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Fashion refers to a current (constantly changing) trend, chosen for a frivolous rather than logical or intellectual reasons. Although it is most often used in the context of clothes and other aspects of appearance, fashion can apply to music, art, politics and even mathematics and the choice of programming techniques.

Fashion in clothes has been used to express emotions, or to express solidarity with other people, for millennia. There is a great deal of choice available in the possible selection of clothes. What a person chooses to wear can reflect their personality or likes. When people who have cultural status start to wear new or different clothes a fashion trend may start; people who like or respect them start to wear clothes of a similar style[?].

A central feature of fashion is that it changes constantly. The change may proceed more rapidly than in most other fields of human activity (language, thought, etc). For some, such change embodies all the negative aspects of capitalism: it results in waste and encourages people qua consumers to buy things unnecessarily. Others, especially young people, enjoy the diversity that fashion brings, seeing the constant change as a way to satisfy their desire to experience "new" and "interesting" things.

Fashions may vary significantly within a society according to age, social class, generation, occupation and geography as well as over time. If, for example, an older person dresses according to the fashion of young people, he or she may look ridiculous in the eyes of both young and older people.

Materially affluent societies offer a variety of different fashions, in clothes or accessories, to choose from. At the same time there remains an equal or larger range designated (at least currently) 'out of fashion'. (These or similar fashions may cyclically come back 'into fashion' in due course.) This brings up another central feature of fashion: it can be used to suggest status in a social group. Groups with high cultural status like to keep 'in fashion' to display their position, people who do not keep 'in fashion' can be shunned (see also peer pressure). Because keeping 'in fashion' often requires considerable amounts of money, fashion can be used to show off wealth (compare conspicuous consumption). Fashion trends can thus form an index of social affluence[?] and an indicator of social mobility[?].

Fashion can be important in attracting a partner. As well as showing certain features of a person's personality that appeal to prospective mates, keeping up with fashion can demonstrate a person's status.

Practically every aspect of appearance that can be changed has been changed at some time.

Fashion houses[?] and their associated fashion designers, as well as high-status consumers, appear to have some role in determining the rates and directions of fashion change.

Modern Underground Fashion: Cyberpunk fashion, Punk fashion, Gothic fashion, Death rock fashion, Black metal fashion, Industrial fashion, BDSM fashion.

See also Fashion police.

Further Reading

  • The chapter on Fashion in Georg Simmel, on Individuality & Social Forms, Selected Writings, Georg Simmel, edited by Donald N. Levine, University of Chicago Press, 1971, hardcover, 393 pages, ISBN 0226757757

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