30 July 2008

because you can only do so much

The hipster post (which the comments are wicked fun to read, btw. Add your two cents in if you'd like) got me plenty of emails, none all too nice but an eye opener to read. I knew it was going to be controversial when I posted it and I like controversial topics / debates / hatemail amuse me.

It got me thinking...labels. What are your labels? I refuse to believe society doesn't label; that's complete bullshit and even if you're in fashion you label. Geek-chic, geek, goth, preppy--fashion can be considered a label oriented industry as much as an industry that goes beyond them. But really, what defines what and who determines what goes where?

I used to consider myself pretty non-conformist when I first started the blog. Which of course is exactly the opposite--I started the blog because of the trends and other bloggers. Not because of my own ideas on fashion, but my opinions on other blogger's and their perspectives on fashion. An odd reason to start blogging but a reason nonetheless. By now, I'm still not clear on my own purpose or niche when it comes to personal style and fashion but I can admit that fashion is by no means or definition, cookie cutter.

Is it shallow? Maybe at first glance....but only first glance. Take into account the references and history behind what you're wearing on your skin, the style of your hair, your makeup, your accessories, how you perceive yourself. Everything has it's own value and meaning to the madness, no?

Which brings me back to labels. What value do they bring to society? From what I can tell, they're only there to make life simpler, so people can identify trends and people. But in the end, there are always blurred lines and misconceptions about people behind the labels. What goes in what category, and why is it such a big deal if people point it out?

This is by no means a post in defense of my previous post. I don't feel like I need to defend myself. I'm just wondering, if we are still so self-conscious about what we're labeled and we call other people assholes for calling us those names... aren't we to blame as well? At one point or another haven't we done the same? Who made it alright to label, and aren't we allowing ourselves to be labeled?

It's not a new idea, granted. We shop at places and read books that are supposed to cater to our demographics, that's how the market is run. It's cause and effect and people make money off of it. The Industry loves controversy and since labels are an age old one at that, sometimes people have double standards on the subject. They hate to be labeled, but they describe something as geek chic, or they think a runway is too punk, etc.

We can choose to ignore the labels and break free of them or let them get to our heads and dress accordingly. Similarly, designers choose to use a story or a person and their lifestyle as a muse and work around a label. I guess it's all a matter of your perception of yourself and your stance on it.



Amelia said...

Labels are basically human nature. As you said, labels are a form of categorization and categorization is what we do to understand and organize the world. For instance, categorization is the basis of language--since we can't have a word for each individual item, we have a word that represents a group of items. The same idea goes for labels. Labels are in some way beneficial, because without them there would be no organization, no way to understand the world. Labels are kind of like understanding abstract concepts through concrete terms. I think fashion tries to break away from labels, because it is abstract, not concrete. However, the fashion industry obviously accepts that they are there (and probably won't go away) and has fun with them.

Wow, that was kind of long and kind of overly academic. Anyway, that was a really thought-provoking post. Thank you.

Nana said...

I've gotta say I agree with Amelia, and you. I think people do let labels get to them too much - if they bother you you should simply try to ignore them. They are somewhat beneficial as well, however, and perhaps in a way abused and/or misunderstood.

Not much of an argument or discussion because I feel pretty safe in saying I agree with you and you covered pretty much everything.

I've gotta say, you know your stuff when you discuss!


+ Lou + said...

I agree with Amelia's comment, that it is human nature to pigeon hole people. I like her statement also about the fashion industry playing with labels. As for my own labels, I get called all sorts of things - geek, nerd, freak, plainjane (by myself)and girl-next-door (i don't mind it so much) among others. Labels are like those tagclouds on flickr, you feel better when you can pinpoint what it is about someone. We can do it so easily to other people but to ourselves? Much much harder.

~ Lou.

Nas said...

I agree that labeling is human nature, but I also think that things like selfishness, greed, arrogance are human nature as well. All three emotional drives are valid and acceptable (by most societies) up to a certain extent. Basically, my stance on the whole labeling is, use as far as it's useful, whether its professional or academic.

