Despite the fashion world’s best efforts, is fashion still too traditional and careful when it comes to what men and women wear?
Having explored the marvels of London’s Soho at the various hours of the day and night, I can honestly say I’ve seen a fair amount of fashion wonders. But at the end of the day, that’s Soho, a magical realm of exploration, deconstructed barriers and artistic outlets. But let’s face facts; it’s not the real world, well, at least for most of us. For most of us, we face the norms of conservatism, and boundaries, set by who knows?
The person in the picture above is a friend of mine I’ve known for years. He is what society would label as “eccentric.” As someone who over thinks things, I for one find it difficult to comprehend the animosity portrayed by so many people. Just the other night I was pulled back from someone who, without any volume or insult filtration, spurted out whilst looking at my good friend the words: “what the f*** is that?”
“That, my closed-minded fellow human,” I said in my head, “is a person, free to express themselves without fear of your bigoted opinion.”
But this kind of thing had happened before. I myself went through a phase of wearing high-heeled boots, mainly to boost my 5’7 height, but also because I thought I looked hot in them. But was my fashion choice met with hostility? Of course! I was a guy wearing women’s shoes. And the only conceivable reason why I agreed with their opinions was because society dictates the norms.
So what am I trying to get at exactly?
I want to know why, in my Western society, we see it as such an absurdity when someone dresses outside the usual norms and trends. Now I will admit, fashion is not my forte, but I do have an eye for what people wear these days, and I know fashion is persuaded much by the media, celebrities, and basically whatever is popular for its time. So here goes.
Some people are too busy to decide what to wear. My guess is people have become, not necessarily lazy with what they wear, but feel the need to implement much more practicality. People these days are busy and are getting increasingly busier. Jobs are harder to get, income is on the decline, fear is rampant, and comfort and relaxation is a total must for such a busy human being.
Quantity over quality. Fashion, although a huge business, is tailoring its designs to people who want quantity, not quality. The term “fast-fashion” refers to how retailers keep up with the catwalks, and in tern creates as many designs as possible to sell to the public at a cheap price point. Because of this, large retailers create a fast-food-like paradigm, where quality of clothing is substituted for quantity, and the room for artistic and/or experimental design is forgotten. With so much uninspiring garments churned out for the consumer, we subconsciously believe that those designs are the norm.
Some people are not yet open-minded enough. I live just outside of London, not just a city, but a city of prominent cultural diversity. But there is still a stigma about how “multi-cultured” London is becoming. Perhaps it is early days, but there is still a subconscious divide between nationalities and cultures. We have yet to combine our cultural differences out of fear of the unknown and fear of each other, and even fear of being labelled as offensive if one was to wear an outfit of another’s origin. Until some people cast off their fear to integrate their differences, it will be a long time before people begin to experiment with what they wear. The world is a mood-board waiting to be used.
Sexualisation is currently in. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed the “sexy” look is very in at the moment, even in very inappropriate areas. Or, has every look through the ages always been sexy, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, with the increasing use of social media and ad campaigns depicting over sexed god-like bodies, perhaps the need for fashion, is more of a frame for the painting that is the body. Tight fitting, skin revealing, body shape enhancing clothes are ever more popular, with the likes of slim-fit, muscle fit, low plunging to name a few. Are businesses more concerned with preying on our natural carnal urges and profiting off our sexual needs? Have they finally tapped this niche of organic beauty, only to saturate the market with clothing that does not express individualism, but more so send our sexual receptors into overdrive? Just look at the marketing techniques of Abercrombie and Fitch. They have seen tremendous success with the topless model technique.
A fine line still stands between Femininity and Masculinity. In my post “Can I wear makeup if I’m a guy?” I discussed the boundaries surrounding the acceptability of men experimenting with cosmetics. From what I learnt, I realised we subconsciously, either through nature or nurture, present ourselves in a way that enhances our natural male or female features. Check out this example of how men and women walk. High heels are made not to just look good, but to enhance the natural attractiveness of a woman’s walk and her elongated appearance. A man’s suit jacket enhances his shoulder size and emphasizes the classic muscular “V” shape: wide shoulders, slim waist. Because of these principals, the idea of disregarding clothing that highlights your natural biology worries some people. A man in high heels is still sadly a taboo subject, although we’ve made great progress with women wearing men’s clothing, and changing it into an acceptable artistry. We have Coco Chanel to thank for that. Even shows like Rupaul’s Drag Race are helping to inspire a new form of fashion expression amongst men, though this is mainly aimed at the gay community, and not the male fashion industry. But it’s a start.
