A Short Thinking: Social Genealogy of the Fashion





Written by: Sobhan Rezaee


Abstract
In this Article, my approach to the fashion is based on the social roots and needs of this phenomenon. Fashion is a modern item and differs with its predecessors. The fashion used for support the hegemony, distinct the subcultures and connects these separated parts of the modern society together and defines a specific distance between them. And also, the identity of the fashion cause to regenerates itself constantly. Indeed the fashion is a kind of non verbal communication which consist the communicational process: the sender, the receiver and the message. The fashioning person sends his/her messages in the form of Yes or No (0 or 1) to other people, and defines his position between several groups of the society and form the perception of others from himself/herself.

Keywords: Fashion, Nonverbal Communication, Modernity



Introduction
The Age of Enlightenment and then Modernity have created new world for social life. Every day we are getting up, wear special clothes and use some consecrated body decorating, enter the traffic streets, confront with hundreds people who are dependant to different subcultures, receive the mass media messages and so on.
Metropolitan environment is included with intensification of nervous stimulation, social pressures, crowded spaces and deeply difference on social classes. In urban life, we are strangers and are absolutely alone. Georg Simmel in interpreting this kind of exists said: “The deepest problems of modern life drive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces.”(Simmel, 1997:174-5) In other words he thinks that the various aspects of urban life are threatening to our sense.

Increasing Distances
When Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of the sociology, decide to understand the modern world, paid attention to the solidarity and define two kinds of this concept: “Mechanical” and “Organic”. He thinks that industrial societies include organic solidarity which causes to increase up the diversity in division of labors and specialization. (Durkheim, 1947) In this sequel, people are finding themselves with different proficiencies, so the sharing part of their minds is decreasing. People are connected together with the instrumentality of their expert ability. On the other hand, Simmel believed that in such society, self to self communication face to another gap: The Money. This item is also cause to break the human interactions and has become them more anonymous. (Simmel, 1997:177)


However, Karl Marx with the concept of the “alienation” underlined the rupture of modern man, too. (Marx, 1978) He discovered the superstructure of modernity in the system of production and defined it in ownership of means of production and the relation of production. He believed that the dominant ideology reflects views and interests of owners of means of production (Bourgeoisie) and serves to legitimate their authority. And on the other hand, He thinks to the separation from fellow humans, sentiments of isolation and inability to live in a fulfillment society. (Marx, 1954) All of them formed the theory of alienation in Marx’s thinking.
So, modern human in the urban life is a being who specialized, monetrarist and alienated. The increase of specialization in division labor, caused to decrease the diameter of sphere the “social common mind.” Furthermore, the Money in our society breaks the interaction and direct communication of people and it melt to an important instrumentality. And above all, the system of production alienated us.
These are coordinating with the idea of individualism in enlightenment and modernity. All of them separate person from others and society and weaken the power of personal interaction. Therefore, the public transform to a collection of disconnected or badconnected parts.






Modern Alternative for Loneliness
Modernity broke the traditional structure of relationship in society, but used a special way for covering these gaps: The influences of the self to self communication replaced with the new mass media communication which is improving very fast. Books, Newspapers, Radios, TVs and other web based media are affecting on the sphere of the “social common mind” and form the shared apparent and inapparent faces for people of the society. Therefore, public opinion is structured for minds and the fashion was created for surfaces.

Social Hieroglyphics
Today, in our society people wear variform of clothes, body decorations, Jewels… and would be pride of their choices. Indeed, they are using these surfaces for communication to others. And also as Marx said, we make our decision about the social status and the role of the people based on what they are wearing. (Marx, 1954: 77) These clothes and decorations are definite means for social relation between men and women and we can call them with the Marx creative word: “Social Hieroglyphics”. (Marx, 1954: 79)





So, Modernity has structured a new system of appearing: The fashion. This phenomenon has a lot of differences with its predecessors. For example, religious, military or ethnical clothing related to other dress codes such as tradition, hierarchy and even intimidation. They are fixed dress which does not change during the short time.
But the fashion system set the current acceptable and unacceptable codes for clothing behavior and body making. However in the social fashion game, it revises on its rules constantly. According to Jennifer Craik, Fashion is technology of civility which prescribes special conduction in the practices of self-formation and self-presentation. (Craik, 1993:4-6)
Nowadays fashion takes an important role for social actors. And the people based on their amount of societal presence, attention to the fashion. As Bourdieu in his great work, “Distinction”, says: “The proportion of women who say they “tend not to take account of fashion always higher among women who do not work outside the home ((59 percent as against 47 percent)).” (Bourdieu, 1984, 378)


A Basic tension
But why a person should take his/her preferences from a fashion system? How can we consent to accept these strict codes for clothing and bodily behaviors? Georg Simmel, famous sociologist, argued on these questions and responded it: “two social tendencies are essential to the establishment of fashion’ and should either of these tendencies be absent from or lacking in a society, fashion will not be formed. The first of these tendencies is the need for union (Socializing impulse) and the second is the need for isolation (differentiating impulse) (Simmel, 1971: 301). The contrast of individuality and social identity which becoming from sharing spheres of the person and societal groups, are faced together in our cultural minds. Both of them are based on human needs and are improving in separate roots. According to Simmel, we face a tension between our need to remain inconspicuous in such settings, and the need to assert our identity or to be noticed. (Smith, 2001: 20) So the fashion is a mean for define a specific distance between us.








