonality. Naturally, there are plenty who fall outside the domain of fashion but in our part of the world, and at this point in history, it is practically impossible to stay outside the sphere of fashion. Even the poorest in the Western world are incorporated. To be excluded from the game, and aware of being excluded, is to be within its sphere.
All those who read this book are citizens of the world of fashion. Fashion is not universal. It is not a phenomenon that exists everywhere and at all times. Its roots are neither in human nature nor in group mechanisms in general. Since it first arose in one society, it has induced an ever-increasing number of other societies and social areas into following its logic. It is normally claimed that fashion in clothes has its origins in the late medieval period, possibly early in the Renaissance, perhaps in connection with the growth of mercantile capitalism.
The usual argument is that one cannot talk about fashion in Greek and Roman antiquity in the sense we do today because there was no individual aesthetic autonomy in the choice of clothing even though there were certain possibilities for variation. European clothing had changed relatively little from the Roman Age to the fourteenth century. Although there had of course been variations in clothing as regards materials and details, to all intents and purposes the.
Broadly speaking, rich and poor wore clothing of similar form, although rich people had their clothes made of more expensive materials and decorated themselves with ornaments. The impulse to decorate oneself is by no means a recent phenomenon in human history, but what people decorated themselves with in the pre-modern world had nothing to do with fashion.
The Vikings, for example, were very preoccupied with their appearance, and it was usual to have, among other things, a comb hanging from a belt that also included symbols of rank but there were no Viking fashions.
Pre-modern societies are conservative. People in such societies can wear simple or sophisticated decorations and can be enormously preoccupied with aesthetical phenomena, but it is a recurring characteristic that such as hairstyles, clothes and jewellery remain more or less unaltered for generations. The Romans of antiquity were vain, with both men and women using make-up and perfume, and with their hair dyed and curled if they did not use a wig.
But such styles were also long-lasting. A style from one country might occasionally become popular in another, leading to a sudden change of style as when the Greeks began to remove their beards in order to resemble Alexander the Great. Such a change of style, however, does not need to be referred to as a fashion, for the Greeks subsequently retained their shaven cheeks and chins.
What happened was that one long-lasting aesthetic norm was replaced by another, without further changes apparently having been wished for or even considered. In order to be able to talk of fashion it is not sufficient for a change to take place on rare occasions. It only becomes a fashion when this change is sought for its own sake and takes place relatively frequently.
As mentioned, the origin of fashion is usually linked to the emergence of mercantile capitalism in the late medieval period. Europe was then experiencing considerable economic development, and the economic changes created the basis for relatively swift cultural changes. It was here that changes in. Clothes changed their basic shapes rapidly, with changes in superficial details taking place even faster.
They also began to resemble modern attire by being adapted to the individual person, with the cut being changed over time without any reason apparent other than the change itself. Around the midfifteenth century creative cuts, new colours and textures began to emerge, with variations in width across the shoulders and the chest, the length of clothing, the design of hats and shoes, and other changes. This tendency further intensified, gaining perhaps its most extreme form of expression in the constantly increasing divergences from the actual contours of the body evident in the sixteenth century.
Change in clothes became a source of pleasure in itself. Naturally for centuries this conscious change of styles was accessible to only the few, the rich, but it gradually spread with the emergence of the bourgeoisie, together with concurrent desire to be in fashion. Even though it can be claimed that fashion began around , it would be more correct to say that fashion in its modern sense with quick changes and a constant challenge to the individual to keep abreast of the age did not become a real force until the eighteenth century.
The bourgeoisie that emerged at this time, competing with the feudal aristocracy for power, used clothes to signal their social status. In the s and 80s the first fashion magazines made their appearance, such as the English Ladys Magazine and the German Journal des Luxus und der Moden Fashion magazines explicitly for a male public, however, were not published until the s.
The growth of fashion is one of the most decisive events in world history, because it indicates the direction of modernity. There is in fashion a vital trait of modernity: the abolition of traditions. Nietzsche emphasizes fashion as a characteristic of the modern because it is an indication of emancipation from, among other things, authorities. Fashion is irrational. It consists of change for the sake of change, whereas the self-image of modernity consisted in there being a change that led towards increasingly rational self-determination.
Modernization consists of a dual movement: emancipation always involves the introduction of a form of coercion, since the opening of one form of self-realization always closes another. According to Roland Barthes: Every new Fashion is a refusal to inherit, a subversion against the oppression of the preceding Fashion. The problem is that the one suppression is replaced by another, as one is immediately subject to the tyranny of the new fashion. Modernity liberated us from tradition, but it made us slaves of a new imperative, one precisely formulated by Arthur Rimbaud towards the end of Une saison en enfer: We have to be utterly modern.
