To define culture is not easy because culture means different things to different people. Hence there many definitions of culture as there are many different cultures in the World. Anthropologists define culture as social behaviour of human beings. To others dance, music, theatre, artifacts and fashion constitute culture. On the other hand, fashion is a style characteristic of the social elite and is mainly associated with social class and is highly dynamic. Hence fashion should be in current mode for instance a garment.
Fashion, style, vogue or even mode are used interchangeably to refer to a preferred type of dress, behaviour, adornment or a way of life at a given time span. In broadest terms fashion usually refers to conventions which are generally accepted by a society or by any culture or even a subculture. Style like mode often stresses the adherence to standards and elegance and should be socially accepted. For instance miniskirts were the mode in the late sixties. Vogue is applied to style or fashion that prevails widely but often suggests enthusiastic but short lived acceptance (The American heritage 2003).
Wilson, further states that fashion is always in a continual change and sets the terms for all sartorial behaviour (Wilson 2003). The importance of fashion can never be overemphasized in the current world since fashion now is always around us from media to our daily lives in clothing and even automobile sector. Let it be clearly noted that fashion is for aesthetic as well as societal class, elegance and modesty. In the current years fashion has become a major factor affecting the psychosocial wellbeing of major cultures and subcultures in the world. This influences the life of people both in style and preferences and their economical sphere.
The growth of fashion is linked with the development of cities and urban centres in the 14th century and the growing sophistication of the courts. But it is only in 15th and 16th centuries when people developed the culture of fashion and class such that they felt shameful to wear outdated clothes (Wilson 2003). The entrance of fashion led to increased spending on clothes and a clear cut class differences. The rise of bourgeoisie became so much crucial in the development of fashion and style. The poorest class received the cheapest clothing with the people in the highest level in class ladder wearing the most expensive clothes.
With the rise of Industrial revolution came capitalism hence new markets for clothes in fashion and fashion became more and more important with the circulation of images in mass communication. GENDER AND FASHION In the current contemporary world, fashion has become the order of the day. Media houses and world class beauty and model centres have been developed all over the world especially in Europe and U. S. A. However, unlike the past where fashion was associated with female, this industry welcomes both genders nowadays. But because of the past skewed interest of ladies in the industry they are still the major players.
Nevertheless, almost every one in the current society setting especially in urban areas appreciates fashion and style and is a product of the same in one way or another. People are more conscious when it comes to fashion and no one is willing to be left behind in the outdated world hence consumption of these fashion products has tremendously risen. ‘Dress is a practical negotiation between the fashion system, the social conditions of everyday life such as class and gender as well as rules or norm governing particular social situations.
The outcome of this complex interaction cannot be known in advance precisely because the habitus will improvise and adapt to these conditions’. Thus dress is a personal attempt to orientate ourselves to particular circumstances and thus recognise the structural influences of the social world and the individual on the other (Entwistle 2000) FASHION AND MODERNITY Fashion has kept pace with modern life. It has followed every step the global world is making and is by itself part and parcel of the globalised world. From North to South, West to East fashion is seen to influence the global ways of life.
However, this is bringing about similarity and extinction of cultures since fashion and culture are linked and the change of one leads to change of the other. Since fashion is dynamic it follows that the fashion of yester years is different from the fashion of today hence today’s fashion is new and can be termed as modern. Modern fashion has greatly been affected by the present technological advancement and the entrance of new marketing approach. For example, the use of internet has revolutionized this industry.
It is not a wonder therefore what is considered modern in London today is even being used the following day in Washington. This has promoted customized fashion products to promote what many fashion stars look for in fashion; uniqueness and class. Fashion and style industry has in the recent decades been well established with increased sales as many people go for class and fashion. Also, the quality of the products has greatly developed thus fashion has become our way of life. FASHION, SUBCULTURAL & YOUTH STYLES It is important to distinguish between the concept of youth culture and youth subcultures.
