I Am Blue Floppy Hat, Hear Me Grumble.

WARNING: long, possibly ranty rambling ahead- feel free to ignore.
A little over a year ago, I was getting quite itchy to start a fashion blog but didn't exactly have the courage to do it. Meanwhile, all my clothes-related ramblings went onto another blog I'd kept through 2006- a system which seemed to work pretty decently even if my yammering did befuddle anyone who read it. I didn't even think about what they thought of it until the day I got a comment telling me that the commenter hadn't thought someone could like Terry Pratchett and fashion at the same time .
I don't mean this as a slur against the person in question*, and they would never have meant to offend me, but I couldn't help but see it as an example of a very common and more than slightly unjust attitude to fashion that most people have: namely, the one that says that anyone who cares about her appearance/reads fashion magazines/actually admits to liking fashion and related things, is an empty-headed twit whose approximate IQ is twenty points below that of a tomato.
It isn't exactly a secret that fashion has plenty to do with the spending of money, and I've met plenty of people who openly admit to thinking it's twaddle. Which is fine, because there are some things I think are twaddle too (obsessive cricket discussions, most politicians' speeches, a lot of the lectures I've heard in college). What bothers me is that for so many people, the fact of caring about the way I look or admitting that I do think about it sometimes, indicates that I've given up having and using a brain. And while I get that constant change, which happens so often in fashion, confuses and unsettles some people, we can't get away from having to dress ourselves. Is attempting to do that in a way that reflects who you are, or who you would like to be, evidence of something bad? To put it in a slightly simpler way: people who love fashion aren't all idiots, or Cruella de Vil**. And some of us are very definitely Terry Pratchett fans. A lot of us are Harry Potter fans. Some of us love philosophy. And fashion doesn't get in the way of that.
Maybe it's just the fact of the recent Thinking Blogger meme that got me onto the subject here, but I suppose this is why I don't often discuss fashion with too many of my real-life friends..there are exactly two of them who will hear me out without being dismissive or giving up. And getting to read well-thought-out, brilliant posts from so many bloggers over the last year, makes the fact that they, too, could be subjected to such narrow-mindedness (I saw one example of it over at Kingdom of Style today) seem all the more unfair.
*whom I knew personally, and have a very high opinion of.
** though I think Daphne Guinness's hair is genius for reminding me of her.


selinaoolala said...

yes!! so well said, i get this all the time, especially at uni just because i do management and marketting of textiles people immediately say 'oh you do fashion' as though it's way below their super tricky course. it's not even to do with fashion! and it's mostly men with these opinions, they just don't understand! maybe it's like how i really don't understand the attraction of sports...

Megan said...

Recently stumbled on your blog and I totally agree! A lot of my friends seem to think that the more time I spend keeping up with trends and the more money I spend on clothes, the dumber I get. I know that they might not have the same passion for it that I do, but I disagree completely. Everyone should have a passion (just the same as an athlete spends outrageous amounts of money on sports equipment), and that has nothing to do with a person's intelligence.

The Clothes Horse said...

I couldn't be more on the same page with you! I don't talk to fashion to anyone at my school because as soon as I mention my interest I feel written off and my intelligence undermined (when in reality they are the ones who are ignorant of fashion designers, fashion history and the current state of fashion magazines). Why is a female interested in fashion deemed somehow less intelligent or at least less interested in "serious" topics?
The real kick to me is, would the response be the same if I was passionate about a certain sport or music? Yet aren't these hobbies (and many others) equally irreverent and frivolous in the way that they aren't wholly academic nor do they help anyone?

molly said...

very interesting post...i agree! interest in fashion is not a sign of unintelligence

Meg said...

Right on! Besides the majority of decent fashion magazines like i-D and Another Magazine are not confined to the realms of fashion, but include art, literature and music too, I'd like to see how well-rounded the naysayers are in their knowledge in these areas!

WendyB said...

