The Power of Fashion

Fashion is the way in which people dress. It includes clothes, footwear and accessories that express a personal style or reflect a period, occasion or culture. Fashion is so all-encompassing that whole magazines are devoted to it, TV programs dedicate hours of transmission time to it and people discuss it continuously among themselves. It is also a powerful force for social change and can influence entire cultures.

The power of fashion is illustrated by the fact that people can be dated based on their clothing. Whether it is the mini skirts worn in the 1960s to symbolize female emancipation or cassocks worn by nuns to symbolise renunciation of vanity, trends can change entire societies. The latest trend in shoes can be a sign of new wealth, while a hat can signal a shift in political opinion. Even a tattoo can reveal an individual’s religious beliefs.

Fashion changes constantly and it can be difficult to determine why or how a particular style became fashionable. It is easy to see how the ripped jeans and sneakers of hip-hop can have an effect on the style of a young person, but it is less clear how the short skirts and boots of teenagers in England or the baggy pants of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air can move the needle on the haute couture runways of Paris. It is usually believed that changes in fashion “reflect” societal change or the financial interests of designers and manufacturers, but it has also been shown that there are internal taste mechanisms at work.