Why am I relating Georg Simmel to fashion? I found a connection between Simmel’s theories and fashion. Like a lot of trendsetters in the fashion world who dared to be different, Simmel was that “different” Sociologist in the social science world where everything seemed to be as streamline and conservative as a Brooks Brother’s suit.
Simmel was not a conformist, he was quite the opposite in fact. He dared to think different from the traditional German conservatives of that time. Simmel was looked down upon because he was Jewish, clever (his analysis were considered superficial) and his lectures were well attended, by intellectually inferior women and Orientals (as per the Germans). Yes, Simmel was discriminated against for being different, so are a lot of designers and those who wear their clothes.
For instance the article named: A Black Crip’s Perspective on Fashion and Embodied Resistance By Eddie Ndopu was brillantly written, however, it reminded me of Simmel, in that Eddie as a “Crip” as he called himself, was not afraid to be different in his style of dressing, which was ironic, because many people in our society, view being disabled as different. Eddie observed which style of dressing brought him the most attention, whether it be negative or positive. Simmel knew his theories, lectures and perspective were frowned upon, criticized and garnered negative attention by the German academia elite that resulted in alienation (Marx) from the academic world, however, like Eddie, Simmel continued and believed in himself and his philosophies.
Simmel’s theories and sociological perspective are like an unconstructed suit, he did not set out to construct a coherent theoretical scheme, nor did he explicitly aim to develop a systematic critique or build on a specific theoretical paradigm like his peers, such as Mead or Marx. Simmel believed the essence of society lies in the interactions that takes place between individuals, like clothes are suppose to interact with your life style. Simmel defined society as a number of individuals connected by interaction. Clothes are a form of social interaction. People relate to each other through clothes. Clothes bring together like minded people, a commonality. Simmel’s theories regarding human interaction was unique and forward thinking, which resulted in alienation and critique, fashion brings the same results for some.
Simmel believed that society and the individual constitutes an interdependent duality. Who you are as individual is in an important sense defined and made possible by the groups to which you belong. Clothes are similar, you are defined by what you wear and you want to be defined by what you wear. To some this parallel between Simmel’s theories and fashion may seem far fetch, but tell that to the thousands of Asian kids who are free from the communistic way of life and control and who are now able to express themselves and define themselves by the groups they belong to and/or associate with.