philosophy of fashion
June 18, 2005 10:30 AM   Subscribe

philosophy of fashion

im feeling a little bit screwed in terms of fashion. i started out not wanting to look like everyone else, and this has lead me to be spending undue amounts of time and money on fashion in order to sustain this. shoes for example: for running shoes pretty much the only thing i will wear is onitsuka tigers because they dont have very good distribution in canada right now so not a lot of people are wearing them. pumas would be fine except that everyone wears them so i wouldnt be caught dead in them. so theres the issue of not wanting to look like everyone else in a consumer society and the possibility of this being a fools errand or something.
the thing is though that i dont want to look 'elite', yet thats pretty much the way i dress. i dont want to look hard to talk to. i want to be approachable. i want to dress according to my environment. having recently moved to a small town, i kind of feel like i need a different wardrobe. for example right now im looking for sunglasses that arent fashionable yet that i dont feel stupid wearing.
if we were alone in the world what would we care what we looked like. so fashion is about presenting an image of yourself to other people. ive got 2 options as i see it: continue working out what i like to wear and face the real possibility that this will lead me further into obscure and expensive stuff that will never leave me satisfied, or just drop fashion alltogether. what id like to know is whether a lot of people give up on fashion and what happened when they did. i realize that its only one factor in how you present yourself to the world.
er, thanks!
also i think this is part of a larger trend toward 'eliteness' where i find most music, movies, conversation, etc spectacularly bad. ive already dropped music alltogether. oh lord what have i done to myself.
posted by GleepGlop to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (43 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
oh, and i found dropping music very liberating. popular music and popular fashion both seem like young people's pursuits... fashion next?
posted by GleepGlop at 10:33 AM on June 18, 2005

Not to be a turd, but is there a question in there at all?

(And you realize that the short title field is there to serve as a title, so you don't have to repeat the exact same thing in the field named "Your question", right? That field is, oddly, for a question.)
posted by delfuego at 10:49 AM on June 18, 2005

I think yes, fasion next. Look decent, but don't spend much money or time worrying about it. Worrying about how you look detracts from time spent on important issues, like how you think.
posted by jikel_morten at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2005

Dressing contrary to what other people wear means that you are still very influenced by them. Try wearing what looks good to you and on you. There are shapes, styles and colors I will and won't wear. Some years I'm in style; most years not. I try to imagine what my picture would look like in 100 years - stupid, funny, interesting?

The fashion industry is horrible to women, so I refuse to cooperate. The US has a massive oversupply of consumer goods; I don't have to be part of the consumer machine. I buy most of my clothes at resale and charity shops. If I buy new clothes, they're on clearance. I try to buy clothes that are well-made, durable, and that I can move in. Gaining weight is a pain, because it takes me time to build a wardrobe I like.
posted by theora55 at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2005

Read "American Psycho"
posted by geoff. at 11:08 AM on June 18, 2005

Not sure if I can answer your question, but that's because I'm not sure what your question is, so:

I choose clothes based on their purpose. Like theora55 says, I try to wear things that look good on me, especially for clothes I would wear to work, interviews, other occasions where look is important; that's because the purpose of work clothes is to look professional.
The main purpose of everyday clothes, to me, is comfort, so I find jeans that are comfortable first, and "fashionable" second. Usually the comfortable clothes I find are also in fashion according to some style, because that's why they're in stores.
The purpose of running shoes is to go running in, so I find shoes that meet my running-shoe needs and are good for my feet. All other things being equal, shoes that are fair-trade or US-made or cheaper would win out, since those are my secondary criteria. I wouldn't buy, like, lime green & magenta ones, but if they fit me well and support my feet then I mostly don't care what they look like.
The primary purpose of a winter coat is warmth; secondary criteria include not clashing hideously with everything else I own and not looking awful on me, so I choose based on those.

Obviously there are things I don't like and won't buy, and price (because I am a broke grad student) and general appeal (to me) of the garment are always factors, but thinking about how well the garment would suit its purpose in my life is pretty much always where I start.
posted by librarina at 11:16 AM on June 18, 2005

You dropped music before fashion? How can you "drop" music?! It's only the lifeblood of the universe!

Cool people listen to, watch, and wear whatever interests them. They're happy to share their knowledge and opinions with others, but are never judgmental or condescending.

