The fact that technology has revolutionized traditional media is nothing new, but the way in which it has transformed the fashion world has been comparatively under-acknowledged. No more than ten years ago, the only outlet men had to learn about fashion and trends was either their monthly GQ or Esquire. Online media has progressively challenged the monolithic print publications, which have themselves moved increasingly into online space.
Now that everything is constant and on-demand, trends have a much easier and faster way of diffusing. Whereas it might take a print publication a month to pick up on something, another month to fit it into the next issue, and finally the extra time it would take to catch on in the general public, the Internet has greatly shortened the time needed. What is on the Sartorialist one day can easily become popular in the span of a single month, if not sooner.
More specifically though, a new breed of online media may further revolutionize the world of fashion: the user-generated site. These sites, rather than being directed by a group of editors or industry-insiders, are intimately in touch with the realities and limitations of regular people. For example, while GQ might recommend a $5,000 suit, the number of people able to go and purchase a suit half that price is very small.
This facility to share information and opinions may have a powerful effect on style and fashion as a whole. On one hand, it makes fashion more accessible and available to those with a curiosity or interest in learning some of the fundamental ‘rules.’ On the other, doesn’t it seem a bit like a case of the blind leading the blind?
According to Yuli Ziv, editor-in chief and founder of the online user-generated magazine MyItThings, “Print magazines used to have the power to dictate fashion. The Web 2.0 revolution and social shopping movement have brought user-generated content into the ultra exclusive world of fashion and now are changing the rules. Today’s trends are controlled not only by selected editors and columnists; they are also driven by the wisdom of crowds.”
Social shopping sites of this nature are almost exclusively tailored to women, though it will be interesting to see whether there will be an analogous venue for men. Clearly, the interest is there. Look no further than the first page of either Style Forum or the men.style.com forums to find threads of men sharing pictures of their shoes and recent purchases.
Because style is such a subject field, it would make sense that a ‘crowd’ would be just as effective as any style guru at judging what is ‘stylish.’ After all, we normally judge ‘good’ style as what is acknowledged to be attractive by a broad group. The only question yet to be seen is the collective taste of the masses.