Clothing has had a historical sense of pride in the human race. In Oriental China, systems of robe colors indicated social structure. The more ornate your robe the more wealthy you were considered. The Hausa community in Africa has used Turbans and layered clothing to portray wealth and status. In the western world, before the Industrial Revolution, nice clothing used to be considered prized possessions, and clothing has always had a way to showcase social and financial position through uniforms and quality. Quite literally, the pride we feel when wearing clothing directly correlates to concept of Class in the modern world.
Fashion and Class essentially go hand in hand with each other. With fashion having its roots in Consumerism and Capitalism, it is no surprise that society maintains this relationship between the two terms. When we look at what other people are wearing, when we shop at certain brands, when we indulge in Fashion per se, we fuel this idea that Fashion determines someone’s class.
When examining class, I like to look at it from two ways. Class in terms of Social Class being the first: looking at how fashion interacts with classifying people into lower, middle, and upper class. However, there’s a more individualistic approach to Class: examining the concept of classiness. What exactly makes us feel classy when we go out? What exactly makes us categorize someone else as looking classy?
Looking at our ourselves and determining if we fit our own view of being “classy” is largely dependent on the various identities we identify with. A lot of the time what is viewed as classy for one identity is definitely not seen as classy for another, and interestingly enough, we mostly see minorities playing with the concept of classiness in their dress. My favorite example of this is seen in the dress sense of African American Male celebrities. We see them wearing patterned tuxedos, bright colors, metallic shoes, etc. A lot of the times these decisions can incorrectly imply a feminine and/or queer undertone. But they view themselves as classy making society see them as such as a result. This is where the lines between our own perception of being class and society’s definition of class via fashion intersect.
Yes of course, there are symbols in society that imply class. The watch a man wears especially certain brands such as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Phillipe suggest a sense of financial abundance. The size of a diamond on a woman’s engagement ring correlates to the same. These are all fashion accessories that people associate with class especially with society’s obsession around the “elite” and “upper class”. There is an eye around the opulence, which many TV shows exploit, in the lives of the upper class. Similarly, this forces many people to think that they need certain things to feel classy in the eyes of society. Inherently, these brands enforce a level of classism in society.
A lot of the times, the air around certain accessories label fashion as a shallow and surface industry. Personally, I wish there was an easy solution to stop classism perpetuated by brands in the industry, but as we live in a capitalistic society, it is inevitable.