Friday, December 07, 2012

Fashion Definition

Bethany's comment highlighted for me something I had not explained well in my theory of fashion in politics.  I am including long-term fashions, trends, if you will, as well as the ephemeral Monkees/BSB/1D variety.  Deep fashion, if you will, more in line with the fashion she notes in which areas of the brain it is now considered sexy to study. In the 1940's and 50's and into the 60's it was more fashionable to be accepted into the mainstream of American culture, and one can observe the strivings of the outsiders to cement their place.  Since then, it has been more fashionable to be a bit outside - sometimes extremely outside, but not very often, and not among many.  These days, to be a bit different in some way is the ticket.

It isn't an either-or proposition.  There has always been a cultural tension in Western society between being one of the accepteds versus being one of the rebels, and I doubt it ever goes farther than 60-40 in either direction.  Assortive mating is a strong controller to keep both in play.  But by the fashionableness of Democrats, I don't merely mean the Obama Rock Star campaign stops (though I will include those as well), but the anti-fashion fashionableness of those who think themselves far above such plebian excesses.


Der Hahn said...

It's probably an AVI-ish observation that even non-conformists are determining their direction (at least in part) by the flow of the mainstream.

Earl Wajenberg said...

You might like to look up a 1983 book titled "Class," by Paul Fussell. It's dated now, of course, but still has some interesting things to say. It's subject is the American class system, and near the end of the book Fussell discusses the "X class." These are the people who, according to Fussell, opt out of the class system, but I don't think they really do. Instead, they define themselves by reacting against the other classes. They are "fashionably unfashionable." As a friend of mine put it, "You can't be an anarchist if you don't wear the uniform."

I reviewed the book here.

Dubbahdee said...

I've been mulling over the definition of "fashion" now since you brought it up. I haven't nailed down anything I would call either definitive or comprehensive, but a few observations have popped up from some of the deeper folds of my cortex.

1) Fashion seems to be about social signalling. Adopting a "fashion" one is sending a message about oneself and one's place on the social order.

2) Fashion seems to be about belonging. One adopts a fashion as a signal of one's desire to belong to a certain group -- to be like the members of that group in some way. This is why a particular fashion is notoriously tied to one sub-culture or another. To wear your hair this is to belong to be Punk. To use these words is to be Hip Hop. To eat no animal products is to be concerned for the environment/concerned about justice for all living things/show solidarity with the lactose intolerant/etc.

3) Fashion does have an ephemeral quality. I'm not sure why yet.

james said...

There's a "meta-fashion" of ideas that forms the framework of the political/cultural/blah fashions. Barzun again, I suppose. Then we define our ideas in terms of these meta-ideas: more or less individualism, etc.

I once tried the exercise of imagining how to explain the US to a Confucian from a thousand years ago. Our paradigm of individual rights is pretty central to us, but it isn't trivial to justify to someone with a radically different center.

"We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century--the blindness about which posterity will ask, "But how could they have thought that?"--lies were we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H.G. Wells and Karl Barth."