Friday, February 17, 2012

Justifying Fashion

This is fashion week in New York.  To be honest, I've always had an antipathy for fashion.  Growing up as a nerd in an upper-middle class suburb, fashion always seemed to me to be a two-pronged evil.  On the one hand, it was something that was used to delineate the cool kids from the not cool kids.  It was divisive in a way that only made the unhealthy social divisions deeper.  On the other hand, it was the very model of surrendering autonomy.  You were letting someone else determine what you like.  To be fashionable is to be a sheep, to not think for yourself and that is not a good thing.

But I am ready to reconsider this long held bias.  Is there justification for fashion?  Could you argue that aesthetics are progressive and that by following fashion, you are follow and contributing to the progress of an art form?  Could you argue that fashion is reflective of the spirit of the times and that by being fashionable, you are really being political in a meaningful way?  Could you argue that you are contributing to social cohesion? 

In the other direction, perhaps the argument is that rejecting fashion is to embrace a separate fashion.  There is no thinking for yourself, just the acceptance of a different fashion. One cannot escape fashion, just choose which set of cultural categories by which to identify oneself.

Is there meaning and value in fashion?