In following fashion one never catches it. Fashion is part of luxury goods consumerism that sells style as defining of identity, which feeds off the need for social validation and belonging. Fashion marketing tricks people to mistake clothes and accessories for self-worth. Clothes are necessary and aesthetic clothes are, no doubt, appealing – but the weakness of approval-seeking, consumerism and prejudice based on appearances deserves discouragement.
Commodity fetishism has it that a product is imbued with a magic aura, that its design branding makes it pricier than its actual material and labour value. Somehow, the hands of a designer have cast a magic spell or written an incantation of their name in a logo – that makes their owner ‘special’, like everyone else that buys that product. They are special; they are utterly gullible. Are encouraged to be.
Approval seeking comes from the impressions clothes give. Items whether shoes, hats, or bracelets can suggest who you are. A yellow jumper can recommend a warm, friendly person. But of course that is not the case, in fact: clothes do suggest character but as a suggestion, often mislead. Judging by appearances of clothes is a pre-judice. That generalises from a superficial impression, even altering the behaviour of looker and wearer. But what is most troubling, is the marking out of people as, say, a converse-guy or a grandad jumper eccentric; it has a touch of playground nastiness.
Defining a self by a designer label is a harmful idea; it pushes that clothes own you, rather than the other way round. And, if someone dresses differently, they are construed weird, a freak. If someone dresses normatively, they are construed, boring, reserved. Adornment boxes you; you cannot win.
Indeed, clothes can be a kind of advertising for the self – we take notice of this before a date, when we wear especially right clothes. A leather jacket often advertises someone, perhaps outdated, trying to be cool; a trench coat aspirations toward professional style and attempted neutrality; a too-large denim jacket a grunge sensibility; a dress a celebration of normative femininity, – or even its ironising.
Clothes can say ‘this is a professional’, ‘this is a feminine’, ‘this is a socialite’, ‘this is a try-hard. ‘this is a confident’.
But these are mere suggestion, which transgresses between tentative perception and reality. Arguably, clothes can just as well tell the opposite of what they seek to say, as in wearing a leather jacket or particular boots to be cool – because they are not cool already.
It is not a masterplan representation of the self either. What clothes suggest are your gender fluidity, culture, class, age-group, thoughtfulness or lack, intention or mistake. It can work as advertising for the self, but that would imply design. When, in truth, clothes worn are a mediation of available outlets, chance, money, experience, ingroup and outgroup behaviour rather than the self. It is harmful to perpetuate the notion that it is individuality and self-expression to wear prescribed clothes. Unless they design all themselves, in which case I am impressed.
We ought to pay attention to how we dress for the ungenerous and inversely be generous to the poorly dressed who have not been conditioned to wear what is believed correct or valuable or simply have more on their mind. Personally, I do not like to be judged so treat clothes like metrosexual armour, with monochrome ever more appealing.