I have some qualms about labeling on a social, communal level, probably because it involves a lot of discretion, considering, and general overarching intelligence...and, call me cynical, but I think it's doubtful that the majority of people can exercise such faculties effectively D:

I mean, sure, labels aren't that big of a deal in high school, right? Punks, Goths, Preps, or whatever else. I'm sure that in the wrong situation it can cause significant mental trauma for us adolescent folk, but at least in my mind are more entertaining than anything.

But labels can translate to pretty ugly stuff in the real world. Race/religion conflicts, the constant need not only to define but get rid of the "other" litters our histories. I guess that's beyond the scope of the post and I'm just going on a crazy tangent.

I like the idea of people being able to identify themselves with a group and get a sense of belonging. But I'm not so hot for the exclusivity or bias that inevitably exists around the culture. I guess in the end, it just comes down to needing more responsible, enlightened people in the world.

And we'll always need that D;

The Clothes Horse said...

I hate labels. I try not to put people in a box, b/c I can't be put in a box. Honestly, I don't know how to describe my style or even my likes most days, they're too diverse--and everyone else deserves the same opportunity. I have honestly had Psychology majors say that they can't figure me out...but most of them are a bit on obnoxious and really like to "figure" people out (i.e. put them in a box!). Plus, aren't we constantly changing? No one stays stagnant so a label can't be true for very long... The closest I have ever come is "military child" there's something about all military kids growing up all over the world and in constant change that makes us similar...
Oh and Gidget! I never liked the tv show either, but the movie is just cheesy wonder!

ă‚”ăƒ–ăƒȘナ said...

When you think about fashion as an art, not an industry, it's like people. We all work with the same materials: wool, satin, cotton, nylon, etc. and it's only at the end when we finally sew the label on the back. We're all the same inside (pardon the cliche). The only thing that sets us apart is our label: the melatonin in our skin. People tend to group with what's most similar because it's human nature to stick close to home -- what they know best. And then to make sure we're safely segregated in our spots, we group everyone else up too.

But then when you're blatantly different, society's social organising mechanism can't be so mechanic anymore. I can relate to this being mixed, myself. Having an English name labels me as another white girl, but inside I know that's not who I am (and kind of outside too lol). It's as I've said before, is right to call a girl a JAP because she wears Lululemon pants? Maybe she really does do yoga all the time. Or she might not be following a mindless trend, and that's what she likes but really she likes experimental rock and not the top 20.

Labelling others is our security. But it's not defensive.

nicole said...

i agree with all of you. also, unfortunately, even if you believe that you cannot be put under a label, there are those people who can find a way to put you under one by scrutinizing every single attribute you've got about you that can place you somewhere. that habit is picked up everywhere. especially politics!
so, there's almost no way we can live without a label.

Stephanie said...

I don't really like labels, obviously...but then again I am a massive hypocrite and always think of my outfits in label terms - not "punk" and "boho", really, but more the decade and what it reminds me of. I think legitimate subcultures of clothing are cool when they encompass specific views, but the watered-down version (ex: punk) is just annoying.

Diana said...

Great post. No one likes to be put into labels, but we all do it. That's how we grow up. Growing up we knew who the smart kids were, who the goth kids were, jock kids etc.. With fashion it's the same thing. Even though each individual is unique I think we all share something that we follow from someone else.

susie_bubble said...

The thing is yes, labels exist but exceptions also exist and I like to think that beneath the simple format of a lable lies something a lot deeper.... to label ppl isn't a crime but it is an indulgence of the lazy sort.... it's like taking the easy way out... so I'd rather take the time so that the shackles of labelling can be done away with...

Chloe Tejada said...

I think that as people, we need to identify each other and place ourselves into categories so we know how to act.
Labels and fashion are so intertwined now because companies need a brand to sell merchandise.
I think that labels can be good if you want to show people a certain look or point of view. I am just uncomfortable with flaunting labels or judging people by their labels. Labels can be easily misread.

Elisabeth Moody said...

i, like the others agree with amelia.
But i have never had a label put opon me, i was homeschooled ( no, I'm not a prissy christian push-over)
i went to school for two years, for 6th grade and 7th. but i was the social butterfly, flitting to one place to the next, so essential i never got a label.
Now, i live on a collage campus with my dad, and so i hang out with collage students who are not that judgemental.