There used to be a time when fashion produced clothes that brought out the very best in people. The idea was to adorn the person modestly and tastefully. There was an effort to appear elegant, clean and attractive. The danger of fashion was always overstatement and vanity.
Times have changed. Fashions have descended to new lows. Today people use fashion to make understatements about themselves. They see them as a means of instant messaging about who they would like to be. Like social media, they need to present a determined image.
Thus, some of the more “distressed” fashion trends highlight planned negligence and ugliness. It’s no secret. They increasingly seek to bring out the grungiest in people.
The Prematurely-Destroyed Market
Everyone is familiar with the ubiquitous ripped jeans look. However, ripped jeans are one small part of the “prematurely destroyed” and “purposely aged” clothing market.
In fact, rips in clothes are blasé. Dirt is in. The latest in “deliberately distressed” clothing is the grimed-on look. Scuffs, scratches and muck are trending. Pre-fabricated holes and frayed hemlines also turn some heads and provoke iPhone selfies.
Golden Goose sneakers, for example, start at $425 a pair. There are two versions. One is pre-scuffed, and the other is just dirty. The “pre-dirtied” sneakers sell to consumers in upscale markets avid to appear downscale.
A Fundamental Dishonesty
There is a fundamental dishonesty in distressed fashions. In a Facebook and Instagram-driven world, so many pretend to be what they are not. So much about the distressed fashion market is fake and inauthentic.
Take, for example, grimy sneakers. They try to convey that lived-in look without having to live in them. They signal the carefree attitude of those who want people to think they do not bother about appearances. Yet these consumers do care enough to pay top dollar for the appearance of contrived poverty.
Clothing that is scratched, clawed or soiled insinuates that the wearers live adventurous lives that take their toll upon their clothes. The damage is caused not by their activities, but their imaginations and pocketbooks. Moreover, wearers are not content with moderate rips and tears. They must take such damage (and fakeness) to extremes rarely seen in the normal deterioration of clothing.
Distressed fashions are distressing because they reflect self-centeredness and the frenetic intemperance of the times. In a world centred on self, everyone must have everything now, instantly and effortlessly. No one has time to break-in new clothing. Everyone wants the instant comfort of worn and torn clothing that feels less restrictive. Above all, those wearing distressed clothes must feel themselves in the centre of the latest fashion trends and display them to their Facebook and real-world friends.
This same self-centeredness can reflect a laziness whereby people do not wish to make an effort to present themselves well before others. Such people consider that fashions only exist for individual comfort or benefit. The centre is self.
However, this is not true. People dress fashionably to be pleasing to others. Clothes should help facilitate social interactions. Wearing orderly clothes is a courtesy extended to others. Fashions should not be dirty, fetid or unsightly, causing people discomfort.
In a society where civility has decayed so much, some blame must be placed on the lack of consideration for others reflected in outlandish fashions.
The Dignity of the Individual
People also forget that one key role of clothing is to safeguard a person’s dignity. Thus, the dignity of a person made to the image and likeness of God should not wear revealing or immoral fashions that incite others to sin. Instead, people need to practice the virtue of modesty that governs the exterior appearance and behaviour of the person and thus helps make society civil, virtuous and harmonious.
When people of both sexes dress well, it facilitates virtue. It helps establish acceptable standards of decency and decorum found in healthy and ordered societies. This is so contrary to an everything-goes culture where there are few limits.
Above all, standards of modesty prevent fashion from enslaving consumers who follow what everyone else is doing. A principled stand for dignity in dress allows a person to resist the pressure to conform to the tyranny of the Instagram masses.
Like it or not, clothes send a message. Grungy clothes send a grungy message. Distressed fashions send a message of distress about the state of the culture.
– By John Horvat II