No More Mainstream

            People use clothing as a way of shaping their identities and expressing themselves. Some try to be individualistic while others stick to the unspoken rules of fashion in order to conform and avoid judgment in the society. Second hand styling and ripped jeans are similar in that they both emerged as a statement of resistance against mainstream fashion. 

            Like Ashley discussed in Bruce Springsteen’s album cover image, jeans were widely worn by Americans because they were “functional, tough, natural, freeing, and not distinctly associated with any social system.” Though they were highly considered to be American in the beginning, they became ubiquitous very quickly in that they were unisex, as illustrated in this photo. They could appear to be both feminine and masculine depending on the wearer and the particular fit. Dant described in his article, “Consuming or Living With Things”, that jeans became popular due to their durability and casualty. Thus, jeans were commonly worn by every one of different age groups and social classes, allowing it to become the universal and the most dominant garment. However, as discussed in Fiske’s “The Jeaning of America”, jeans have begun to take on various semiotic meanings that contradicted their democracy.

            Ashley’s post about Apple Bottom designer jeans, very well illustrated this point that jeans were no longer seen as a generic garment. All evolving from the original and most common blue jeans, several designers have made unique variations of jeans with distinct cuts, stitches, fabrics, pockets, labels, etc., which allowed them to differentiate their products from the standard. Consequently, luxury designer jeans became commoditized goods that separated the upper and middle class of the city from the working class in the country. The wealthier people chose to wear upscale jeans to identify themselves with the higher class and to display their sophisticated taste.

            Along with designer label jeans, Fiske furthermore discussed how a new trend of ripped, pre-washed, and rugged jeans appeared. It is important to take note that these jeans were different from the ones that were naturally worn out from too much use. “Those who are poor do not make poverty into a fashion statement,” said McRobbie in “Second-hand Dresses and the Role of the Ragmarket”. Similarly, ripped jeans did not necessarily signify poverty, but instead signified rejection of affluence or even sympathy towards poverty. Thus, the actually poor people, who could only own a few pairs of jeans, normally did not choose to wear ripped jeans to make a fashion statement and preferred functionality, while the wealthy people who can buy several pairs of jeans could easily add a pair of ripped jeans to their wide collection of pants in order to display a sense of diverse style and individualism.

            Parallel to this idea was the shopping for second hand clothes, as illustrated in Ashley’s photo of Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop”. As she mentioned in her caption, one can find cool and unique clothes at second hand stores that are both affordable and stylish at the same time. During the postwar period, some members of the middle class began to shop at second hand stores to engage in conspicuous consumption that distinguished themselves from the mainstream shopping, which was considered normal and boring. They picked fashions from different eras and created personal styles out of it that no one else could imitate. McRobbie discussed how shopping in second hand stores allowed the young middle class girls to present themselves as unique and fashionable, by picking out certain “one of a kind” items. Such rejection to the mainstream mass market marked the beginning of youth subcultures’ development of their own fashion styles. Similar to wearing ripped jeans, wearing second hand clothes did not necessarily suggest poverty. On the other hand, it signified that the wearer is wealthy because being able to pull off a “second hand style” that is both unique and fashionable implied that they had the right sense of taste and creativity, which were cultivated throughout their lives and upbringing. They simply took on the habitus of the poor and appropriated it into their style by adding on their taste. By engaging in second hand styling and being successful with it, the young middle class girls were not only able to display their cultural wealth but also found a way to productively spend their conspicuous leisure time that Veblen talked about.

            Another way people spent their conspicuous leisure time was fashion blogging, as discussed in Marwick’s essay, “Conspicuous and Authentic”. Ashley’s post about Lora and Josh’s fashion blog, “In Bug’s Drawers”, illustrates how they blog about their own vintage clothing style that makes them stand out from the mainstream fashion conformity. Because they blogged specifically about second hand style and had their own unique sense of taste, they appeared to be more authentic compared to other bloggers who only wore mass produced clothing. Lora and Josh’s blog is a great example of one of the three main reasons as to why people create fashion blogs, which is to boast their personal style and identity. Marwick mentioned two other blog types, one of which focused on capturing street style and the other writing reviews on runways and products. All three types of fashion blogging played a crucial role in spreading specific trends from individuals to the mass market and vice versa.

            Ashley’s Pinterest curation was not only very accurate, but also very well illustrated the various important points from each of the readings for this week, such as the democracy of jeans and the rise of second hand styling. However, I feel as though she could have included the idea of the identification of the poor, which I thought was a very significant topic that was being overlooked. I believe that it is necessary to point out that wearing ripped jeans and second hand clothing do not suggest poverty, but is rather an appropriation of the working class lifestyle and using it as a method to divert from the mainstream norm.

 

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