Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Fashion: Where Individuality Meets Conformity

Fashion and Why We Care

Zoom in, I'm wearing the first women in electrical engineering.

Apparently, it’s cool to act like you don’t care about fashion. Privately, we all know that we know better.

 Even Steve Jobs, the Apple CEO who wore that black tee shirt and jeans and looked like he could care less, cared deeply. By the by, that iconic black turtleneck tee was made by my favorite designer, Issey Miyake. (Jobs was a huge fan of Japanese culture.)

We care, and I’m going to tell you why.

Fashion is our way of expressing our individuality and our conformity—at the same time.

Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to express yourself, be yourself, be who you really are, because “Mom, everybody is wearing it.”

It’s why the guy with the boring suit and boring tie has the world’s best sock drawer. We use what we wear to express who we are and yet, we don’t know how to do it because someone else already did it first.

As a sociologist, I love fashion. It speaks louder than body language. I love to watch the smallest detail that screams, “This is me, take it or leave it.”

I marvel at what I call the airport uniforms of blue jeans, shorts, khakis and even pajamas. For a color fix, I sometimes venture to the airport’s international terminal where people from around the globe still dress their best to travel to parts unknown.

Even the folks who rebel against fashion set fashion trends and then become enslaved to the “brand” they co-created.

Like it or not, our fashion says who we are and what we reject. It speaks to who you’ve been told to be and how you rebel against it. Like nothing else, fashion speaks to the fact that the self is social; that we are a product of the world around us.

I love seeing a peak of beaded bracelets on the wrist of a buttoned-up businessman. It may be saying, “I’ve got this job and I do it well, but when the door is closed, I’m meditating.

I adore that octogenarian woman who wears the “loud” (her words not mine,) colorful jacket when she goes to pick up her prescription and the way my mechanic creases her jeans.

Every year, Americans spend $300 billion on fashion, and that’s only what we admit and report. The world spends $3 trillion on fashion and much of that is on the fast kind.

Whether we like it or not, admit it or don’t, fashion speaks, and it tells a story. The big question here is, who is really controlling the narrative?

Is your fashion telling your story?

Are you truly expressing yourself or is your fashion a rebellion of the self you aren’t even aware of?

Do you even know where your clothes came from and what they truly cost?

Admit it, you care about fashion, but make sure your fashion cares and reflects you.

Be you, be well, be yourself.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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