Medieval people, for example, did not think in such terms. Some clarification is perhaps called for at this point. Naturally, people have always been aware of certain things being newer than others, and there are examples of the use of the Latin expression modernus new or recent, the basis of the concept modernity all the way back to the sixth century, when it was used to distinguish between a heathen age and a new Christian era.
It was, however, not until much later that the distinction between new and old attained widespread use. An indication that a new understanding of time and history was emerging is that people became aware of the fact that anachronisms existed. In paintings from the Middle Ages we see, for example, biblical. The Holy Family could be depicted wearing clothes that would have suited an Italian merchants family. There does not seem to have been any clear awareness of the fact that the figures depicted had used old clothes, while they had been depicted with new clothes.
The conception of the new did not become widespread until the advent of the Enlightenment during the eighteenth century. The philosopher Gianni Vattimo points out that modernity is an era in which being modern becomes a value in itself or, rather, where being modern becomes the fundamental value to which all others are referred. Modern man has a pro-neo turn of mind. Practically all fashion theorists stress the new with a steady stream of new objects replacing those that were new but have now become old as a basic characteristic of fashion.
I am aware of only one writer who claims the opposite, the architect Adolf Loos. Paradoxically enough, Loos considers something really modern only if it has duration: only objects that are fashionable over a lengthy period of time deserve the term fashion. Loos also believes that objects without decoration would be far more aesthetically durable than those that are richly ornamented, and that mens fashion ought therefore to replace womens fashion. He also claims that the person who differs least from everyone else will be the most fashionable.
Kant is perhaps the first fashion theorist of any real stature to emphasize the new as an essential characteristic of. Baudelaire describes every single fashion as a symptom of a new and more or less happy effort in the direction of Beauty, some kind of approximation to an ideal for which the restless human mind feels a constant, titillating hunger. He wants to extract from fashion whatever element it may contain of poetry within history, to distil the eternal from the transitory. Without this second element, which might be described as the amusing, enticing, appetizing icing on the divine cake, the first element would be beyond our powers of digestion or appreciation, neither adapted nor suitable to human nature.
I defy anyone to point to a single scrap of beauty which does not contain these two elements. Mallarm radicalized Baudelaires standpoint, and did not seek any synthesis of the eternal and the temporal. For him, the transient and the immediate are sufficient. September and December Mallarm was editor of a fashion magazine, La Dernire Mode, in which, under diverse pseudonyms, he wrote absolutely all the editorial material, including articles advising on dresses, hats and other items.
For modern aesthetics, beauty lies in the temporal, in the transient that is absolutely contemporaneous. Gradually beauty drops out as a central aesthetic norm, and the insistence on something being new becomes the most crucial factor: the logic of fashion has outdone all other aesthetic conditions. This is particularly obvious in the visual arts and similar forms of expression.
The poet Paul Valry was critical of this tendency: The exclusive taste for newness shows the degeneration of the critical faculty, for nothing is easier than assessing the newness of a work. When an artist or creator of fashion does something new, it will be found assuming one has done ones homework in the history of art and fashion that the underlying condition of the original is the ever-present reality of the copy, as the art theorist Rosalind Krauss points out.
This was, for example, the ambition of Mark Rothko, who stated in the early s that he and the other Abstract Expressionists had set a new standard for art that would apply for the next thousand. Fashion would basically seem never to have been subject to this illusion and has, if anything, always foreseen that everything new will soon be surpassed by something even newer. Both fashion and modern art possibly because art is subject to the logic of fashion have been governed by an urge to innovate. The constant break with what has gone before is not freely chosen it is much more a strict convention of modern art.
According to the philosopher Boris Groys: The striving for the new manifests the reality of our culture precisely when it is freed of all ideological motives and justifications, and the difference between true, authentic innovation and untrue, non-authentic innovation no longer applies. The new has become self-justifying it does not need any reference to a concept of progress or something similar. A fashion object does not in principle need any particular qualities apart from being new. Seen in this light, the Gap chain of clothes shops is exemplary, as it replaces its product line every eight weeks!
It seeks superficial changes that in reality have no other assignment than to make the object superfluous on the basis of non-essential qualities, such as the number of buttons on a suit jacket or the famous skirt length. Why do skirts become shorter? Because they have been long. Why do they become long? Because they have been short. The same applies to all other objects of fashion.
Where do changes in fashion come from? It is always tempting to try to find a correspondence between fashion trends and those of outside society and there will of course be points of contact since fashion is an important part of this society, but fashions are created first and foremost on the basis of previous fashions, and not as a comment on society, or the like. If skirts are longer for a season, it is not because society has become more puritanical, but because they have been shorter. In short: fashion develops more on the basis of internal conditions than a dialogue with the political developments in society.
In his early writings, the sociologist Jean Baudrillard seems to assume a given ideal of beauty that fashion falls short of, as when he asserts that really beautiful, definitively beautiful clothes would put an end to fashion. Fashion does not have any telos, any final purpose, in the sense of striving for a state of perfection, a kind of highest incarnation that will make all future developments superfluous.