Try to be cool.
posted by Eamon at 11:31 AM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

I used to dress very punky-blue hair, lots of thrift store stuff, studded belt, all the usual "I'm different!" stuff. However, as I got older, I found two things happening: 1. I had to be more adaptable in my wardrobe, going from a retail job to school for example, so I had to find clothes that made less of a specific statement. 2. I didn't want people to judge me so quickly anymore. Walking around looking like I did, I got the reactions you'd expect, and it became tiresome to be watched for shoplifting, be expected to like certain kinds of music, etcetera.
So: currently, I am working a on looks that move from situation to situation seamlessly. While I don't want to look like the masses, I take a certain pride in buying something ordinary and tweaking it a little (with accessories, combinations or whatever) so it is my own.
You might want to consider keeping a some interesting things-cool shoes- and mixing them with say, ordinary but flattering jeans. I assume that you are an interesting person and people will probably figure that out once they talk to you. You don't have to tell them with everything you wear.
posted by slimslowslider at 11:36 AM on June 18, 2005

I don't see what the question is, so instead of an answer I will offer a comment:

Buying those shoes because they're hard to find is just as stupid as wearing something because everybody else is wearing it.
posted by elisabeth r at 11:43 AM on June 18, 2005

eamon: Cool people listen to, watch, and wear whatever interests them. They're happy to share their knowledge and opinions with others, but are never judgmental or condescending.

elisabeth r: Buying those shoes because they're hard to find is just as stupid as wearing something because everybody else is wearing it.

Bingo. You may think you're being fashionable and not letting pop fashion influence you. You're just reacting against it. Buy clothes that look good on you. Whether they're from Zellers, or they're Prada, Dsquared or Jordache, it doesn't matter. Do they look good on you? That's all you need. Saying you won't be caught dead in Pumas because everyone else wears them is foolish in the extreme. Are they comfortable shoes? Do they look good? Do they last? That's all you need to know, and bollocks to anything else.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2005 [1 favorite]

I agree with what others have said. Try to find your own personal sense of style, it may bend slightly with the prevailing wind but still be consistent year-to-year. It's all about finding what you love, not reacting to every little trend whether positively or negatively. For example, I've been waiting for years for the 3/4 sleeve and capri pant fads to die out. I don't hate capris because they're ubiquitous, I would be happy if it were something I like but short pants just don't appeal to me. When pencil skirts come into fashion you can bet I'll be all over it.

And what Eamon said. For fuck's sake man, stop worrying about what other people think so much! That's why headphones were invented.
posted by cali at 11:51 AM on June 18, 2005

This almost sounds like a cry for direction. My advice: volunteer at a soup kitchen or something similar, because the thing you apparently need to learn is that fashion is nothing. It means shit in the world of real people, and there are much more important things you can do with your life.

Abandon the shallow.
posted by frykitty at 11:54 AM on June 18, 2005

A man who has at length found something to do will not need to
get a new suit to do it in; for him the old will do, that has lain
dusty in the garret for an indeterminate period. Old shoes will
serve a hero longer than they have served his valet -- if a hero
ever has a valet -- bare feet are older than shoes, and he can make
them do. Only they who go to soires and legislative balls must
have new coats, coats to change as often as the man changes in them.
But if my jacket and trousers, my hat and shoes, are fit to worship
God in, they will do; will they not? Who ever saw his old clothes
-- his old coat, actually worn out, resolved into its primitive
elements, so that it was not a deed of charity to bestow it on some
poor boy, by him perchance to be bestowed on some poorer still, or
shall we say richer, who could do with less? I say, beware of all
enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of
clothes. If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made
to fit?
posted by sfenders at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2005

i think you need to be a lot more subtle, and also learn to rely a lot more on good taste than on finding "niche" brands. to be honest, while i understand a lot of where you're going, the whole idea that you "only wear... some brand" just sounds like a jerk. it's not about brands. it's not even about the cut of any particular piece of clothing. it's about finding a consistent, comfortable (wearable and easy on the mind) style that suits you. it's ok to wear shoes that someone else might wear (hell, my favourite pair of boots this winter are CAT, and i never thought i'd buy something from that mega-brand) - because they won't be wearing them with the same things you are wearing. it's the whole thing that matters.