Go to my post on this topic to get lots of historical examples to throw at annoying people ;-)
I think it's under the tag "feminism"

lalaliu said...

i love this post and I would rant in the exact same way. I really love fashion and put effort into dressing up and stuff but somehow I feel that my peers think I'm a little "dummy" even though I'm not! (I swear). Last night my roommate was playing Brain Age (some nintendo game measuring your intelligence and such) and she got a C and then it told her C for Fashion Stylist. I was like "what!" why!! Just because people like fashion it doesn't mean we're stupid frivolous people. There's actually a lot of intellectual thinking when it comes to fashion and certainly reading all the amazine fashion blogs at there has inspired me to view it in a way other than "lets go shopping".

Heather said...

I definitely agree with you! Fashion is so deeply stereotyped, people don't understand that it's an interest, among other interests...

Speaking of which, I get to read Terry Pratchett in a LITERATURE CLASS I'm taking! I'm really excited.

blushing apples said...

thank you for all the nicest comments you leave, the mean the most to me. Happy 2008, I hope this is the best year yet for you :D

fashionaddict said...

When I first heard of fashion blogs and started Googling them and reading them, it was like I stumbled into an alternate universe where people held fashion in the same view as I did, it was, to use a cliche, a serendipity.

I couldn't believe that there were people out there who shared the urge to share their random thoughts about fashion, and actually think and discuss it intelligently beyond dismissive remarks like "That looks stupid".

So yay, love it that something I've always thought has been affirmed by so many others.

Perakath said...

Whee! Best post yet, BFH.

I am Perakath, hear my opinions:

(1) The mentioned commenter is a mutual friend, yes?

(b) Sorry to nitpick, but it's Cruella de Ville. Devil. Devil-woman. Etc, etc, and so forth.

(3) I too felt disdain for fashion. This changed when (i) I saw The Devil Wears Prada, and (ii) I began to follow this blog properly, and saw the number of commenters who agreed with you on most things and who were also into fashion, and who seemed to be, er, smart people. Commenters, take a bow.

(4) Clause 3 above does not in any way indicate that I thought you non-smart for being into fashion. I just mean to say that your regular commenters impressed me and made me realize how many people are fashionistae.

(e) I have no fashion sense whatsoever. When I was younger I used to watch F TV late at night to look at the models with naked breasts. Then the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting stepped in, and I stopped thinking about fashion until you began this blog.

Good wishes always :)

Perakath said...

To clarify Clause 4 above: "I thought you without your commenter reinforcements non-smart..."

susie_bubble said...

I've touched on this subject quite a few times on the blog.... conclusion being fashion and its connotations shapes people's opinions of us...it's sad but true.... I don't blame them... but I don't have to take it either...so I just get on with it and obliterate what people think from my heads.... as long as I know what I'm all about, that's really what matters...

Elisabeth said...

I agree with you 100%!

Whilst my blog isn't a fashion blog, I read and link many because they are so wonderful to read!

I think some people are afraid to say they are interested in fashion because of these people who, let's face it, are often dull and moany.

There are people who will slam anyone... perhaps they need a nice large dose of couture!?

Cakespy said...

I just came across you...keep ranting, I love this. Thank you for challenging the system! :-)

riz said...

HERE HERE!! (Gasp in amazement and inhale with profound satisfaction) Thank you. This is EXACTLY how I feel when I speak about fashion with others - like i always have to justify my interests, b/c fashion, unlike everything else, is inevitably superficial and requires justification. I really pity such narrow-mindedness. Honestly. Thank you for this profound rant. I really appreciate it, and it is one of the best I have read this year - well since mid 2007 when i started blogging!

headmistress said...

there's a horrible, sneery arrogance to people who like to put down fashion as a pointless frivolity. As if it is actually morally offensive to them. Whose concept of the fashion world is shaped solely by Ugly Betty etc - a culture of vapid, conformist thoughtlessness. But fashion, like art, is inherently frivolous, and it's only out of this frivolity that creativity, inspiration can come forth. There's a quote somewhere in my head about art tearing a hole in the umbrella of conventional thought which I think would be apt, if only I could remember it.