The aim of fashion is rather to be potentially endless, that is it creates new forms and constellations ad infinitum. On the other hand, one can ask to what extent anything new still exists. Given the number of fashion shows each year, it is obvious that there is little time for developing new ideas. It would appear to be more natural to create variations on previous fashions. One can talk about certain general trends in fashion over lengthy periods of time, such as how the cut of clothes has been made simpler and more skin has become visible over the past centuries, but there are major variations within these periods.
Following the straight lines and almost ascetic, modernist style of the s and 30s, Christian Diors New Look, which he introduced after the Second World War,. The style seemed to be a radical innovation, but in a certain sense it was a retro-fashion. As a couturier, Dior contributed greatly to increasing the tempo of fashion by surprising people with constantly new, unexpected creations each season, at a time when fashion developed far more slowly than today.
Time and space have become ever more compressed. Objective time and objective space have, of course, the same quantitative properties as before, but experienced time and experienced space have shrunk. This leads to a change in the temporality of fashion. Whereas fashion formerly could seem to have a more linear temporality, it has to an increasing extent now acquired a cyclic temporality. Here it should be pointed out that there has always been a cyclic element in fashion: as early as the fifteenth century styles from the previous were beginning to be repeated.
Today, however, it seems to be completely taken up with recycling itself. The new freedom of fashion over the past decades has not so much been used to create new forms as to play with older forms. All fashions have been placed on an equal footing. Fashion exists in an interaction between forgetting and remembering, in which it still remembers its past by recycling it, but at the same time forgets that the past is exactly that.
And the faster fashion evolves, one would presume, the faster it will forget. As Milan Kundera wrote: The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting. Has todays fashion precisely because of its extreme speed become one with far too good a memory?
Roland Barthes claimed in his major book on fashion that it is a discourse that rejects the possibility of a dialogue with its own past. The nature of fashion is to be transient. There is a central insistence on radical innovation, a constant hunt for originality. Fashion is only fashion insofar as it is capable of moving forwards. Fashion moves in cycles, where a cycle is the space of time from when a fashion is introduced to when it is replaced by a new one, and the principle of fashion is to make the cycle the space of time as short as possible, so as to create the maximum number of successive fashions.
The ideal fashion, seen in this way, would only last a moment before it was replaced by a new one. In that sense, fashion has come closer and closer to a realization of its essence, since its cycles have become shorter and shorter, from having lasted a decade in the nineteenth century to lasting only a season from the s onwards.
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There is broad agreement that the cycles of fashion have accelerated rapidly since the nineteenth century, especially over the last fifty years. Naturally, no one is able to create radically new styles at such a rate, and a recycling of former styles has become the norm in fashion. The haute couture of the s did not essentially break any new ground, but was rather a further development of the s, although with a greater emphasis on naturalness. The fashions of the s quite explicitly quoted and recycled, but without the more nostalgic tone of the s.
By the time we reach the s it is hard to see anything other than an endless series of recyclings albeit in spectacular variants. This recycling is rarely completely pure, in the sense that we are looking at direct copies of former items of clothing. It is usually rather more a question of dissimilar constellations of elements from former fashions, or more extreme versions of specific styles. It is just as much a. And the link to their historical origins becomes increasingly weak. Fashion decontextualizes and recontextualizes, and the fashion items that are appropriated from other traditions no longer have any fixed origin.
The temporal distance between the new and the recycled fashion has become less and less until it finally disappeared. Martin Margiela explicitly broke the rules of fashion when he repeated his earlier creations in new collections and in so doing repudiated the demand that he should be new. This only revealed, however, that Margiela had realized the impossibility of being completely new each season.
He has worked with this idea in various ways: in , for example, he made new clothes out of old collections a outfit from each of the eighteen collections he had produced and then made then old again by sprinkling them with fertilizing agents and spraying them with bacteria and mould and yeast fungi before putting them on show at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam.
If Walter Benjamin was right in claiming that fashion is the eternal recurrence of the new,33 it would be hard to imagine anything more untimely than fashion. The category the new seems, despite everything, to belong to the past. Rather than an eternal recurrence of the new, an eternal recurrence of the same would seem to be the rule. Fashion no longer seems to contain any surprises for us. New collections are shown to the press almost a year in advance and they follow well-worn tracks. It does not seem particularly appropriate at all to talk about fashion cycles any more, since a cycle presumes that something is in fashion before it goes out of fashion.
The result is that contemporary fashion is characterized by a general contemporaneity of all styles. With the ever-increasing speed of recycling we have come to a point where fashion by realizing its potential to the full has done away with its own logic. Fashion used to follow a modernist norm, in that a new fashion was to replace all previous ones and make them superfluous.
