Fashion and Society

Fashion is one of the most widely known phenomena of social life. Scientists and common people are always interested in it. In the scientific and popular literature, fashion has repeatedly served as a research object entering the sphere of interest of experts of a number of disciplines including philosophers, historians, culture experts, psychologists, artists, clothes technologists, and others. In social science, there are a great number of works devoted to fashion that reveal different aspects of this complex and multifaceted phenomenon. Fashion can be viewed as a kind of invariant, a certain set of norms of social behavior prevailing in certain spatial-temporal frameworks. The purpose of the paper is to study a role of fashion as an important element of human culture.

Fashion is a process that constantly develops. It is believed that fashion occurred in the XII-XIII centuries mainly in Europe. Its occurrence was connected with the elaboration of culture in big cities. In addition, there was the necessity for original means of communication, which would be more short-lived and frivolous. City streets and squares were the main place of such contacts. Fresh concepts and cultural models originated. In course of time, manufacturing developed. Firstly, it was in the form of urban craft guild-based production of goods for sale and then – in factories. People wanted to look like aristocracy from royal courts as dresses of nobles were rather exquisite. Thus, these places became the birth place of fashion. Fashion became even more important in the XIX century. This period was associated with numerous revolutions. The XIX century was the time when the society of equal opportunities was formed. At that time, earlier boundaries and inhibitions were canceled. Moreover, mass-production started developing. In the book Fashion and Its Social Agendas, it is stated that “until the Industrial Revolution and the appearance of machine-made clothing, clothes were generally included among person’s most valuable possessions”. Manufacturing gave the opportunity to meet the needs for different non-expensive goods aimed at the mass market. New ways of communication appeared including radio, telegraph, mail, newspapers, railroads, television, and magazines. Besides, the Internet soon appeared. It became the most important way to exchange information. In such a way, fashion is considered the result of interaction of people in big cities.

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Fashion is a social regulator demonstrating disparity of different people. This phenomenon indicates various characteristics between different segments of society. Fashion serves not just as a method to indicate social status of the person. It is also an important method of mass communication. Fashion can be applied as intergroup and intragroup communication. In addition, it is connected with the major socio-psychological methods of communication such as suggestion, infection, belief, and imitation. Two stimuli – respect and competition played a decisive role in the history of fashion. They were manifested in imitation of respect and imitation of competition. Imitation of respect prevailed under absolutism, when the king’s tastes became unconditional fashion standards. Kings were trendsetters. In bourgeois society, this role passed to all famous people – actors, poets, and politicians. In the XX century, people imitated movie stars, popular pop and rock musicians, politicians, and top models. Along with imitation, there is also an opposition of individuals or social groups to each other with the help of fashion, for example, the English aristocracy and bourgeoisie before and during the bourgeois revolution in the XVII century. At the heart of imitation, the imitation reflex lies. 

The mutual assimilation became a wider and deeper concept that is called social identity. It has an immediate connection with the fashionable behavior of people. Identification is considered an inner method of communication that creates the foundation for deliberate assimilation. Through fashion, likening of the person to the members of the class and contemporaneously resistance to the members of a different class is manifested. The concept composing in authentication with the class and the resistance to the traditional fashion was called antifashion. In general, a remonstrance contrary to the traditional fashion is an outside demonstration of disapproval of the main valuables in society. Such behavior is mostly peculiar to social groups that are not mainly satisfied with the existing systems in society and their state in it. Thus, during the French Revolution, antifashion was a manner to dress sans-culottes. Annette Lynch and Mitchell Strauss indicate that on the second half of the XX century, a common characteristic of the younger generation became a negative attitude towards fashion. After the war, the remonstrance of the youth consisted of different methods depicted in various subcultures. Antifashion often becomes fashion or has a deep impact on the traditional fashion. A vivid example is jeans that have become the traditional fashion these days. However, it is despite the fact that in 1950s, they were clothes of young people protesting against the ruling order. It is highly important that nontraditional subcultures have great possibilities for new beginnings that are part of modern fashion.

Following fashion depicts the connection of people to the world and society. It is significant that a man has a desire to have a unique individuality. Nonetheless, a man also wants to be identified with other people in his/her society. A recondite willingness to submit to fashion is in the struggle with the willingness to be unique and independent. Traditional fashion expels a real choice suggesting a man finished and quick patterns and variants of conduct, which can be taken immediately. In such a way, it maintains the illusion of individuality. It is a protective and compensatory feature of fashion. The American sociologist John K. Galbraith has indicated that possession of the fashionable standards and samples is associated with a certain psychic reaction. These blessings cause in the consumer a sense of personal success and equality with the neighbors. They free a person from the need to think and cause sexual needs, promise the prestige in society, improve physical well-being, and satisfy mental needs. Otherwise, the individual feels slighted.

Fashion is also examined as a psychological phenomenon studying its causes and changes in terms of individual psychology. Fashion satisfies important human needs as a mechanism to resolve conflicts between social conformity and individual liberty. Fashion represents a particular form from those, by which life attempts to compromise between the tendency to social equation and the individual propensity to exercise his/her identity. Many fashion researchers have focused on the psychological function of fashion, which is a way of emotional discharge and satisfies a person’s need for new sensations. A sense of the existence of fashion is a violation of the gradual development of a number of mass phenomena. It is a periodic radical change and a shake, by which a person refreshes his/her sensations.

The recognition of fashion as an important social phenomenon that has a great impact on society is common to all the sociological concepts of fashion. Fashion includes new patterns of behavior used by people to be distinguished from the community and taken by other people to turn in the form of representatives of prestigious and prosperous layers. Fashion is regarded one of the main types of imitation. The cause of the appearance of fashion is the laws of imitation underlying social life. Present fashion includes a great number of different social possibilities. The most important function of fashion is to serve as a way to identify new cultural models. In such a way, fashion depicts individual characteristics of a certain person in the moral and social context.

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