Adonis Diaries

Clothes send signals of change? What changes clothes indicate in social-divide?

Posted on: February 8, 2012

What options of changing signals clothes send? What it indicates in social-divide?

Clothes have always sent signals, especially headwear, headgear.

Virginia Postrel, author, cultural critic, and columnist in the Wall Street Journal said in an interview with Debbie Millman:

“During the Great Depression, an average person’s wardrobe contained fewer than 15 items. Following the economic crash of 2009, the average wardrobe was 88 items.  There is the two questions: How is this possible and why is it possible?…”

Postrel wrote in her book “The substance of style“: “The visual appearance of a person or a logo sends two signals:

First signal says: “I’m like this an individual. This is my group that I share qualities with the members. And I like that…”

Second signal says: “This is what gives me pleasure as an individual...”

When selecting an outfit from the huge wardrobe, you are essentially trying a tradeoff of which of the two signals should be predominant…

“I’m feeling this way today, so I can wear this outfit…” is more at hand today than when China and the Far East were not in the marketplace for manufacturing very affordable and good quality fabrics and exporting garments to the world.

In the old days, how people should select and wear clothes were dictated by strict explicit social laws to discriminate among classes.  The explicit laws were replaced by tacit informal laws that would handicap lower classes to emulate the higher classes, such as changing outfits several times a day and elevating the wardrobe to very complex, complicated, and highly expensive etiquette pieces…

Classes and “races” waged villain wars in wardrobe styles in order to maintain discrimination very concrete and visible. Within a class, dresses are dictated by a personal sense of identity, an own sense of style, pleasure, and comfort…For example, high couture companies don’t make their new styles available for the common public before a lapse of time, the necessary period for the rich, glamorous, and famous get tired of their expensive acquisition, and won’t mind more copies displayed in the market.

Mankind has both highly developed visual information and social cues, and make good usage for navigating social relations.  If teenagers could afford a huge wardrobe, they would be changing outfits several times a day, even by reorganizing the pieces to making look as a new outfit, every time…

“A lot of subgroup communities are created based on creating clever plays on clothes assorted with individual distinction.  There is always the actor within us and we like to change characters by simply selecting the proper combination of garments.  We want to project an image that suit our mood of the moment.  We wear a musical band merchandize when we attend a concert…” It is how bands make most of their profits: marketing their merchandize.

The commodity most scarce is becoming “how to get attention, and what is our attention span…

Economics is driven by capturing whatever attention can be spared for an item.  Capturing attention is the first phase in brand design of “what is the direct message”, but the harder step is “how can I discipline this attention to recur again at my brand, my product, my service...”

A brand is a promise of consistency and continuity over time: Nowadays, the politician is the brand instead of his party affiliation; the journalist is the brand instead of the daily or the particular media.

The irony is that counterfeit brands still conjure the same associations with the real original product…

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February 2012

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