The traditional logic of fashion is a logic of replacement. For the last ten years, however, fashion has been defined by a logic of supplementation, by which all trends are recyclable and a new fashion hardly aims at replacing all those that have gone before, but rather contents itself with supplementing them. Instead, the old and the new or rather, perhaps, the old and the old exist side by side.
As Andy Warhol established for art: Theres room for everybody. Traditionally, fashion requires a steady stream of new objects that will soon become superfluous. The aim of fashion is the ceaseless continuation of a system that replaces the already existing one with something new, without any justification other than that the new is preferable to what already exists.
Fashion does not have any ultimate goal except an eternal realization and radicalization of its own logic. But when this logic became sufficiently radicalized, it was transformed from one of replacement to one of supplement. The problem with such a logic of supplementation is that it does not create a sufficiently high degree of superfluity.
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In presentations of utopias, fashion is normally absent. We can already see this in Thomas Mores Utopia, where everyone wears the same type of functional clothes that have. The Mao outfit is a typical example. Boris Groys describes fashion as anti-utopian and anti-authoritarian because its constant change undermines the possibility of there being universal truths that would be able to determine the future.
Fashion has conquered most areas, but lost itself in the process.
Fashion: A Philosophy
It is everywhere, but that also means that it is nowhere. Can something like fashion exist without there being a dominant style or, at least, a highly restricted number of dominant styles? No style has completely dominated the field of fashion since the s. What we have seen since is an increasing polymorphism of the field. An absolutely fashionable style does not have to be adopted by the majority of a community or a culture.
On the contrary, too great a spread of fashion indicates that something is on the way out. A genuinely fashionable style must rather be one adopted by a minority that is on its way to becoming that of the majority, or at least that of a large number of people. In that sense, fashion never is it is always in a state of becoming. What we have today is not in such a state of becoming; it is, if anything, a constant reserve of recyclable styles, with none basically more in fashion than the others.
Not only have a number of couturiers recycled old fashions in new collections, some have gone a step further by recycling their own former creations in new collections. Martin Margiela was perhaps the first, but Diane von Furstenberg made the point quite explicitly in when she made an exact reproduction of a dress she had launched in ,. Vivienne Westwood produces items of clothing from old productions on commission. Manolo Blahnik has brought old shoe collections into production, and Fendi has done the same with his bags.
If fashion has basically become recycling, one might just as well recycle oneself. It is, however, difficult to imagine a more flagrant break with the basic idea of fashion, since formerly it always was a question of producing something new. Benjamin asked if fashion dies because it fails to maintain velocity. Pray how many suits does she wear out in a year?
Oh, dear Sir! A fine ladys clothes are not old by being worn but by being seen. Richard Steele 1. Things must change We must rearrange them Or well have to estrange them. All that Im saying A games not worth playing Over and over again. Depeche Mode2. Why did fashion become so attractive?
What was it about fashion that attracted so many people into its sphere? In this chapter we will look more closely at a number of theories as to how and why fashion develops the way it does. The growth of fashion can be seen as a result of the attempt to combat it. In medieval Europe the church and state cooperated on combating luxury. Contact with the east, notably during the crusades, had brought choice fabrics and.
As people began to compete in displays of wealth, the church and state looked on this trend with some scepticism and wished to control it. Some of the most important regulations introduced at this time were the sumptuary laws, which were designed not least with clothing in mind. The term sumptuary derives from the Latin sumptuarius relating to expense, luxury. These laws were in force, broadly speaking, from the thirteenth century to the seventeenth. Particular stipulations were developed for use in relation to rank, where certain articles of clothing and other objects were reserved for certain social classes.
It was forbidden for lower classes to acquire such apparel, even though they might be able to afford them. This was by no means the first time such laws had existed. In ancient Egypt, for example, only the upper classes were allowed to wear sandals, and both the Greeks and the Romans had rules regarding who was allowed to wear what. The toga was reserved for Roman citizens: whoever was not a Roman citizen had no right to wear a toga, and anyone deprived of his citizenship had to stop wearing one. In the Middle Ages, however, such rules were considerably more specific and comprehensive.
Mercantile capitalism had created a more fluid society with a certain social mobility, with laws also being introduced to maintain class differences. Lavish clothing was a clear indication of vanity, something that was a serious sin in itself. The sumptuary laws were, of course, constantly being broken it almost seemed as if the ban made the commodities even more attractive which should hardly surprise anyone. These laws served precisely to strengthen the role of clothes as an important social marker as they created relatively clear criteria for the social status of various objects.
With the increasing weakening of class divisions and greater social mobility, however, the battle to maintain such rules was lost. Admittedly certain bans were introduced later against. There have also been certain political bans, as when the English occupying power forbade the Scots to wear kilts, or the recent French ban against the use of religious symbols in schools something that was effectively a ban against the use of the hijab. Common people i. Until then they had been excluded for economic reasons, but the rapid expansion of mass production, not least the introduction of sewing machines and knitting machines, enabled large quantities of clothes of relatively complex shapes, which had previously been the privilege of hand-sewing, to be produced.
