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The Effect OF Fashion on Popular Culture

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            Fashion today is often related to the identity of people wearing a certain kind of style of clothing. Yes, there is more to fashion today than just simply referring to the clothes people wear. At times some people take fashion as a certain basis for prestige and social levering. In recent years high-powered advertising, TV role models, peers, self-promotion, and also the craving for identity have worked their wardrobe wizardry, especially on the young. Some of them even steal to have the right look. Clothing has become a broader and more expressive tool of identity. Clothes, especially T-shirts, have become billboards silently advertising popular sports and sports heroes, humor, disenchantment, aggressiveness, morality—or a lack of it—and commercial products.

            Consequently, as fashion changes, the modern culture also tends to evolve. How are these two sectors involving the society intertwined with each other? The following Paragraphs shall discuss the important facts about fashion and how it strongly affects the culture in a certain society.

What is Fashion?

            The word “fashion” usually applies to the prevailing mode of expression. When it comes to clothes it is more often than not that fashion is considered an identity of a group of people or as an individual as well. Fashion usually carries the idea of having involved in fads or the “in-thing” in a certain moment of time. As it is considered fad, fashion changes very fast. At times, it doesn’t even take years to wait for a certain fashion style to fade and be replaced by the new one.

Psychologists say that fashion could be accepted as a part of a social phenomenon. The way fashion changes at times depend on the way people think and how they react to the changing times as well as culture.

            Meanwhile, others consider fashion as a relief from stress. Something to be given attention aside from the “boring” things involved in the habitual way a certain person faces his life. To many, it is a statement of who they are inside. To them, fashion reveals what it is that they cannot say or do as an individual. It is an internal expression of mind and being of a certain person.

            In this way, fashion could be termed as a communal way of expression. Some may not notice, but simply seeing a person and observing the dress he wears usually makes an impression to the ones looking at that individual. More often than not, fashion too is a basis of recognition for many groups of culture.

            However fashion is defined, it still ends up in one conclusion. Fashion is a social statement for an individual. However people may see it, fashion is a way by which humans express themselves as to how they understand the idea of beauty and goodness.

            But what does it really mean when it is said that fashion changes the culture of the human generation? The following topic shall tackle on this issue.

Fashion and Culture

            The winds of change are very temperamental when it comes to styles and fashion. What is “in” today is often obsolete tomorrow. Over the past few years, in some countries love beads have given way to neck chains, granny glasses to contact lenses, miniskirts to slit skirts, wide lapels to narrow lapels and tapered slacks to straight-legged slacks.

Yes, the above statement is not an exaggeration of the truth. Fashion changes so much and so does popular culture. As reports say, before fashion was simply a way of clothing one’s self, until the 16th century arrived when the European fashion was introduced to the world. It began with a touch of elegance and extravagance. People especially women who wore clothes with expensive couture and a statement of belonging to the elite were the one’s to commonly receive high respect from the society. Aside from this, the social culture during those times has been characterized by strong convictions of acting as gentlemen and fair ladies. Everything has been related to the ways of elegance.

            On the other hand, the 1780’s paved way to the Parisian fashion, which was characterized by long yet figure-revealing concepts of clothing. Then, when the 1800’s came in, every European began to dress alike. As if the dress they wore were according to the social class they belonged to. The upper class known as the elite class, the middle class and the peasants… According to psychologists, the change of culture based on the change of fashion has been merely psychological. What people saw through their eyes were more likely absorbed by their minds and therefore performed by their physical body.

            As reports say that a major factor contributing to the rapid moral decline in the latter half of the 20th century is the media culture, and among these are fashion advertisers. Today, as obviously seen, the “in-thing” in fashion is closely related to sexual passion, rebellion and violence.  In both the European and Asian culture, short skirts and figure-revealing outfits for both men and women are widely patronized. Aside from this, the baggy clothes called the “hip hop” style also get a competitively huge number of wearers.

As a result, the moral standards began to fall. As it was said earlier, what the eyes see, the mind observes and understands, then the body responds in action. With this, teenage pregnancy and rape case rates went up. How is this related? The fashion accepted in the society today usually states “sexual acquaintances are okay… so give in to the urge”. Along with this, violence involving the youth also increased, mainly suggested by the way the young generation today dress themselves up most of the feel like as if they’re strong enough to fight anybody else.

            With regards to this, Senator Lieberman said: “These trend-setters exert an extremely powerful hold on our culture and our children in particular, and they often have had little or no sense of responsibility for the harmful values they are purveying” (Times, 15). How are the effects of these negative influences evident among young people? For one thing, in recent years more children and teenagers have committed cruel acts of violence against other children as well as adults.

            A similar phenomenon can be observed in violent criminals. According to Sten Levander, a professor of psychiatry in Sweden, between 15 and 20 percent of all prison inmates today are psychopaths—people who are extremely self-centered, lack empathy, and are unable or unwilling to understand the concept of right and wrong. Even among children and youths that are seemingly normal, observers have noticed a blunting of moral senses. “We have been thrown back into a moral Stone Age,” claims Christina Hoff Sommers, a professor of philosophy. She noted that when her young students are faced with the question of what is right and what is wrong, most of them react by becoming very insecure. Then they reply that there is no such thing as right or wrong. They believe that each person must consider what is best for himself.