I consume so much fashion media, and while part of this is just eyecandy escapism, I also love seeing so much creativity, inventiveness and individuality, that bucks against the standard hegemony pushed by conventional media.

Libertygirl said...

Well I am a real life fashion editor & writer, as well as a fashion blogger. I also have a degree in something rather academic & esoteric. Fashion & intelligence go hand in hand: they are not mutually exclusive.

I do rather enjoy playing with people's misplaced preconceptions about blonde, bosomy, blue eyed fashion editors tho! LLG xx

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Selina: I've never understood the attraction of sports fans either...maybe it's just me. And snobbishness against people on the basis of what they study at uni is so unfair :(
Megan: I've always thought that it's best to forget about whatever you wear once you have it on..it'd be helpful if the people we know could keep that in mind, too (for the most part my friends do, in my case).

The Clothes Horse: It's exactly as so many people have said before..the minute something gets seen as a 'girly' interest, it's all ok to run it down. As if only women wear clothes...for the most part, I don't ever talk about fashion with real-life people I know because I feel exactly as you do- that I'll be written off as an airhead- and also because it's just too private for me to discuss, if that makes any sense.

Meg: In some cases, they were pretty well-rounded,which might surprise some people. Sad, but true..
Wendy: I knew you'd have something on the subject...and I could do with examples to throw at people!

lala: you're very definitely not a dummy, I've seen your blog :)

Heather: Terry Pratchett, in a literature class? I wish I took literature classes like those...

Blushing Apples: thank you, it's good to see you back :)

Fashionaddict: That was more or less the feeling I had too. The closest thing to liken the existence of fashion blogs to, is Star Wars/Lord of the Rings/Harry Potter etc. fandoms- a place where us geeks can post and share our thoughts..

Yohan said...

Er...sorry I've jumped into this so late: my net connection at home died.

Was it me who said the Pratchett thing? It sounds like something I might say. Ah, I was such an ass not too long ago. Sorry!

I have a lot of things to say about this topic, which interests me more that the specifics of fashion. But in defence of the fear of fashion-based individualism let me direct people towards a documentary called "The Century of the Self". It's available on google video, and is, in my opinion, must-see TV.

Here are some points about fashion that interest me:

1. How can anyone pay 200 dollars for jeans (I know two people who do this - a girl and a guy)? Especially someone who earns as much (or as little) as me?

2. The criticism of fashion is not so much about intelligence as it is about perceived superficiality. (Yipe! Don't kill me.) I don't think everyone who cares about clothes is superficial, but many superficial people (seem to) care about fashion! This may be a flawed perception, of course, on the part of the people who think of themselves as "deep". Hehe. A corollary is this: dressing well is often seen by people as a need to impress or attract. There are many people who think they are above this kind of thing, although in their case they simply replace clothing with intellectualism, eccentricity, or some other non-tangible commodity.

3. I used to agree with the idea that one's fashion sense reflects one's personality. The documentary "The Century of the Self" looks into the reasons for this new understanding of the Self, which, if you think about it, is not obvious or self-evident. A more esoteric type might say that the outward manifestations of "personality" acts as a hindrance to the creation of relationships across social, economic and artistic boundaries. I'm not saying that what's inside get obscured by what's worn on the outside. I'm just saying that the issue is not necessarily simple. Having strong ideas about what looks good can colour one's opinion about a person's character.

Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living. I am not saying that fashionable people don't examine themselves. But I do see some people who are slaves to fashion, and a dose of skepticism generally helps people streamline their own existence.

[Whew! I hope I haven't pissed anyone off. In the interest of full disclosure, let me say that I snappy clothes, and like dressing well, and seeing well-dressed people. The best-dressed people not only look sharp, they also look comfortable and well-adjusted.]