This opened up completely new possibilities for mass consumption. Previously clothing had been extremely valuable. Normally people did not have more than one set of clothes. This changed dramatically with the expansion of mass production, which made more clothing readily accessible to more people.
This democratization of fashion did not mean that all distinctions were erased, rather that almost everybody was incorporated into the social interplay of fashion. While the struggle to look distinguished had formerly been reserved for the highest echelons of society, mass production made it possible for the lower classes to take part as well. Since then this tendency has only increased. In the nineteenth century mass production and mass consumption mushroomed. Since then mass consumption has to an increasing extent assumed the form of symbol consumption, that is it takes place so as to bring about an identification with what the consumption item stands for.
Massproduced items constitute not least a resource for members of the masses to raise themselves above their fellows. Since the.
The desire for symbolically potent consumer items then becomes a self-fuelling mechanism that is both the cause and a consequence of social inequality. This is normally presented as the result of a socalled trickle-down effect, where innovation takes place at a higher level and then spreads downwards because the lower social classes strive to move upwards, which results in their always being one step behind. Their dress is the fashionable dress; the language of their conversation, the fashionable style; their air and deportment, the fashionable behaviour. Even their vices and follies are fashionable; and the greater part of men are proud to imitate and resemble them in the very qualities which dishonour and disgrace them.
A law of such imitation, which aims at not appearing less important than others, especially when no regard is paid to gaining any profit. Therefore it belongs under the title of vanity, because in its intention there is no inner value; at the same time, it belongs also under the title of folly, because in fashion there is still a compulsion to subject oneself slavishly to the mere example which many in society project to us. This is the actual basic model that will come to dominate theories about fashion right up until our own age. Most later trickle-down theories have probably been inspired more by the philosopher Herbert Spencer than by Kant.
Spencer traces the origins of fashion back to emblems and other things that symbolize status, pointing out that such distinguishing characteristics have a tendency to spread to more than those who, strictly speaking, are entitled to them. Spencer, however, expects fashion to disappear in the long term with the increasing democratization of society. It could, though, be argued against Spencer that precisely the opposite will be the result of such a democratic levelling, that the breaking down of social hierarchies will make it even more important for the individual to be able to accentuate himself with the aid of fashion and is that not exactly what has happened?
Spencer has an optimistic view of the future, viewing modernity as a forward motion towards an ever more rational society. The sociologist Thorstein Veblen does not share this view, considering modernity to a great extent to be an irrational orgy of consumption. Veblens condemnation of modern consumption sometimes rushes on unabated, and Jorge Luis Borges claims that he thought Veblens book on the leisure class was a satire when he read it for the first time.
According to Veblen: This requirement of novelty is the underlying principle of the whole difficult and interesting domain of fashion. Fashion does not demand continual flux and change simply because that way of doing is foolish; flux and change and novelty are demanded by the central principle of dress conspicuous waste. Veblen claims that a player will not normally have the principle of conspicuous consumption as an explicit motive, and broadly speaking only be taken up with living as he or she feels is appropriate for a person of that particular social status.
He feels, among other things, that it causes us to confuse economic and aesthetic worth,16 and furthermore that fashionable apparel by nature is directly ugly, even though people are induced to believe that it is beautiful. Like Veblen, Georg Simmel was no optimist regarding the future, but even so there is no doubt that he finds more of value in his own age that Veblen did. Simmels theory is considerably more sophisticated than Veblens. For him, it is not just a question of marking social status but of balancing opposing human needs and inclinations, such as individuality and conformity, freedom and independence.
Such societies, which he referred to as primitive, are characterized by extremely stable styles. For Simmel, all fashions are by definition class fashions, and fashion is driven forwards by the upper classes discarding a fashion and embracing a new one as soon as the lower classes have imitated it. So we arrive at the following circle: the faster fashion develops, the cheaper the items will become, and the cheaper the items become, the faster will fashion develop. In Simmels essay Fashion , which is a revised and shortened edition of his The Philosophy of Fashion, Simmel claimed that fashion always carries its own death within it.
The classic explanation of the spread of fashion is then that it is created at the top of society and then trickles down the social strata. Another important work in this connection is The Laws of Imitation by the sociologist Gabriel de Tarde, for whom desire is made up of societal relations that follow certain laws of imitation. It mainly functions by the lower classes imitating the upper ones, but Tarde emphasizes that modern society opens up a larger flexibility of imitation, so that the higher classes can also imitate the lower ones.
