Once I finished high school, I really wanted to start university; therefore I looked for a job and managed to get one in retail, so that I could pay for my education. It’s been three years now since I started, and in this time I have done a bit of barista work, even though mostly retail. I’ve met all sorts of people and had the opportunity to learn something about fashion – or, at least, colour matching – while having the time to think over the enviroment I work at, ask and be asked several questions.
Among those questions, one is particularly annoying..
Nope..! 😉 That’s not the one, even if it makes to the top five, no doubt!
The so-dreaded question I’m talking about is “Is this *item of your choice* fashionable?”
Now, you’ll say, this is a perfectly normal question: it shows interest, curiosity towards the latest fashions, no problem to see. Well, there actually is a problem to be seen. For what I’ve witnessed, the usual customer is not enquiring about the latest trends of our society out of curiosity, rather out of lack of self-confidence, critical thinking, and, consequently, of a strong personal identity.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not blaming anyone nor generalizing, but here’s my modest opinion: our society encourages the individual to absorb passively the clothes’ fashion, new trends and lifestyles most suitable for the economy. This unspoken rules impose a code which selects who’s in and who’s out: since no one really wants to be the outsider, the first instinct is to adapt to those social conventions, trends, slangs and attitudes considered normal, cool; but, beware, here’s the trap! This adaptation is not the one of Darwins’ On the Origin of Species, rather the creation of automatons – probably more similar to Brave new world.
However, you could legitimately object that thoroughly withstanding to fashion (not just clothing obviously) is impossible; and, indeed it is.
So why am I boring you with this long exhausting lecture? Why pointing out an issue which cannot be solved and that most people don’t even bother with? Well, because I do believe trends to be a major issue and because I’d like to share my personal solution to this problem. Clearly, I’m not the author of the solution’s content, even though I do agree with it. Let me briefly explain Georg Simmel‘s fashion theory to you: the author suggests that fashion has to be considered an expression of both the mass and the individual. People take part in fashion in order to adhere to a specific context and society, therefore to build their own identity as individuals in a society. This is called the element of imitation, which has to be balanced by that of distinction: in fact, every person wants to be a part of a group without losing its individual identity in it; therefore it is of vital importance to acquire the forms, expressions of fashion and shape them to make them our own.
Basically, what Simmel is suggesting is not to totally reject or adhere to fashion, because this would be the perfect way to establish its power and consider it an indipendent force. he best way to maintain your personal identity and keep it safe is, according to the philosopher, to take control of yourself by choosing which aspects of fashion most fit you. That’s the solution to be able to fit in a social context, understanding the time you’re living in, and not to become an automaton, rather a charismatic person.
So… take what you like and let go what you don’t! Don’t be afraid to follow the stream, but adopt your own way to swim!
Header picture: Helmut Newton
Facebook picture: http://piximus.net/media/21704/awkward-fashion-50.jpg
Bibliography: Philosophie der Mode, Berlin: Pan-Verlag, 1905