Fashion is one of the world's most important creative industries. It is the major output of a global business with annual U.S. sales of more than $200 billion—larger than those of books, movies, and music combined. Everyone wears clothing and inevitably participates in fashion to some degree. Fashion is also a subject of periodically rediscovered fascination in virtually all the social sciences and the humanities. It has provided economic thought with a canonical example in theorizing about consumption and conformity. Social thinkers have long treated fashion as a window upon social class and social change. Cultural theorists have focused on fashion to reflect on symbolic meaning and social ideals. Fashion has also been seen to embody representative characteristics of modernity, and even of culture itself.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a locus of social life—whether in the arts, the sciences, politics, academia, entertainment, business, or even law or morality—that does not exhibit fashion in some way. People flock to ideas, styles, methods, and practices that seem new and exciting, and then eventually the intensity of that collective fascination subsides, when the newer and hence more exciting emerge on the scene. Participants of social practices that value innovation are driven to partake of what is "original," "cutting edge," "fresh," "leading," or "hot." But with time, those qualities are attributed to others, and another trend takes shape. This is fashion. The desire to be "in fashion"—most visibly manifested in the practice of dress—captures a significant aspect of social life, characterized by both the pull of continuity with others and the push of innovation toward the new...

 

Read the full article.