By then such an imitation from the top downwards had already been taking place for some time. One of the most telling examples of this development is what is perhaps the most revolutionary item of apparel in human history: the mans suit. Before the nineteenth century there was no essential difference between the apparel of upper-class men and women as regards ornamentation and the like: ornamentation was a question of class, not gender.
What differences existed indicate that men were more sumptuously dressed than women. Industrialization and the economic and social changes that involves, however, created a need for simpler mens clothing for the new bourgeoisie. The brilliant solution to this need was the suit, which can be considered exemplary for the subsequent development of fashion. As Anne Hollander points out, male fashion took a radical leap into the modern era, while female fashion was left behind. With the suit we find a fashionable item of clothing that does the exact opposite of trickling down. It was a middle-class garment that the upper class began to use.
Urban fashions emerged that outdid aristocratic fashions and the like. There are even earlier examples of street fashion being adopted by higher social strata, as when the slashed clothes worn by mercenary soldiers in the sixteenth century began to be adopted, admittedly in more refined versions, by higher classes but this was an exception.
The suit has changed surprisingly little during the two centuries it has been in use. This is probably an important reason why male fashions have played such a modest role in the history of fashion. In actual. The use of tie, scarf and bows has varied a great deal. The cycles have, however, lasted longer than in female fashion, although since male fashion has also developed more rapidly, marked by such features as the emerging use of polonecked sweaters, rather than a shirt and tie, and the adoption of a closer fit.
In the s male fashion began to become an attractive field for even the foremost couturiers, such as Yves Saint-Laurent. The suit established a norm, and much of the development of female fashion since then can be seen as gradually approaching it. It was not until the s that female fashion began to catch up with male fashion by getting closer to the simple style that had been the male norm for a century. Until the nineteenth century it was more usual for male fashion to adopt features of female fashion than the converse, but with the male suit the opposite applies.
As Hollander points out, there was basically nothing modern understood here as an aesthetic norm that was very clearly realized in modernistic art and architecture about female fashion before it began to imitate male fashion explicitly in the twentieth century. Since then the distinction between male and female fashion has become less clear, in the sense that there has been a more fluid interaction between them. Even so, there are still certain items of clothing that are basically reserved for one gender.
Despite repeated attempts, not least by Jean Paul Gaultier, to introduce the mans skirt, this is still a highly marginal item of clothing. The rhetoric that has surrounded male fashion has to a great extent been a set of denials: that there really does not exist anything we can call male fashions, that men do not dress on the basis of style but only functionality , that men are not victims of fashion in the same way as. If anything, it could be claimed that male fashion has had stricter norms over the last two centuries because men have had fewer types of clothing to choose between.
We can find a similar development in trousers in general. Long trousers are known to have existed in antiquity, but it was not until the French Revolution that they became fashionable. The sans culottes those without knee-breeches distanced themselves from the aristocracy and showed this by, among other things, rejecting their way of dressing. The culotte was an everyday garment for the aristocracy and the upper class in the eighteenth century. At first the term sans culottes was used pejoratively, but it later applied in a positive sense.
Before the Revolution it was used ironically about those who could not afford silk stockings and knee-breeches culottes and so wore long trousers pantalons instead. Since this working-class garment had now reached the upper class, it was also made of silk. This development is not completely unlike that from ordinary jeans to designer jeans. It is worth noting, however, that it did not go directly from the working to the middle class, but took a more complicated route. This made them popular in youth cultures; since youthfulness had begun to become an aesthetic norm and the middle class wished to appear more youthful, it soon spread to the middle class.
Once jeans had been accepted by the middle class they lost all their rebellious force. Instead they. Initially, jeans were an egalitarian item of clothing. Andy Warhol praised Coca-Cola for being an egalitarian product: A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.
All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. There is a large symbolic difference between jeans from Matalan and jeans from Versace. Thus, jeans became an example of dressing poor-man-style in an explicitly expensive way.
Chanels little black dress was an example of the same. Karl Lagerfeld has created clothes of shaved mink and mixed synthetic and genuine fur, which is a quite extreme variant of what Veblen referred to as conspicuous waste. The trickle-down theory is only partially right, then, when we take a close look at the history of fashion. To a greater extent movement over the past forty years has been in the opposite direction, with perhaps its most striking expression in the s with such styles as heroin chic, an extension of the Yves Saint-Laurent slogan Down with the Ritz long live the street!
It is also a fact that those occupying a relatively safe position in the upper echelons of society have, generally speaking, been less concerned with following the latest fashions than those with a less well-established position in such strata. The new arrivals apparently had a greater need to be distinctive than those already established. From this point of. We can only confirm that considerable innovation has taken place in the lower classes as well, not least in the form of sometimes major modifications of upper-class fashions.
Innovation in other social strata has, however, been obscured by the fact that histories of fashion usually say a lot about what has been considered fashionable among the upper class in earlier periods, but we know considerably less about what sort of clothes were worn by the lower classes.
