“In the classical European humanistic tradition, fashion was always thought to be antithetical to good taste. A person blindly following the whims of fashion was without style, whereas a man of style – or a gentleman – used his own power of judgment… fashion in a societal formation always combining two opposite forces. It is a socially acceptable and safe way to distinguish oneself from others and, at the same time, it satisfies the individual’s need for a social adaptation and imitation…in modern society, both style and fashion are functional equivalents to ‘good taste.’”
-Jukka Gronow, Department of Sociology, University of Helsinki (1993)
I stumbled upon this quote in an otherwise dense, but intelligent, article on Kantian and Simmelian notions of fashion as a reactionary socializing force, but thought this quote was perfect to share and discuss here.
Writers here on Men’s Flair, myself included, often like to note the separation between what is classic style and what is fashion, with the later term usually being washed aside as some sort of trite and fleeting version of the former. The assertion here that they both essentially represent a notion of good taste shocked me at first, but the more I thought about it and looked at what Gronow was saying, the more it seemed to make sense in a certain way.
While I, and presumably most people reading this, find the idea that “skirts and slashed leggings are really ‘in’ for men this season” to be utter hogwash, it is amongst a certain set a call to wallets and closets. This drive towards adaptation and imitation is the primary drive here, with individual decision making and ‘style’ taking the back seat, whereas what is discussed here usually orders these drives the reverse way – in modern society, wearing a correctly fitted suit and tie outside of an office of Michelin 3 Star restaurant is usually asking to stand out, not fit in.
But then again, the so-called “fashion-set” is a select group and may stand out through a sense of collective individuality rather than truly individual individuality, however ridiculous that clause may sound. And we, again I am generalizing here, seek to find our collective identity in the company of like-minded, well-turned out rebels, and a projected return to an imaginary glory-days filled with properly rolled lapels and well-waisted boots.
So rather than continue to ramble on, I’ll just ask: What do you think of the above quotation? What do you think of the roles played by fashion and style in our society, past and present? While I would love to think I have all the answers, I don’t, so lets discuss.