            Consequently, the results of rebellious fashion statements were rather devastating for the present generation. But if that’s how strong fashion statements influence the society, how does it affect a person as an individual and how does it serve as a personal identity?

“What you wear is what you are…”

            “Generally clothes are a way of identifying yourself with a particular tribe in society,” says Jane de Teliga, a fashion curator at the Powerhouse Museum, in Sydney, Australia. She adds: “You choose the tribe you wish to be identified with and dress accordingly.” Dr. Dianna Kenny, a psychology lecturer at Sydney University, stated that as a means of classifying people, clothing is as important as religion, wealth, employment, ethnicity, education, and home address. According to Jet magazine, racial tension at one nearly all-white school in the United States “erupted over White school girls wearing braids, baggy clothes, and other ‘hip-hop’ fashions because they are linked to Blacks.”

            Tribalism is also evident in some subcultures, such as the music scene: “In many cases,” says Maclean’s magazine, “the clothing matches musical tastes: reggae fans wear the bright colors and caps of Jamaica, while those favoring grunge rock sport ski tuques and plaid shirts.” But whichever variety, the thrown-on, dressed-down, waiflike look of poverty, dubbed grunge, can cost a bundle.

            Indeed, the clothes that a person wears matters so much as it is closely related to how the society rates a person’s being and qualities. Some clothes may even identify an individual from being smart or being stupid. In an article on students’ perception of teachers, the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills explains that “although the teacher wearing jeans was seen as bringing fun into the classroom, his opinions were given the least respect and he was most frequently chosen as the teacher who does not seem to know anything.” The same journal comments that “a female teacher dressed in jeans was seen as fun, approachable, not especially knowledgeable, commanding limited respect, not looking like a teacher, and generally preferable.”

            Sadly, many people, at times even professionals forget this fact and end up being classified by people around them to be one belonging to a certain group. This is why it is very important to take a closer attention on how we dress ourselves.

       Meanwhile, in the business world, we have yet another fashion statement: power dressing. In recent years more women have wanted to climb the corporate ladder. “I dress to attack,” says Marie, an executive for a publishing house. “I want to stand out. I want to sell myself as something that looks fantastic,”(Awake, 12) she adds. Marie is honest in revealing that her focus is on herself.

Popular fashions inevitably find their way into the churches too. Some of the more fashion conscious have even used their church to show off their latest outfits. Yet, today, the clergy, while decked out in their flowing robes, often look down from the pulpit upon a congregation clad in jeans and sneakers or in faddish garb.

Faddish dress—especially among the young—psychologists say, is an aspect of egocentrism, in that it expresses the desire for an audience. They describe it as “the chronic tendency on the part of the adolescent to see the self as the object of others’ attention.” In effect, he or she is saying: “I think you are as obsessed with me as I am about myself” (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry).

            With all these facts laid down, it could really be said that fashion makes a lot of statement in the society and even to an individual. Philosophies that put man at center stage and discount God as irrelevant have also oiled the thinking (often peddled by commerce) that you, the individual, are the most important person in the universe. The trouble is, there are now nearly six billion of these ‘most important’ persons.  


            Being socially noticeable and important is one of the most prominent goals of many people today. This is the reason why fashion makes so much of an impact to the whole society no matter what age or gender they may belong to.

                But behind all the supposed importance behind what a person wears reveals, is it really the real person behind the cloth that the fashion style reveals? More often than not, fashion is used to blind many people of the real personality behind the clothe.

            This is the reason why it is very important for everyone to take full concern on how they carry themselves through the way they dress. Dressing up one’s self is not as easy as everyone thinks, but being practically inclined to simplicity and cleanliness could help a lot in avoiding the stressful effects of fashion picking. It is then easier to say that at times it is better and easier to dress up if you have only minimal clothes in your wardrobe, then you wouldn’t worry in choosing so much. Yet, it is still wise to be conscious with what one wears as it reveals the person inside thus creating a statement of who an individual really is.


Journals and Magazines:

Christina Hoff Somers. (1989).A guide on fashion philosophy. Philosophy Journals. Sweden

Jane De Teliga. (1990). Power House Museum Journals (unpublished). Sydney Australia.

Dianna Kenny. A look at fashion psychology. Psychology Journals. Sydney Australia.

The Tribal Culture. (1989). Maclean;s Magazine. Sydney Australia.

A look at FASHION. (1991). Jet Magazine. Sweden.

Making it work. (1993). Perceptual and Motor Skills Journal. Chicago Press, Chicago.

A focus in fashion. (1991). Times Magazine. Vol 25 No.23. London.

The social psychology. (1990). American Journal of Anthropsychiatry. United States of


Sten Lavender. (1988). How young ones think. Journals on Child Psychology. Sweden.

“Does my dress reveal something about me?” (1993). Awake! Watchtower Bible and Tract

Society. Brooklyn, New York.

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