First of all, it is important to note that fashion in general has made a home for itself in Western culture, more than anywhere else in the world. Ever since the 12th century, all the way to the present day, fashion in the West has "...trickled down from the affluent to the poor through used clothing dealers and affected dress at all levels of society..." (Perrot, 25). Taking a look at other cultures around the world we can indefinitely see clothing and fashion have not nearly the same impact as it does in the United States or in Western Europe. Clothing and fasion in the United Sates and Western Europe has embeded itself in our way of life to the point where our human desire to accomplish and progress as individuals is expressed through tangibles such as clothing. Through clothing we see the accomplishment of "wealth" and "success" and label individuals and groups based on the price and hype of their clothing.
Perrot makes an interesting comparison between the Chinese Peasant and the French Peasant regarding clothing and garment wear. But I would like to subsitute the French Peasant with a more contemporary image that we, as Americans can better relate to. When looking at the Chinese peasant Perrot states there is little change in their garment wear over the span of as much as 8 centuries; clearly seeing that clothing and fashion holds less importance in the culture. Now lets look at the "hip hop" culture of contemporary America. I choose hip hop culture simply because it was a culture created for the less economically privileged. It was a way for poor minorities and poor whites to seek an alternative to rich clothing and culture. But lets look at what hip hop culture has turned into in the past eight to ten years. Looking at mainstream hip hop artists we can see that being a "thug" or dressing like a boy from the hood has changed drastically. Clothing manufacturers like FUBU and Marc Echo are a complete hypocrisy of what hip hop culture stands for. Now the "poor man's" alternative the world of expensive clothing and fashion is no more another branch to the way in which Western society boasts about socioeconomic status and success. Worst of all, this culture has now become an addiction for the actual poor and underpriviledged "joes" who instead of buying diapers or clothing for their babies, spend all their money on ridiculously expensive hats, shirts, jeans, chains and shoes so they can fit in with this image that the fasion industry has labeled as "legitimate" or hip. This is hypocrisy.
It becomes essential for all of us to be able to take a step back from this contemporary culture that we live in and recognize what role fashion and clothing in the United States play as a socioeconomic variable in our everday lives. If we can do this I feel that it's the biggest first step in the right direction for controlled consumption and overcoming the excessiveness of consumerism today.
Ma$on Mallory :P
Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeousie. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. pp 3-25