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Perakath: 1. Would it surprise you if I said no?
2. It's Cruella de Vil. No 'le' attached at the end, at least as per my copy of 101 Dalmatians.
3. My commenters are indeed amazing.
5. FTV late at night is pretty rubbish...though I was a fan of it for the designer/model interviews and shows more than anything else..

Susie: I know that, on some level, I just need to shrug and let it go, but I can't help noting the difference in treatment once I've been outed as a fashion fan..

Elisabeth: A large dose of couture is sometimes just the thing I want..can't blame people for thinking fashion is weird, what with the frenzies about It-bags and other things. But very little else gets you judged quite as quickly- even by people who are otherwise pretty open-minded..that was what surprised me more than anything else.
Cakespy: Thank you, (maybe I;m a bit of a bolshie at heart?) and your blog is making me realise..I need a food section on my blogroll.

Riz: Thanks! The attitude you described is part of why I gave up discussing fashion offline..easier to just spare myself the trouble and come here where people do understand.

Headmistress: I love Ugly Betty, but you're right, too many people go by the clichés without stopping to consider other possibilities (it's like saying music is crap because all you know of it is Celine Dion- no offence to her fans but I really can't stand her music)..and I love that quote.

LLG: You're a true Renaissance woman :)..and turning people's preconceptions on their heads must be a brilliant bit of fun- what wouldn't I give to watch while you do that..

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Yohan: that video is nearly an hour long, so I'm just going to reply to what you said now, and watch it later. Here goes.
1. People can pay 200 dollars for their jeans, the same way they fork out money for things like Star Wars collectibles or first edition copies of books- namely, because they want it badly enough. And a love of fashion isn't exclusively indulged by spending piles of money- it can (and there's proof all over the blogs, about this) exist at every price point on the planet, including for free if you happen to be into DIY. It really isn't about how much money you spend- some of the most original and creative outfits I've ever seen were made with peanuts for a budget.

2. The perceived superficiality and intelligence angles go hand in hand. The very nature of the idea of superficiality itself, means that what you said (i.e. lots of superficial people being into fashion) might be true. But applying that logic to assume that people who take an interest in fashion are superficial, doesn't sound right to me- X, who made that Pratchett comment, had known me for a while, during which time I hadn't so much as squeaked the word 'fashion'. But the minute I admit it, the presumption applied is that I am a person whose interest in literature of the clever kind is improbable, given my 'fashion' tendencies.
Caring chiefly about outward appearances may be a prominent characteristic of superficial people, but how 'deep' is anyone being in making that kind of snap judgment? Did X even allow for the possibility that fashion might mean something other than glossy magazines and pricey clothes, and would the reaction have been the same if I'd said I love origami or carpentry? I have to agree with the corollary, though- it's a good one.

3. The statement isn't really that esoteric, and as I said, I can't watch the video right now so pardon me if the question's been answered there- but I must ask: if there were no outward manifestations of personality- whether it's in the form of body language that says eff off/whatever, or your clothes, or your actions- what's left for anyone to interpret, interact with, or see as a signal that tells you how to treat them? Even if you eschew fashion altogether, you'd still HAVE to wear clothes, and exercise some element of conscious choice about what you wear.
And as for letting ideas of what looks good colour our opinions of people's characters- after a lot of thinking, it's a little unfair to imply that people who are interested in fashion judge people on the basis of their clothes/what they think looks good- literally everyone, from my nosy great-aunt onwards, does it. I'm not saying that people who are interested in fashion don't do it, but IMHO most people who love fashion enough to blog about it, are open-minded enough to know that everyone exercises their own choices as far as clothes go, and mature enough not to judge people for it. Live and let live works just as well for fashion bloggers as for any other group of people..

Yohan said...

Excellent! I think your replies to each point were spot on.

