This blog has closed. Follow me to 3stylelife. Thanks - Barry

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Goal: Challenging the Norm

The fashion perspective of the everyday person is often normative, in that what is worn by the masses, or some large subset thereof, becomes the model upon which fashion judgments are based. The evidence is found all around us:

  • Specific garments go dormant for years, decades at a time, such as bell-bottomed jeans. There’s something very Tipping Point about this phenomenon.

  • Countries, even states, and even regions within states have distinctive fashion cultures, and these fashion cultures are rarely breached. Ask a US high school student if they’ve seen someone wear traditional Indian clothing. Not just at school. Ever.

  • The modern business workplace is a “hotbed” of fashion homogeny. Whatever the norm found, be it formal businesswear, business casual, or completely casual, you’ll see a remarkable lack of variation in most corporate environments.

The reasons, too, are abundant:

  • We’re often limited in what we can purchase by the stores around us, though this is starting to change. Until online shopping becomes commonplace, the majority of people in a region will be buying from the same subset of stores, and thus, the same subset of clothes. This means you are inundated with images of a specific subset of the fashion world, making it difficult to judge against other images.

  • We really don’t have any control over what gets put in stores. This is important, as it makes our judgment selective rather than constructive. While the fashion designers get to make judgments via creation of garments, thus in theory judging based upon all fashions they can imagine, we only have the ability to judge among their offerings.

  • We’re naturally attuned to “follow the crowd” for evolutionary reasons. To say that we eat because we see others eat would be a misinterpretation of biology, but to say we follow the herd because they know how to get food would be more reasonable. When we see others wear clothing and receive positive attention (or avoid negative attention), we naturally make note of this, influencing our own thoughts and judgments. Then, when a large group of people wears similar clothing, all to safe effect, it becomes easy to follow suit. After all, deviation is inherently risky.

Sure, deviation from the norm is inherently risky, but it’s a lot riskier for the fashion designers, isn’t it? That’s why they get paid to move fashion norms, to create deviations, because if they’re not accepted, it’s more than a minor embarrassment, it’s millions of dollars on the line.

Fortunately, our risks are much less frightening. When we make a fashion deviation (unless you’re a super-celebrity or something), the worst that can happen is that a stranger or a friend makes a snarky comment about it. Maybe they’ll make fun of you about it the next day. Aw. Thus, I often set about achieving the following goal:

Goal: Challenging the Norm

Utilize my clothing and fashion to deliberately go against the current norm or to defy expectations, while remaining within what I personally perceive as aesthetic.

In less rigor, do something unusual and unexpected, but that you still think looks good! The process probably isn’t as hard as you think. As a starting point, here’s a step-by-step method which I’ll illustrate using my first example in this series:

  1. Come up with a simple fact about the majority of clothes. Often, the more general, the better.

  2. Determine the logical opposite of this statement.

  3. See if it is practically feasible to execute this opposite. This will likely require you pick a specific implementation of (2). If possible, proceed to (4). If not, return to (1).

  4. Execute said opposite.
Use your common sense to find examples which you can actually implement. For example, the following would not be a good choice:

  1. Most jeans are not diamond-encrusted.

  2. Jeans could be diamond-encrusted. (Proof)

  3. I do not have thousands of dollars to encrust a pair of jeans. I also lack the equipment to securely fasten diamonds to denim. I should try again.

How about an example that I came up with and executed in less than twenty minutes?

  1. Most shirts with words are in English. Generalize: most shirts with words are written in a spoken language.

  2. A shirt could have content written in Braille.

  3. Yes, this is feasible. All I need is knowledge of the Braille alphabet, a blank shirt, and a silver sharpie.

  4. Done (for those who can’t be bothered to translate, it says DUKE):

Again, less than twenty minutes from conception to completion (if you don’t count drying time). I notice that you can see the results of a previous design faintly underneath. I didn't feel like washing the shirt again before putting this together. Anyway, the effect isn’t earth-shattering, but it’s certainly interesting. I’ve got a few more ideas for this goal on deck, as I complete them, I’ll post links to the associated posts here as well:

Always Another Way
Belts and Ties

Challenge the norm yourself, and unleash your inner designer (we all have one).

No comments:

Share/Save/Bookmark Subscribe