...and that means that you no longer need to care about brands. you buy stuff because it's part of what you wear. which can save you money. brands are still useful in some low-level way because you learn certain brands tend to match your style. but that's just a convenience; it's not a requirement.

the same goes for music. you don't have to stop listening to new music, you just stop caring so much about which label it's on or whether or not other people have heard about it. i only heard of the gotan project a few months ago, two years after all the cool people did. so what? i listen to it now and love it. along with a cd that i bought from the producer up the road, and some old groove armada classics. i listen to my music. i wear my clothes. neither requires much effort; i buy both in the sales, when i come across stuff that fits.

maybe i'm a bit evangelic on this. and maybe i don't dress that well by some people's standards. but i moved from the uk (where no-one cares about dressing well), to a latin culture, with a latin partner, where i was pretty much humiliated, fashion-wise. i've fought back - i will not dress like they do, bloody clones that they are, but i want to hold my own. so this is just what i've learn so far. maybe there's a better solution, or this only applies to my case...
posted by andrew cooke at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2005

heh. i post that and it appears after what i assume is thoreau. well, maybe i'm too shallow. or maybe i just can't write as well. i don't believe in heroes, myself. someone else can die for the cause. but you can care about clothes without being a clothes horse, in my opinion.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:03 PM on June 18, 2005

oh, and abandon the shallow, but live in a nice big house, eh, frykitty?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2005

I wear a bicycle jersey and bike shorts everywhere I go. No one forgets me, ever. I've got these great obscure bike jerseys from the former Soviet Union, nobody else has 'em.
posted by fixedgear at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2005

The only rule of fashion that matters is dress in layers so that if it's cold OR warm, you're set.
posted by Hildago at 12:35 PM on June 18, 2005

To be honest, I quoted that Thoreau because it's the only thing I can think of that's relevant to the philosophy of fashion. But I think he's got it right. He's much more to say on the subject if you want to read the whole thing.
posted by sfenders at 12:48 PM on June 18, 2005

maybe delete my post replying to frykitty? i thought they were whacking the guy ("nothing") for spending money or one thing rather than other, when it seems to me like either is ok - it's just personal choice. anyway, it was too strong because i offended them (private email, which is cool). sorry.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:51 PM on June 18, 2005

Big houses are shallow? WTF?

Caring too much what others think is fashionable.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:53 PM on June 18, 2005

sorry if it doesnt seem like a clear question is being asked. i thought 'philosophy of fashion' was the only way i could really encompass it because smaller issues here may have bigger roots...
as for not wanting to be caught dead wearing certain things, while this may be rare, it is also very common i think.
i have certainly found that how i dress influences how people relate to me. this is a fact of life for the superficial encounters that may lead to deeper relations.
just some random comments...

hey, thanks for the thoreau :)
posted by GleepGlop at 12:55 PM on June 18, 2005

i think "fashion" can be read in different ways. you can take it as the stupid industry, for example. but to say that it's "caring what other people think" as if that dismisses it is silly, too. if you don't care what other people think, why communicate at all? fashion can be seen as a way of communicating, just like posting to mefi.
posted by andrew cooke at 1:04 PM on June 18, 2005

and i assume that its common for people to give up on fashion. i just havent spoken to anyone that has...
i would be very happy in a place where everyone just wore desert robes or some other dress out of necessity. damn choices and the opportunity to assert individuality...
the pumas vs tigers thing: it doesnt have to do with brands for me. its graphic design. ill wear a shirt from the gap for example, but only if it has no recognizable pattern, because then obviously i would have thousands of clones in my city. yeah, he got that shirt at the gap. the tigers design arent sufficiently saturated so i can wear them. but i wouldnt switch to say, kangaroos, because thats more of a logo. fucked up, huh.
posted by GleepGlop at 1:07 PM on June 18, 2005

basically there is a tension that runs through my life between wanting to be an individual and find my own path, and not wanting to alienate myself from the people around me. both things i think we can all relate to. sometimes this path is a linear progression: 'i once thought that was good, but now i see that its bad compared to this.' for music, i got to the point where i saw through it all. it was all bad. i cared much more about music than i ever will about fashion. but my interest in music is personal. my interest in fashion i wear on my sleeve /ducks
posted by GleepGlop at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2005

GleepGlop (18Ker) writes "i have certainly found that how i dress influences how people relate to me."

I wonder if it's more relevant that how you dress influences how you feel and therefore how you present yourself, which influences how people relate to you?
When I am in clothes that make me physically uncomfortable, or even emotionally uncomfortable (under- or overdressed, for example), I am sure that I come off as unhappy. I know I can get snippy and short with people when my feet hurt from wearing high heels, or be uninterested in conversation when wearing a dress that makes it hard to breathe, for example.
posted by librarina at 1:26 PM on June 18, 2005

nah, you know how girls can be like: i want a skater. i want a surfer. sometimes people are just attracted to a look, and have presuppositions about people wearing certain looks.

