Fashion is dead, long live fashion

Oh, George Will, my favorite Republican scold. You had me for a while, with your anti-denim rant, until you dissed cartoons, and then we parted company. (Also, I’m not entirely certain about the wisdom of taking sartorial advice from a man who wears a bow tie without a trace of irony.)

But I snickered at your source material when it said, “Denim is the SUV of fabrics, the wardrobe equivalent of driving a hulking Land Rover to the Whole Foods Market.

Just yesterday, I was looking out a bus window and sighing to myself over the way the ugliest of ugly fashion trends refuses to die, and being generally despondent over the fact that unless you count steampunk fashion — which is delightful but still somewhat rare — there has been nothing new in the fashion world for years and years. Maybe decades.

Honestly, can you pinpoint any significant differences between the way people dress today and the way they dressed ten years ago? If I thought it was just because people hadn’t bought any new clothes in the last ten years, I’d be sympathetic. Or if it was everyone settling on their own unique individual style and sticking with that, that would be great.

But what has happened is that people have settled on a basic blueprint, which always seems to start with jeans that don’t fit them, and then you can tell they’re always buying new jeans because the surfacing changes — you know, the hip brands shift a bit, sometimes fading is in and sometimes it’s not, that sort of thing.

George Will attributes all this jeans-wearing to rampant immaturity, but I think that’s just because it’s a rant he already likes to make. I am inclined to think the mind-boggling ubiquity of jeans is more closely related to whatever has caused mainstream fashion trends to mummify the way they have.

What is that? Why is fashion dead?

I am not entirely sure. As soon as I have a good theory I’ll share it. Feel free to make suggestions of your own.


  1. I believe it’s related to the same forces behind car designs, architecture and the lack of statues and the fading respect for public art. Industrial Minimalists sort of hit the nail on the head (perhaps a little askew). Art and fancy clothing are the greatest of frivolities, and if you display anything but the most fleeting affectation you obviously have too much time and money on your hands, or you’re gay. Either way, you’re a bad American and need to spend more time working and drinking Bud Light.

    1. Either way, you’re a bad American and need to spend more time working and drinking Bud Light.

      You have been out in the county way too much my friend. Not everyone thinks like that. Fashion is a business and is alive and well. Hell just pick up G.Q or Esquire and you will be on your way.

      Although I see you as more of the thrift shop type. What with the hats and all.

  2. Jeans wearing is immature? Funny, I thought there were just comfortable.

    Julie, seriously, I’m confused. Not about your hating denim, which I’ve known for 20 years, but about why you care that other people don’t hate it. The “SUV of fabrics”?? It’s just cotton, for crying out loud.

  3. Author

    Hmm, I suppose that’s a good point — you can’t compare Bellingham of today to New York of ten years ago.

    If I saw a group of young men sauntering down the street dressed like the dudes above I would not be complaining.

    However, it still seems to me that Bellingham of today is fashionably calcified compared to Bellingham of ten years ago.

  4. Disclaimer: I am not a follower of fashion, nor do I play one on TV. But I thought I’d just add a couple thoughts. If you’re looking at the history of all fashion, then it may seem that nothing has changed recently. Unless you look at the timelines of actual change. Fashion has changed dramatically in the last 100 years from what it was. Women wear pants ubiquitously in many parts of the world, and can have any length skirt they please. The blouses and suits are tailored to their bodies but still can be flattering. (Men’s fashion (in the western world) has changed less, I’ll grant you). While you may dislike jeans immensely, they have their place in the fashion oeuvre and in historical social changes. But before the last 100 years? Any changes tended to be how wide women’s skirts were, and in men’s shoes and pants (and the amount of ornamentation) and set by the upper class and nobility on a case by case basis. Social change, discovery of new cultures and fabrics, re-discovery of old cultures (think the Victorian love of ancient Greece) have always been part of it, too. But the major changes and trends last for decades or longer. So fashion is only as alive as it’s ever been, really. The world might move faster than it used to, but there’s only so much change a culture will absorb at a time. 60 years ago bikinis were brand new. Now you can’t walk past a swimsuit selection without them. 100 years ago a woman wearing pants was an anomoly. The same with short hair. Piercings other than ears were only heard about in faraway cultures, and I’m pretty sure piercing your ears was something only fast women did.

    I’m rambling now, but I think my point is in there somewhere. You might be irritated about social trends (baggy jeans on minority youths is more about culture and social realities/injustice than fashion) and jeans in general, but I think fashion is what is always has been. Either people follow the trends or they don’t, and if they don’t, they either start a new trend or are ridiculed for not following others. That’s people for you. :p

    1. Author

      That is related to a theory I was working on, actually — that the fairly rapid fashion changes of the 20th century were the anomaly, and that things are returning to more gradual changes that tend to be more invisible while one lives through them. So fashion (or music, or movies) appears moribund compared to what happened, say, from 1962 to 1972, and for various cultural reasons we think of 1962-1972 as normal, but it wasn’t.

      1. I think that’s true – it’s something I’ve considered about the way the industrial revolution and the rapid changes in all things in the 20th century, etc have affected us and our perceptions. Really, the way societies worked before the last century was a lot less fluid, and I think the disconnect we get from earlier generations is so much more pronounced than it used to be. Giant, global changes are so much more common than in earlier generations, and so nearly ubiquitous, that we are caught off-guard, societally speaking.

        And yet people still mostly behave like people, good and bad. It’s one of those socio-political-religious things I like to consider when I’m writing. And then I buy a bunch of fun non-fiction and geek out. :)

  5. Until I saw your your edit I was about to say that the hand panted sneakers were out in like 2000. Hell by 2003 everyone was trying to do them. But I used to work in an art supply store…And while I agree that Bellingham is a bit behind, its not as bad as other places in America.

    Hell at least out here you see guys wearing girl jeans. Well at least until you could actually buy tight jeans. Personally I don’t think that look works for everyone and a lot of it is 80’s revivalism.

    Fashion in my opinion is sorta bullshit. It just has to do with wearing stuff that fits your personality and getting away with it. Or being able to get away with it. Like the dude in green I believe that is the B.A.P.E dude, he doesn’t get away with it. IMO the only person that looks good is the guy to the right of Kanye.

    So I don’t believe that fashion is dead, because its largely in peoples imaginations. I could go on here…but I won’t.

  6. I like all the deconstructed sweater things that are out now and the cute peter pan collared jackets. Makes me want to go and buy stuff before they go back out of style and wear them for a decade or two.

    I also like Project Runway. I think now is an unusal time because fashion is having to deal with new inputs like Project Runway and the billion DYI blogs out there with their insta viral vision. Suddenly I see more tunic tops, dresses and tanks out in department stores (usually tunics are the easiest to learn to sew) and fabric patterns are following those that I see first on the fabric blogs. I think there’s a little more global influence too, like, to me it looks like american rock stars are dressing like these crazy Japanese tourists we see here.

  7. I guess my beef with that stuff is that it looks crazy just for the sake of looking crazy. Its like if you did a painting with all crazy saturated colors. Where is your eye supposed to go? What pulls these things together?

    Its like if you look at the David Tennant Dr. Who, now that outfit looked classy yet daring because of the converse sneakers.

    I’m all about the subtle when it comes to these things. Which is why I thought that the dudes wearing the girl jeans in crazy colors looked horrible. And the fact that they were hanging off of dudes skinny asses.

    But I’m not Mr. GQ I just use my eyes.

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