A Vital Aesthetics
The importance of the role the aesthetics inspired upper classes of society to design a special theme for their aesthetical taste. They are using the fashion as a mean for naturalize their higher status in the societal environment. The speciality and expensiveness of the fashion help them to distinct themselves from the “others”. But this process has a failure point, too: Time Limitation.
As Adrian Forty reported: “In eighteen century England, printed cottons were relatively expensive and were worn only by the more affluent middle and upper class women. With the development of the cotton industry in Lancashire in the early nineteenth century, however these printed cottons became cheaper and working-class women could afford to buy the new cotton dress material for themselves. Consequently, by 1818 a draper in London could report that these cotton prints were worn principally by servants and the lower classes. In response, the middle and the upper classes abandoned printed cotton dress material in favour of plain white dresses … inspired, it was said by the wish to imitate the form of classical figures. (Bernard, 1996: 40 cited from Forty, 1986: 73-5) So this kind of appearing support the hegemony of the society and when confront to such obstacles, change itself and regenerate the fashion process.




Fashion as a Medium
Fashion has an important role more than simply clad the body for warmth, modesty beautification or comfort. Indeed, they are technical devices which include some codes for link a particular body with social milieu. Our everyday experiences show that clothes and adorning are selected according to what one will be doing that day, which is expected to meet and what is the mood of the wearer and so on. The fashion is a form of non verbal communication which is structured like others. So, it has the three basic part of communicational process: The Sender, The Receiver and the Message. The user of a fashioned style is the sender and the people who confront him/her are receiver. But the message is a more complicated item.
On this account, a garment or other fashioned item would be a channel which sends Yes or No (0 or 1) to other people. I mean the weared fashion link wearer to the subcultures such as bourgeoisies, intellectuals, politicians, business men, young persons, teenagers, punks, raps and so on. Then, the sender says to receiver that I am a member of your group, so I agree with the basic principles of that group. Or I am not a member of your group and subscribed in another group, which is… so I agree with a different basic principals and I differ with you. Then, in the modern society, the perceptions of our being and other beings are formed and the loneliness of the modern human based on the fashion transform to a subcultural ourness.


Conclusion


1. Modern human in the urban life is a being who specialized, monetarist and alienated. The increase of specialization in division labor, cause to decrease the diameter of sphere the “social common mind.” On the other hand, the Money in our society breaks the interaction and direct communication of people and it melt to an important instrumentality. And above all, the system of production alienated us. All of them, separate person from others and weaken the power of personal interaction. Therefore, the public transform to a collection of disconnected or badconnected parts.


2. The modernity broke the traditional relation network in society and replaced it with the mass media as central communicational points. Then, it can control the common minds of the broken parts (subcultures) and specify them with distinctive fashion.


3. The functions of the un-fashioned clothes and body decorations are different. For example, religious, military or ethnical clothing related to codes such as tradition, hierarchy and even intimidation. But the fashion appearing use for support the hegemony, distinct the subcultures link the people and indeed is a non verbal communication means. And also, during the time, fashion regenerates itself constantly.


4. The fashion is a form of non verbal communication which is structured like others. So, it has the three basic part of communicational process: The Sender, The Receiver and the Message. The fashioning person sends his/her messages in the form of Yes or No (0 or 1) to other people, and defines his position between several groups of the society and form the perception of others from himself/herself.


5. The Global Fashion is a kind of screen which are using very much. This Communicational process is based on the power of global media which can promote Fashion models towards a worldwide network. I mean Cinema, TV, Music and other creators of cultural stereotypes prepare the contents of fashioned messages and strengthen this process with their attractive items.


6. When these cultural waves come to a certain region, confront local orders and traditions. So, the reacts are very different. In the countries like Iran, the formal reacts against the fashion is varied. But when they antagonize with the fashion, their intentions are disaccording with strip clothing (you should intend the cultural standards for clothing and decoration) or against with the western culture. Indeed they see the West as an origin of immorality and injustice who want to extend their models and evil forms. In many times, they localize the fashioned models and recover them in contrast the developing the western surfaces. For example the dresses is longed, widen, or the same clothing is altered which haven’t any strip parts. But they forgot that covering the strip parts or localization of global fashion can be popular them in a larger sphere and strengthen the fashion process.



References

1. Bernard, Malcolm, 1996, Fashion as Communication, Routledge
2. Bourdieu, 1984, Pierre, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, Translated to English by Richard Nice, Routledge & Kegan Paul
3. Craik, Jennifer, 1993, The face of fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion, Routledge
4. Durkheim, Emile, 1947, “The Division of Labor in Society”, Translated from the French to English by George Simpson, Glencoe, Illinois
5. Forty, Adrian,1986, “Objects of desire, Thames and Hudson, London
6. Marx, Karl, 1954, Capital, Volume 1, Lawrence and Wishart
7. Marx, Karl, 1975, “The Poverty of Philosophy”, Progress Publishers
8. Marx, Karl, 1959, “The Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844” Progress Publishers
9. Simmel, G, 1971, Fashion, in wills and Midgley, Edition, on Individuality and Social Forms, University Chicago Press
10. Simmel, Georg, 1997, “Simmel on Culture”, Edited by D. Frisby and M.Featherstone, Sage Publisher
11. Smith, Philip, 2001, “Cultural Theory: An Introduction”, Blackwell Publishers


1 comment:

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