There has been a tendency to focus on haute couture high fashion , which is then considered the norm for fashions. In the past decades, however, it has become more and more usual to include the entire spectrum, from mass-produced fashion to haute couture. In the nineteenth century, there was a fairly limited spread to the lower social classes of what the upper class considered fashionable clothing. On the whole, it would seem that functionality was more important than conforming to what the higher social classes might define as being fashionable.
This does not mean, of course, that matters of taste were unimportant for the choice of clothing made in the lower ranks of society, but it was a different taste. Generally speaking, the working class has had what the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu describes as the taste of necessity, which is characterized by functionality. It is probably because the members of the working class that were actually visible had the sort of jobs where they were in contact with the.
Like many others, Simmel generalized about the working class as a whole on the basis of the limited section with which he actually came in contact, but this generalization was partly misleading. What is right about Simmels theory is that from the latter part of the nineteenth century onwards there were, to a certain extent, less visible differences between clothing worn by the various social classes than there had been before. Another important reason is that, as the century progressed, it became increasingly usual for uniforms and clothes linked to specific occupations to replace normal clothing, so that ones social status was clearly marked by the clothes one wore.
This, without a doubt, can be seen as a strategy on the part of the upper class to make visible what position the individual occupied, so that it was possible to counteract the incipient blurring of the differences between clothing in the various classes. Simmels theory is not directly erroneous, but the picture was very much more complex than he assumed. Even though Bourdieu has tried to distance himself from, among others, Veblens theories, he follows the same model to a great extent.
Bourdieu stresses that the driving force behind symbolic consumption is not primarily the imitation of the higher classes by the lower, rather the distinguishing strategies used by the higher classes with regard to the lower classes. He claims that so-called. The determination of good taste is achieved via the rejection of what is bad taste. Bourdieu describes taste as a social sense of place.
In this respect, Bourdieu broadly agrees with Veblen and Simmel, who consider fashion to be an upper-class invention, the aim of which is to create a distinction between themselves and the lower classes. Veblen claims that a player will not normally have the principle of conspicuous consumption as his explicit motive,43 but it has to be admitted that he often formulates himself in such a way that conspicuous consumption would precisely seem to be a conscious intention.
Therefore, the upper class becomes the driving force in the development of fashion, while the lower classes are passive copiers, taking over the fashions of the upper class in order to try and identify themselves with it. The middle class functions as a connecting link: as it strives upwards, it pulls with it the lower classes that it is trying to distinguish itself from. For Veblen everything ultimately depends on economic capital.
Symbolic capital is only important as evidence of economic capital. Bourdieu reverses this and turns economic. Bourdieu would either have to stand there without any explanation for this type of taste and aesthetic production, or have to open up a type of taste that calls for a separate explanation. This would be tantamount to opening up a kind of inherent taste, precisely what he has proposed to undermine. But, assuming that economic capital is merely an example of symbolic capital, he can incorporate practices that do not give any economic return, nor have any ambition to do so.
In short, unlike Veblens belief, good taste in Bourdieu gives a return by being an expression of an affluence that is not only an indication of economic prosperity but is also more cultural by nature. As Bourdieu points out, all forms of capital are exposed to inflation. The distinctive value of objects is constantly declining as more and more gain possession of them. All capital is relationally determined in the sense that the value of anything depends on what others have.
For anything to have a high value it is imperative that others do not have it. Something can have value simply because there is a scarcity. That is why it is important to make distinctions. It could be said that the point of the distinction is to create a scarcity, so that others are excluded, for only by excluding others can one gain possession of symbolic values. There are social patterns of taste and these are embodied in what Bourdieu calls habitus.
This is a system of personified schemata which, formed in the course of collective history, have been acquired in the course of individual history, and which work in a practical form and for a practical purpose. A type of habitus or a type of taste corresponds to each class of positions, caused by the social conditioning that is linked to the corresponding conditions.
And via the various forms of habitus and their ability to produce characteristics there corresponds a systematic unity of goods and characteristics that are linked to each other by a stylistic affinity. Taste is part of the construction social players implement of themselves and their surroundings. That is an important part of how a person with a particular taste is perceived by other arbiters of taste: Taste classifies, and taste classifies the person who classifies: subjects differ from each other in how they distinguish between the beautiful and the ugly, the exquisite and the common or vulgar, and via these distinctions the position the subjects themselves have within objective classifications is expressed or revealed.
It is a question of social structures that determine peoples individual actions and preferences, but without these individuals having to become aware of these structures. What Bourdieu refers to as habitus enables us to believe that we have chosen what in actual fact is imposed on us. It appears to have been freely chosen, but in fact is a fairly direct reflection of an objective class affiliation.
Presumptively autonomous taste is then, as Bourdieu sees it, anything but. Most of all he considers it to be a product and indicator of class affiliation: To the socially recognized hierarchy of art forms and in turn within each of these, hierarchies of genres, schools and epochs there corresponds a hierarchy of consumers.