Status has toned down its style. You may shoot me for saying this, since I’m not an expert when it comes to fashion exactly. However, if I’m comparing clothing to history, which is what I’m going to do, it’s very obvious the kind of styles affiliated with the wealthy and affluent have calmed their designs. For example, if your take our beloved Queen Elizabeth 2nd, as fabulous as she looks, and compare her to lets say Queen Elizabeth 1st, you’ll notice a staggering difference between the intricacies and flamboyance of both of their usual attires. The current Queen represents a more subtle form of detail, whereas her predecessor, sports a more staggering, largely structured almost sculpture-like attire, something I’m sure our Queen would not be seen wearing these days. So why am I using royalty as an example? Well, it not just royalty, but anyone who has status, has influence, not just with what they do, but also what they wear. If the Kardashians wore clothing inspired by the renaissance, I’m sure many who follow them will be inclined to follow suit.
Some people want durability. Its understandable, when you buy something, you don’t want it to break, and let’s face it, the more intricate a piece of clothing, the more detailed and unique something is, the more likely it is to get damaged, unless of course you’re prepared to fork out a hell of a lot of money. As part of my work, I had the opportunity to visit the Elie Saab boutique in Mayfair London a few weeks ago. The clothing there is a prime example of expensive unconventional delicate quality: clothing that is so prestigious and well crafted; it has the drawback of being sublimely delicate. For us mere mortals of regular salaries, the last thing we want is to keep buying clothing that ruins easily, but the drawback to that, is usually a lack of detail. The day anyone shoves a £40,000 dress into a washing machine is the day pigs fly.
Some people are afraid of change. I will admit it took me a long time to go vegan. My transition from vegetarianism to veganism was not without its worries, but back to fashion. If you consider all the points above, it’s no surprise some people are a little afraid to change up their fashion style. If you think about how much time and money you’ve invested into your own wardrobe, you’ll probably not want to change the underlying theme you’ve stuck to. Not only that, but some may feel they’ve established a concrete identity through their clothing, and fear any change may result in friends and family questioning their fashion or even life choices.
At the end of the day, there are a lot of things that dictate the fashion trends: Simplicity, low quality high quantity, durability, status, fear of the unknown, sexualisation, and even the line between femininity and masculinity. Once society feels ready to shed these boundaries, we may start to see the future of fashion take on the imagination of science fiction and fantasy.
But is Conservative fashion really a problem?
Admittedly I had to ask myself this as I started to write this blog post, and honestly, I think it’s both yes and no. I’ll start with no. No it’s not a problem, in the sense that it represents cultural stability. When people wear similar clothing, it provides a sense of community and comfort. Conformism is not totally a bad thing when it hurts nobody. But the same time, yes, it is also a problem, but only because I see the lack of experimentation as a larger problem than most assume it is. Experimenting with fashion doesn’t just lead to wearing different things, but it changes your awareness of other cultures, traditions, art, self expression, and above all, the ability to truly think for yourself.
If you feel as though you’re constrained by the fashion of your society, try this as an exercise: Choosing from one of your favourite science fiction movies, fantasy computer games or whatever avant-garde art form you can think of, choose a character, preferably one with an outrageous fashion sense, of which you secretly admire, and see if you can replicate it into your own style.
It’s something the fashion industry (the dictators of fashion) do all the time: catwalks will feature the alternative designs, and retailers will in a sense, “replicate” and “tone down” whatever the industry dictates as popular, but at the same time stick to their own signature style.
As an example, I have always wanted to break the mould and wear this outfit. (Pause for laughs…) I mean come on. Hope from Final Fantasy 13.2 looks freaking cool. I’d love that to be my work uniform. If I ever manage to replicate this I’ll let you guys know immediately!
What are your thoughts? Do you think the fashion world is moving too slowly? Do you think fantasy and science fiction fashion should stick to its theme and stay out of reality? Would you feel confident or embarrassed to wear avant-garde clothing to the supermarket? Comment below!