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Since ancient times, trade has organically positioned itself as a catalyst for trans-cultural diffusion. Its centralized marketplace is more than just an arena for the trading of goods and services; it also creates a forum for the inquisitive to share in the transmission of ideologies, religion, history, customs, art, etc. So as buyers and sellers become more familiar with one another – as in trading more frequently and sharing more product – the proverbial floodgates give way to a river of cultural content exchange that over time travels to the remaining respective populations, thus blurring the lines that once distinguished these particular groups from one another. This phenomenon is often referred to as acculturation or assimilation, where the Western world’s impact on developing nations can be seen as a prime example. Moreover, its effect on particular industries sees the birth of a globalized market in which people from various walks of life share similar wants, values, choices and even purchasing habits.
As many big businesses face this lucrative expansion including the automotive, food and certain technological industries, the realm of fashion is swiftly seeing the globalization of its own consumer markets. Could this in turn bring on an era where individuals, and more specifically men, from around the world are in essence dressing eerily alike one another? A homogenization of menswear style so to speak. We think the answer is yes, and here’s why.
Although trade still serves as a catalyst for consumer culture diffusion, fashion’s forgone brick and mortar marketplace has since been succeeded by the invention of the internet and its sophisticated e-commerce tools. This international expansion makes it much more accommodating for consumers to purchase garbs from countless brands located all over the world; be it a startup clothier spotted on Kickstarter, luxury wear retailing through MR PORTER, or even popular streetwear within the HYPEBEAST Store. Improving on the accessibility of fashion aids in leveling the playing field so to speak, in which two individuals on opposite sides of the globe can purchase the exact same article of clothing and have it delivered to their respective doorstep in a matter of days. Accessibility is key to the melding of consumer markets, and without it individuals would simply return to purchasing what is only immediately available to them.
The accessibility of product on a global scale is fairly reliant on consumers sharing ideals for what is fashionable. Gone are the days where enthusiasts looked to designer runway showings or subscription-based services offered by regional print style magazines as the go-to source for discovering what is considered in vogue. Consequently, today’s digital marketplace often begins and ends with the blogosphere, as it offers an endless flow of tailored, interactive material that aids in the purchasing process. Amongst many other facets, it’s where one can discover new brands, see what street style is trending miles away, converse with transcontinental comrades about a particular fit, and even earn a living as a writer for the Hong Kong-based web magazine HYPEBEAST. Best of all, and just like the above e-commerce argument, information is readily available to just about any open-minded individual with an internet connection. So instead of meeting at centralized “trade posts” of the past or waiting for print media to tell you want is trending, users can now converge on these digital platforms to share their customs, norms, taboos, etc. As that cultural transmission continues, as we continue to learn from each other taking bits a pieces from each culture in the name of fashion, we spontaneously develop a universally accepted style of dress.
“Improving on the accessibility of fashion aids in leveling the playing field so to speak, in which two individuals on opposite sides of the globe can purchase the exact same article of clothing and have it delivered to their respective doorstep in a matter of days.”
The role of social media and its integration into everyday life has further provided a digital highway for international culture exchange. Serving as an inexpensive, yet efficient marketing tool for clothiers to spread their message across multiple timezones, platforms like Facebook, Tumblr, and Instagram establish a medium for both brands and consumers to engage with one another on what can be a very personalized level. The notoriety gained from an aggressive social media campaign can certainly manifest into a considerable amount of attention from the trend-solidifying blog world. Brands likes PYREX and #BEENTRILL for example are champions in manipulating our global society’s obsession for social networking as their audaciously-superficial designs are seen on the streets of both Chicago and Milan, although their initial target market were and still are quite unique. Without depictions of worldly tastemakers supporting their culture, creative social media imagery that defines their brash ethos or even catchy hashtags, each brand would not have reached the international recognition they currently hold. Case in point, the right social media strategy can turn a small graphical T-shirt label into a blogosphere sensation where individuals can’t help but include themselves in the discussion of said brand’s validity. This of course leads to an increase in accessibly and a globalized customer base.
Despite the accessibility of both product and ideas thanks to a growing web presence, fashion innovation, or its lack thereof, may have also lead to the homogenization of menswear. It has been quite some time since the world of fashion design has introduced a widely accepted archetype into wearable attire. Sure there are high-fashion designers like Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto that constantly push our sartorial boundaries, yet their concepts remain reserved for only a daring few. This unfortunate, yet justifiable drought has propelled many cultures into mastering the production of westernized fashion as opposed to experimenting with design. The result sees us all, no matter our location, building a wardrobe with the same selection of clothing, i.e. suits, jeans, oxfords, etc.
On the other hand, a few opposing forces remain in preserving regional styles of dress; be it climate-specific attire or undeveloped nations not having universal access to Western fashion and/or the internet — although this is quickly becoming a moot point. Furthermore, despite two individuals from different cultures having access to the same piece of clothing, each can wear that article in a totally different manner. Meaning the style statement each is portraying can be separate from one another. An example of this is when Kanye West was seen on stage at Coachella in 2011 sporting a Celine blouse from the designer’s spring women’s collection. All the while, a European stay-at-home mom may have been seen donning the same top on her way to grab a morning espresso. Same piece different visual.
As the internet brings us closer to the fashion industry as well as those within that share our ideals, are we headed towards one large globalized market? Are we all subconsciously working together to develop a homogeneous style in which we all dress with shared sensibilities no matter our location?
“Despite the accessibility of both product and ideas thanks to a growing web presence, fashion innovation, or its lack thereof, may have also lead to the homogenization of menswear.”