That is why taste is a particularly good marker of class. Various ways of acquiring taste live on in ways of using what has been acquired. Here, taste is quite simply a function of class affiliation or a wish for such. In philosophical aesthetics, taste is often asserted as an autonomous entity. This is perhaps particularly obvious in Kant, as long as the taste that is autonomous, or free, if you like, is considered as adequate. Bourdieu, on the other hand, claims that taste is by no means freely chosen.
Admittedly we carry out aesthetic choices but, as Bourdieu sees it, the choice between Matalan and Prada is a compulsory choice. Economic considerations oblige the person with a poor economy to buy at Matalan and the person concerned will presumably genuinely believe that Matalan has finer clothes than Prada. The person with a strong economy is similarly forced to choose Prada or some other exclusive brand. However, it causes problems if taste is exclusively reduced to being a product of social fields. We experience taste as something highly personal.
As La Rochefoucauld pointed out as far back as the mid-seventeenth century, our pride suffers more from having our taste rejected than our views. It is worse to hear that one has ugly clothes than that one has a confused view of national economic policy. Bourdieu believes he has countered the objection that taste is something personal by means of his habitus concept. The social conditioning is inscribed on the body, which in turn is a bearer of values:.
The difference can only become a sign and a sign of distinction, of excellence or vulgarity on the basis of a particular principle for viewing and dividing things. And this principle is a product of the personification of the structure of objective differences. It is a question of social structures that determine peoples individual actions and preferences, but without these individuals necessarily having made themselves aware of these structures. Normally, they will not be aware of them. In many respects Bourdieu operates within a perspective where taste has to be explained on the basis of the classdifferentiating principle, and where fashion is propelled by this differentiation.
A fundamental problem about these analyses, however, is that they are strongly based on a class concept that basically no longer operates. The problem is not least that Bourdieu presupposes a kind of uniform, distinct and objective space, where cultural capital functions as a kind of universally accepted medium of exchange. But such an objective space hardly exists. Bourdieu admits that cultural distinctions are expressed in different ways in different fields, but he believes even so that there is a kind of objective organizational principle that can explain these differences.
Class becomes a main category that can absorb all other differences such as age, gender, race and ethnicity. It is doubtful whether the class concept is able to bear such a burden. Not least, it becomes awkward to deal with such small, local, inward distinctions as subcultures from such a perspective, since taste in the higher classes will often be irrelevant in order to understand them. We are dealing here with taste as an important internal factor of the individual subculture. The emergence of modern individualism, where taste to an increasing extent becomes an individual concern and the class concepts have to a great extent outplayed their role, leads to Bourdieus perspective losing much of its explanatory force.
When taste no longer makes me a member of a social group but, on the contrary, serves to show who I am as a completely unique individual, other theories than that of Bourdieu will presumably have to be used. There will, of course, continue to be differences of taste, but these will be more individual than those that are class-orientated. You're known for various roles, from photographer, lecturer to adman.
Paris Fashion Week’ scenography through the lenses of Philosophy | futur
What do you see as your job title? You're best known for your photography. Your works have been exhibited in several countries and have won you many awards. Can you summarise your journey as a photographer so far? What are some of the highlights? I started out shooting fashion for MTV Magazine during my third year. Back then there wasn't social media around so all my work was in print. I continued working as a photographer in Japan but my turning point came when I was given a contract with DoBeDo, a world renowned leading advertising agency in London, as one of their photographers.
My work was also bought by Foam, a renowned photography museum in The Netherlands. What got you interested in fashion photography in the first place? During my upper Matayom years, I dressed my friends up in death metal style outfits and took their photos with fake blood and full make-up. They were shocking for people back then and a teacher said I was aggressive. Fashion there goes beyond the clothing items themselves; it feels like a religion to people.
In February It came to me while I was cleaning up my desktop and discovered a folder of my ideas which had been rejected by a client. As the director, creative and brand consultant, I pitched it to a client but they didn't buy it. My mum told me, "If no one sees value in it, why don't you do it yourself. Tulee reminds us that all things never last long and will eventually return to nothingness. The difference was that no one told me what to do. I just walk out of the house with my film camera and smartphone to take photos or videos. In less than an hour, I'll always come back with some new ideas.
I'm interested in Buddhism, Zen and the wabi-sabi concept a Japanese principle which focuses on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. I feel like the core of life and truth can be found in religion already so there's no better raw material for art than religion, nature and ourselves, in my opinion. TRULY is my take on art which anyone can own. It's another form of selling art. I don't think it's necessarily anti-fashion or anti-materialism.
I just offer another perspective and I believe there are people who like it and agree with it. Why did you decide to use actual people to model your products? In my better-known photos, they tend to be patriots of real people of the working class.