In general terms youth culture is more homogenous, doing similar things and being treated in the same way playing down aspects of differentiation. This idea was much popular with U. S sociologists in early 1960s. In modern youth culture emphasis is more on subcultures. Unlike the 20th c where fashion was highly linked with class, in 21st c the line of demarcation has narrowed and the mode of classification is not only on class lines but across a wide plane of social and cultural identities. Hence the youth even in ghettos are coming up with their modes of fashion.
The issue of subcultures within the large framework of culture in a society is a major phenomenon. Hence these subcultures act as the seed bed for fashion that is embraced by the larger society. The link between class and identity is far less apparent in the 20th c, in particular since high fashion is democratised and not longer the prerogative of a small elite. In contemporary culture distinction does not run along class lines alone but across a wide plane of social identities. Thus, rather than being only imposed from the top, fashion is also ‘bubbling up’ from the street and youth cultures (Entwistle 2000).
The use of style brings across clear identity within the youth and serves to sometimes oppose dominant values within the society. Youth tend to solve their problems of culture and fashion in their own unique understandable way hence they act against the main stream fashions of the old. However their fashions and style are dominantly affected by the media and celebrities entertainment industry. Fashion trends brought forward by top musicians come fast and go quickly. These fashions and styles linked with subcultures are known to be diverse as the youth are dynamic.
Therefore the rate of change of any fashion within a subculture is higher than in the dominant cultures. The youth also customise fashions by either adding or removing some parts from the original fashion to create a different identity. And for sure youth have revolutionised the world of fashion and culture, in the contemporary world. Therefore fashion is regarded as a mode of identity by the youth and serves as the avenue through which the youth express themselves. EFFECTS OF FASHION ON CONSUMERISM The cycle of fashion in the modern times has been found to influence the level of consumerism in the current world.
Fashion is fueled by change and conversion. Designers always persuade their customers that their new fashions are everything they need. In the next season the same designers convince their customers to bade farewell to outdated designs and instead embrace the new trends in their latest collections. Western society’s culture of mass consumerism has widely been influenced by the fashion cycle. Sociologist Stella C. (1993) likens fashion cycle with the rolling waves of the sea. As one fashion gains popularity and is outdated another style is gaining momentum and this change our modern culture.
Today’s fashion is not only placed on the contest of youth, sexuality and historicism, but also previous culture movements and shows fashion reflects its surrounding, its subjects but ultimately itself. FASHION AND CLASS Fashion is known to influence lifestyle and how people relate within the society. However this relationship is both on the individual and societal levels. Fashion is a product of class division since many people want to be seen in a unique way within any given society and societies also show their class differences using fashion hence affecting the culture of present societies.
CONCLUSION It is true that fashion and culture are highly interlinked. A culture that appreciates fashion is a culture that is dynamic and ready to follow where its fashion leads it to. Modern culture is hinged on the fashion of each passing day and unlike the past psychosocial behaviour is influenced by fashion on a larger scale. Youth subcultures promote their own form of fashion which may be interlinked with fashions within the larger sphere of culture. These fashions serve to show their rebellious identity.
The cycle of fashion has seen unnecessary changes of fashion due to designers who look forward to make profits and are out to change fashions as quickly as practicably possible. Hence the world is supposed to be aware of these uncalled changes in fashions. Unethical issues are also related to fashion and culture. Therefore, some people see it like their religious and spiritual beliefs are affected by fashion. However on a global perspective fashion has promoted the entrance of more products in the world market leading to increased competitiveness. Modern global culture is a mirror of fashion and design.
REFERENCES Bruzzi Stella, and Patricia Gibson, 2000, Fashion Cultures: Theories, Explorations, and Analysis. London; New York: Routledge. Craik, Jennifer, 1993, The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion. London; New York: Routledge. Entwistle, J. 2000, The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress and Modern Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press. Malossi, G. 2000, Material Man: Masculinity, Sexuality, Style. New York: H. N. Abrams. The American Heritage, 2003, Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition by Houghton Mifflin Company. U. S. A.