actually i have another choice besides the 2 i outlined in my original post. i can choose a point i wont go beyond in the pursuit of fashion. like learn the basics like someone mentioned, like how clothes are supposed to fit, what colours go good together, etc, and then just dress classically and subtly based on whats available at the local mall instead of tracking obscure shit down.
posted by GleepGlop at 1:34 PM on June 18, 2005

geoff: i saw the movie american psycho... does the book get into these kind of issues actually? or are you just comparing me to the psycho. either way is cool, whatever.
posted by GleepGlop at 1:42 PM on June 18, 2005

actually that 3rd option is probably a cop out. its either care about fashion or dont. i think we all dress the best we can, if we care. or maybe not. any experiences?
posted by GleepGlop at 1:53 PM on June 18, 2005

You are slowly killing yourself by caring so much about things like this. You don't need to run around "abandoning" things as a reaction to your perceived relationship with other people--you need to adjust your brain until you realize how pointless that is. Maybe reading some Eastern philosophy would help you reset your focus.
posted by Galvatron at 2:00 PM on June 18, 2005

Fashion is frivolous. The phrase "philosophy of fashion" is about the most oxymoronic that one could ever hope to find. Fashion does NOT require a philosophy. That's about all that can be said of the topic.

Nonetheless, I like clothing. I like shoes. I like accessories. Wear what you like, but don't allow yourself to think that it actually means something. It amuses me to no end when I hear fashion "designers" talk about their clothes as if fashion is a freaking science or something. And they aren't "designing" anything anyway. For the most part, everything has already been done. There aren't going to be any earth shattering revelations or discoveries in the field of fashion.

Take a step back and relax. Look around. Look to history. Look to other cultures. Don't be so damn modern. Who's style do you admire? The people I admire are almost always 60+ It's that crazy guy you see walking around with a yellow top hat and a yellow umbrella. Or the hip old men with their brown sweaters, corduroy pants, and plaid hats. But don't be a buster. Nobody likes a buster. The goal is not to cop someone's style, but rather to incorporate elements of various styles into one that is all your own.
posted by crapulent at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2005

A fourth option is to buy stuff that's some combination of cheap, comfortable, functional, and long-lasting/well-made, in colors/patterns you like. Usually you'd get three at the expense of the fourth, I suppose.

Anybody whose opinion of you changes depending on how you're dressed (within pretty wide bounds, anyway) doesn't have an opinion worth considering, as far as I care, though of course you do have to suck up to them and wear whatever uniform they insist on if they're in some position of authority relative to you.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:48 PM on June 18, 2005

actually i have another choice besides the 2 i outlined in my original post. i can choose a point i wont go beyond in the pursuit of fashion. like learn the basics like someone mentioned, like how clothes are supposed to fit, what colours go good together, etc, and then just dress classically and subtly based on whats available at the local mall instead of tracking obscure shit down.

I was going to suggest this, but then I see you put it forth yourself...and then called it a copout. It isn't. Some styles are common because they have been forced on the public by marketing, some are common because they work well for a lot of people. For example, buying a shirt that looks good on people of your coloring and build is not a crime, even if thousands or millions of other people with similar features have made the same discovery. Most of them probably won't match it properly color-wise, or keep it clean, or iron it, or think about the fabric and the cut and know what else to wear it with. If you do, you are distinguishing yourself in a way that does not require you to go to the ends of the earth to buy weird stuff.
posted by bingo at 3:29 PM on June 18, 2005

I'm making a big assumption here that you're under 30, but....

Turn 30. You won't give a shit about all of that anymore by that point.
posted by matildaben at 11:00 PM on June 18, 2005

There are 2 things here:
philosophy of Fashion
philosophy of Fashion Houses.

One is about you, the other is about their wallet (at your expense).

That being said, I'll share my outlook. I like to accomplish two things in my choice of clothing:
1) Blend in to the crowd
2) Be reasonably acceptable in as many situations as possible.

The first one is about the defensive ability to go unnoticed. If I require notice, my behavior will do the trick easily. There are times when one simply must go unnoticed, and that can happen when least expected.

The second issue is about being able to stroll into places without looking like I don't belong there. The kinds of places where this is important to me tend to the conservative. I tend to dress a bit like old money, it is the very best protective coloration. Emphasis on the old! New money dresses to impress. Old dresses to look decent and be comfortable.

I have learned to avoid a lot of hassles this way. It has only occasionally been a problem to look other than I am. I adore how people react when I decide to show some personality that is in sharp contrast to my style. The ones that get a chuckle out of it usually make good friends.

It ain't easy writing this! These are ideas rooted in the history of 20 years ago, living in NYC in my 20's. I'm old now, my age itself provides a lot of coloration. Some fashion looks absolutely ridiculous on someone past 40!

