05 Feb What happened to the rebels of fashion?
We live in an era that is fixated with social media. We go to lunch; we take a picture and share it on Instagram. We have an opinion, we tweet it. We are living in a time of constant social bombardment. Now let’s filter this through. Open Instagram. Boom. An immediate source of inspiration that people use in their lives, more specifically for fashion. If I am being honest here, every third person with a large number of followers looks exactly the same, thus alluring many into the same route of clothing choice. High fashion from the runway has been washed into the mainstream market through fast fashion retailers, such as Topshop and H&M. The majority of individuals have fallen into this fashion conformity.
I am not stating that style is dead, quite the opposite. The average man and woman have their style determined by financial status, class and perception of self-image. Though they converge, rather than diverge. What they wear aims to visually construct who they are through their choice of clothing. On the other side, you have the subcultures that are not ‘cultural’ in their style but rather manifest culture in their communication of their appearance to you. They transform rather than rearrange.
However, I do feel though that instead of expressing ourselves, people just want to wear trends and look like celebrities. Again, I am not saying that style does not exist anymore. But, many of us have become accustomed to copying others due to easy acceptance, rather than for what fashion really should be used for. What you wear should say something. Clothes are a powerful source of communication and identity.
Let’s go back 50 years. The subcultures that inhabited the street corners, the nightclubs and backstage of gigs used their style as a form of rebellion. What they wore became a political statement, a manner of encapsulating both crime and art. Once you’ve become a symbol of your time, the existence of difference becomes evident and you get placed into one of two categories – an icon or an outsider. The construction of style is formed through clothing, music, society and opinion.
The 1950’s saw the rise of a group of British working class male youths that opposed anti-immigration, the Teddy Boys; named due to their Edwardian dress sense. The principle features of their attire included long tailored coats, drainpipe trousers, waistcoats and gaudy socks. When rock’n’roll hit Britain in 1955, the music became the anthem for the Teddy Boys and from that point onwards style and music combined. Having a reputation of being trouble with a juxtaposed upper class lavish style, these boys became the face of the early rock’n’roll scene.
Let me introduce to the ‘Mods’ or Moderns of the 60’s. Focused on both music and fashion, they were a group of youths heavily inspired by Italian fashion and black American R&B music. The rise in employment in the youths saw a positive correlation to their expenditure for clothing, thus their pristine apparel. The Mods were known for their well-kept and subtle looks; Italian cut suits in conservative colours (frequently made of mohair), Fred Perry polos, loafers and fishtail parkas with fur trimmings. And the women mods adopted the androgynous look, with pixie haircuts, miniskirts, men’s jumpers and little-to-no makeup. These like- minded individuals flooded the nightclub and coffee shop scene, as well as regularly found racing down the streets on Vespa’s.
Motivated by social isolation and inspired by ska music, the Skinhead era was born. Their identity was constructed through jeans, denim jackets, white t-shirts and Dr. Martens, as well as their shaven heads. They were heavily influenced by the Jamaican rude boy style and their culture. The Skinhead movement reached its peak in 1969, to the point where the famous rock band ‘Slade’ even adopted the look as a marketing strategy to gain popularity. From 1979, many skinheads were influenced by the rising punk scene that saw them change to even extremer versions of themselves, with shorter hair and higher boots. This grabbed more attention than before, mostly due to the new movement of Football Hooligans; football fanatics competed with rival gangs showing off the latest trends.
In ‘Subculture: The Meaning of Style’ by Dick Hebdige, he concludes that subculture style movements die because once society adopts what was once considered as rebellious and revolutionary, their power of resistance fades as the mainstream have entered their realm.
This refusal of norm is worth it. Through all the stares and opinions, the gesture you made through representing who you are and what you represent, has a meaning.
It can be said that today’s designers are more interested in creating pretty pieces of clothing that will be commercially successful, rather than making a statement.
But maybe McQueen said enough for all of them. With every item of clothing playing a large role in the story of the collection he delved into the true meaning of fashion. McQueen’s thematic shows were above and beyond their time, and made the audience feel something. The Autumn/ Winter 1995 collection, titled “Highland Rape” is arguably one of the most controversial yet symbolic fashion shows of all time. Models staggered down the runway with bruised appearances and bewildered facial expressions. The collection was highly symbolic, not just of rape itself but the conflicting history of England and Scotland during the 18th and 19th century. This was a personal moment, as he wanted to ensure that the turbulent history was not forgotten. The use of his native cloth tartan illustrated his play on tradition while simultaneously seeking an extreme.
Fashion is emotional for everybody, it is about identity, it’s about how it feels when creating a persona. For some it is an art form – you’re expressing things that are personal by what you wear. Whatever fashion is to you, differs from style. Fashion is what you take and transform it into something personal. It is about changing perceptions and continuing traditions.