In today’s world, any ordinary schmuck can go from being horribly dressed and fashion unconscious to being unquestionably stylish and cool in about a day with the help of a few hundred dollars and couple hours on the internet. Each social denomination has a dress code and a whole industry aimed at refining it. The boundaries have been so established that with a little observation you can pretty much figure out exactly what a hipster, a rapper, a punk or a prepster (just to name a few) will look like and emulate accordingly.
And despite the general tone of disgusting conformity, it’s hard to argue that the clothes don’t look good. The various industry supported fashion scenes have certainly managed to attain a certain expertise. Simply put, a pair of Converse, skinny jeans, a tight heavily decorated t-shirt and black thick rimmed glasses look amazing. A baseball cap, a baggy shirt, saggy jeans, high-end kicks, a gold chain and a couple fake diamond earrings and rings can look just as good. Further listing of stereotypical uniforms would be redundant. However what this all boils down to is, by its extreme availability, hip fashion has lost any value it might have had. Of course there are slight variations, but in essence, anyone can buy a look with a short trek to the shopping mall, or its city equivalent of that stretch of Broadway which goes through SoHo and has the highest clothing store densityIve ever encountered.
Anyone can fit the standard for cool with minimum effort. Therefore, being well dressed is no longer a sign of any sort of admirable agency or cultivated taste; the condition of pleasing attire is harder to avoid than to find. What this means is that for fashion to retain any sort of original productive and respectable value (for those who wear the clothes and not the folks who make them), it must grow from the individual rather than an industry. We must make our own clothes, or at least change them substantially from their original store-bought condition.
While it’s exceedingly difficult to trump a business which has grown to be as immense and talented as conventional fashion has, it isn’t necessary because no, it’s almost impossible to splatter your shoes with paint more elegantly than some art school graduate who’s stared at Pollock for twenty years and now works for a clothing designer. However, what you can retain is distinction. And distinction ultimately carries more importance than a complete knowledge of the moments new trends.
So what do I advocate? Wear the same Converse, skinny jeans and tight t-shirt, just put something interesting on it, or if that seems impossible, find someone who can. Is there really a substantial difference between the soon to fade homemade garment array and the almost perfect store-bought getup? Perhaps the literal difference is slight, but the spiritual difference is quite immense.
First published in The New York Optimist