I just finished reading the interesting extraction, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” made by Penguin Books from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and would like to share with you how it shaped my thoughts on fashion and following trends. Published in 1854, Thoreau highlights how most Americans hardly ever wear their clothes out completely and instead feel the need to purchase new items as the fashions change with each season. He makes fun of this saying, “We worship not the (Gods), but Fashion” but he also understands that we live among people that will judge us and will treat us differently based on our clothes; how current and expensive they look. In our country still today, people can gain more respect, maybe more success and can even make more money if they dress according to the rules.
But shall we consider who makes the rules? I certainly do not personally know the people from whom fashion trickles down and I doubt most of them care about me or the betterment of the world more than they care about profiting from new pieces being sold. I have to continually remind myself that new fashion statements are pushed to make companies more money and satisfy our desire for change that I talked about a couple weeks ago. Now, if a company is taking good care of people and the planet, then I won’t feel bad about considering their products. It is our lack of consideration when buying new products that bothers me. I think that Thoreau’s and my main beef with trends and following fashion is that most of the time we are expected to follow trends without thinking in order to "keep up with the times" (read spend more money). As he puts it “The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler’s cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same.”
Thoreau also implies that respect, success, and money are often more coveted than virtue remarking, “I am sure that there is greater anxiety, commonly, to have fashionable, or at least clean un-patched clothes, than to have a sound conscience.” This feels very true to me as I worry about what people think of me based on how trendy my clothes are instead of focusing on my character and how I can improve it. I refuse to be a monkey anymore and desire to incorporate new ideas and pieces into my wardrobe only when it suits me best and the betterment of the world. It is not worth it to me to gain respect from people who will not respect me if I'm not wearing trendy clothes or to gain success from owning clothes that were made by oppressed people or to save money wearing articles made by underpaid people.
I don't believe that it's wrong to desire change in our lives and some refreshing new pieces as Thoreau agrees if a soul has undergone great personal change and growth, wearing the same clothes can feel like “sailing under false colors.” We don’t want to communicate the wrong message to people about who we are and what we care about. What I am fighting against is the short-sighted instinct to thoughtlessly follow what everyone else is doing at the moment in order to gain respect and success for myself only. What if instead we passed on buying clothes, accessories and other products that are not good for the environment and do not help the rest of the world? What if we looked into who made our pieces and with what processes or practices? If this is overwhelming to us, what if we bought fewer things and mostly second-hand items? What if we cared more about the world and less about how we appear to the world?