Columns, Opinion

RODRIGUE: Your Guiltiest Pleasure

I get a lot of flack for writing a fashion-themed column. It usually comes in the form of a lot of whiney inbox messages along the lines of, ‘Why don’t you ever write about serious issues like trayless dining halls and tuition increases?’ And then the polite, gracious woman my mother raised me to be responds with a good-natured excuse and a plea to not ask more of me than I can give – if you want hard-hitting political commentary, I say sweetly, don’t look for it on this page on Tuesdays.

But recently I’ve noticed how truly fashionable the oft-esoteric world of fashion has become in our society. Almost every television network has its own fashion-related show – even TV Land had an awful, albeit well-intentioned, modeling competition for women aged 35 and over. Then there’s the whole host of snobbish, erudite periodicals like The New York Times and Newsweek which, amidst stock reports and profiles of political nabobs, have entire sections devoted to fashion. While my friend was poring over two months’ worth of Financial Times newspapers last week for a midterm, I was shocked to stumble across a fashion blurb in every single one of the kicky Sunday editions.

And then there are those who aspire to be in fashion, of which there are more and more every day. Each of us can name a ripe handful of friends, all of whom are impeccably dressed and irrepressibly cute, who never shut up about wanting to grow up and work in fashion merchandising or fashion editing or fashion designing or fashion this or fashion that. They all want to change the aesthetic world, just like those pioneers who came before them: Diana Vreeland, Karl Lagerfeld, Lauren Conrad. All of them little Barack Obamas of the couture culture.

Add to all the new truth that fashion is no longer strictly a female fascination. Our own humble two-mile stretch of Commonwealth Ave. is positively teeming with fashionable men, both gay and straight, to the point where’ ‘metrosexual’ is the norm and fitted jeans, slim blazers and pressed shirts on men are commonplace. It’s one thing when you have to deal with a higher female-to-male ratio in almost all of your classes, but when the men who are in your class have better orchestrated outfits than you do ‘-‘- well, if that’s not a startling gust from the winds of change, I don’t know what is.

And in an industry that thrives on exclusivity, isn’t it a strange and ironic phenomenon to see it all become so commercial? When did fashion ‘-‘- this alien world of textiles and shapes and forms and drape and angles – become something worthy of being so readily accessible by the general (read: hitherto generally uninterested) public?

It happened the same way every trend happens: you and I created it. Of course, there’s been a devoted fashion niche for hundreds of years, but not until now has the industry been so widely propagated. So it’s cogent to guess that our generation once again fed the trend machine – the same machine that brought us the Mac trend, the Wes Anderson trend, the organic food trend – except this time, we gave life to a much larger trend: the acceptance of higher fashion as a legitimate area of study and interest. Amen.

While all of this is a welcomed development to longtime fashion lovers like myself who read Vogue while the rest of our generation was reading Highlights, the contention arises when certain people refuse to admit that they helped created this monster. I can (and do) spend 800 words a week pondering the serious moral and social implications of a leather jacket, but I can’t help feeling like a large majority of my peers on campus ‘-‘- the same stylish mass I mentioned before ‘-‘- merely scoff and pretend they care more about Sartre and phenomenological metaphysics than they do about their wardrobes. But said wardrobes are so damn perfect ‘-‘- there’s no way they’re fooling anyone into thinking it’s all coincidence.

So, all you Pulp Fashion haters, all you fashion apathetics, what are you afraid of? Admit it: you love the way a good pair of new jeans feels, just like I do. And you can’t help but immediately rip the tags off all of your newest purchases and put them on at the soonest possible minute, just like I do. And even if you just wear clothes (which nobody actually does anymore), you’re still feeding the industry, and you’re still basing your purchases on what’s available in retail stores, which means you’re ultimately still feeding the trends. Face it, you self-proclaimed non-materialists: You’re all participants. Yes, you. You’re fashionable.

The difference between me, a fashion columnist, and the people who send me hate mail, then, isn’t quite as significant as said haters make it out to be. Whether or not you embrace your fashion instinct is inconsequential ‘-‘- it’s there. You know it, I know it, and all of the overt fashionistas you make fun of know it. Maybe it’s just time to be a little more honest.

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