My ideas of what is what are now likely totally screwed up. I've lived in 3 very different countries and settings (German urban, British suburban, African semi-urban) in the period of a few years. LOL!
posted by Goofyy at 12:56 AM on June 19, 2005

Fashion serves many purposes, of course, but even when you've outgrown most of them, one tends to remain: Fashion gives you something to like when you really have no preference of your own. Novelty fills in for genuine interest.

If you really loved your onitsuka tigers, there would really be no question here.

Where you have no real preference of your own, wear what's comfortable and economical. Let your personality be the interesting thing. Or just be uninteresting; it can save a lot of time.

You may still find yourself buying certain articles retail (because you really have a preference for them), but you may also find yourself saving a ton of money buying all your shirts at Goodwill.
posted by bricoleur at 5:40 AM on June 19, 2005

matildaben and goofyy, i think you just cleared it up for me. i cant be 'indie' at 30! ill look rediculous. i think i just have to look forward to being able to put a conservative outfit together by the time i hit 30. i dont mind at all the idea of blending in. besides, my occupation will probably be deciding my dress by that point.
posted by GleepGlop at 8:32 AM on June 19, 2005

What a weird thread.

Fashion is merely the current fad. A strong individual develops a personal Style, partially or wholly independent from the current fashion. GleepGlop "feeling screwed" sounds like a fashion victim waking up -- well, congratulations! There are many other facets of the real world which may have value different from your original perception.

Quit blowing your cash on all that 'elite' crap and just shop at the thrift store for a while! Same with music -- there's whole genres out there you've probably never even heard, if you're just focused on what's currently trendy -- try something different! And don't think being less distinctive means becoming conservative -- think of it as maintaining a low profile. That way you draw less attention from The Man.
posted by Rash at 9:59 AM on June 19, 2005

By weird I mean my reaction to, because rebellion against fashion became fashionable when I was coming up and I thought was still a viable reaction, even today.
posted by Rash at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2005

oh, and i found dropping music very liberating. popular music and popular fashion both seem like young people's pursuits... fashion next?

This is the weirdest fucking to say. "give up" music? Music is a source of joy and emotion and aesthetic pleasure! It's not 'something hip kids do'. I mean, I know it is, but seriously, even if you're affected by what music other people like, don't you at least have some kind of personal/aesthetic reaction? Have you really never experienced the pleasure of listening to a song you personally liked (and would have liked alone on a desert island, too)?

ANyway, it sounds like your question is really, should I follow trends in general, and the answer, of course, is no.
Don't just conform your taste to the trend. Think of it like fashion is the conversation about clothes that's going on right now. What's produced is what's getting talked about. Just like with anything, stuff that's being talked about will be higher on your radar that other things, but you'll still have your old favorites, and you'll still disagree with current critics / observers. Work out your own identity, and express that personality in fields where you feel some personal connection (maybe the way you look has an affect on you or maybe ultimately you don't care; likewise, maybe music makes you feel things or maybe it just does nothing for you (though if the latter I encourage you to check out non popular kinds of music and see if that's really true or you just haven't found your kind of music... but that's another topic)).

So wear what makes you happy (whether because it is comfortable, looks good, says something, whatever) not what fits or doesn't fit some overall scheme of what's "in". The only reason the current fashions should really affect you are a)they remind you of things you always liked but hadn't thought of for a while, b)introduce you to styles you like but hadn't seen before, or c)they make such clothing available to buy.
posted by mdn at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2005

i think this is part of a larger trend toward 'eliteness' where i find most music, movies, conversation, etc spectacularly bad.

Worse than on the Internet?
posted by Laugh_track at 1:59 PM on June 19, 2005

i think in the meantime before i hit 30 im going to switch my casual dress from indie/hipster to outdoor gear. that way utility considerations will nullify fashion considerations. i dont think my reasons for wanting to look different are any different from any other indie/hipster dude. and then we all end up looking the same, and have spent the most time shopping out of anyone! stupid, stupid, stupid.
posted by GleepGlop at 7:33 PM on June 19, 2005

that way utility considerations will nullify fashion considerations

Somehow, you don't sound like the sort of person who can stick to utility alone - you'll just end up seeking out obscure brands of utility clothing!

What I don't get is why you're fretting so much about this - so you like fashion, so what? I'm not unlike you - how it pained me when Onitsuka started to be widely distributed in the UK! - and recognise that spending time and money on clothes is not the best use of either, but, hey, it's fun. Embrace your dandyism, it's not worth having an existential crisis over the love of an interesting shoe.

But dropping music? That's just terrifying.
posted by jack_mo at 8:36 PM on June 20, 2005

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