I still feel that thinking carefully about these things can help prevent gross generalizations. To take a personal example, I used to judge people (perhaps subconsciously) based on things like musical taste and political leaning. However, investigation and introspection lead me to remember that some of my most intense disagreements are with my closest friends, and that I shouldn't let my preconceived notions prevent new friendships from emerging.

If someone who was already your friend began treating you differently after you "confessed" to liking fashion (as opposed to just taking your trip), then that's a cause for concern. But surely you can give this person a good tongue-lashing?

I can relate to this on another level. If I say I am religious, scientific types look at me like I'm a moron, or at least, in possession of a superfluous belief that they can disabuse me of.

It is impossible to bridge some of the gaps between worldviews. Recently I've begun thinking that some of the best discussions are between people who already agree, at least implicitly. How often does someone change a belief based purely on rational debate? I am yet to see such a thing happen before my own eyes.

Regarding point 2. I agree, the two go hand in hand, but consider an analogous phonomenon: many academics tend to feel a sense of superiority when they compare themselves to businessmen (and vice versa, of course) while admitting that considerable intelligence and skill are required in order to be a successful businessman (or academic). The sense of superiority stems from such abstract notions like "plebeian", "unsophisticated", and even "superficial".

[I could go on forever with a topic like this, because it's very close to what's been laying siege to my mind lately, but I'll be quiet now, and leave this topic to the fashionistas. Muahahahaha. :P]

Anonymous said...

wow, you've got quite a few people commenting here. I just wanted to let you know that I dispise the media's preocupation with cricket & bollywood. Bollywood being the lesser of two evils, still pretty evil.

And even though I'm not obsessed with it, I see fashion as art. I can understand when ppl get things mixed up though, there is a difference between following trends and understanding fashion.
The uninitiated confuse the two.

WendyB said...

Floppy, with my examples you will either sway people with your knowledge of history or kill people with boredom. Either way, you win! That's actually my policy towards a lot of things. If I have no idea what the conversation is about I say how this reminds me of England during the 1500s and they think I'm very smart.

indi said...

brillant! this post is something i think about everyday but would've never ended up writing about. acutally, i dont write much anyway. i dont get people's condescending attitudes towards fashion and it becomes a lot worse if you decided to make it your career. i often get" oh so isnt that nice! you stitch and stuff! ooooh!"
wendy b- hahaha i love your policy! i wouldn't mind giving it a try sometime, except i'm so darn anti-social.

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Masala Chai: finally, someone else who feels the same way I do! My friends all think that Bollywood is idiotic, but cricket is something very few people agree with me about.

Wendy: I'd aim for the first, which is more likely- historical examples presented with even a tenth of your flair can never be boring!

Indi: You must find it even more annoying than I do, given that you're a fashion student (or were). I'd blame it on the press too, at least in part- intelligent coverage of fashion etc is rather hard to come by. And India, I've noticed, hasn't got any domestic equivalent of the left-of-centre fashion press like i-D, Jalouse et al- so actual thinking about fashion, is rarely done.

ambika said...

Just imagine applause in place of this comment. As much as I *don't* get ragged on by friends or anonymous commenters regarding my fixation with these things, I can't help but feel a sense of defensiveness about it. The perception is *there* even if it's not immediate to me.

Sarah said...

you're too right about the people thinking style and intelligence are oil and water. What people need to understand is that stylish does not mean materialistic, and our appearance has everything to do with how the world sees us and our levels of self-confidence.
But it could be considered a hobby just the same as bird-watching, bird watchers are not more intelligent necessarily and they certainly aren't as interesting.

Blue Floppy Hat said...

Ambika: I feel exactly as you do about it- mostly, no one says anything outright to me, but I have gotten a couple of 'why are you studying law, and not fashion?' comments from people...very annoying indeed.
Sarah: In an ideal world, we wouldn't be judged..sometimes it's just best to ignore it. I like the birdwatcher analogy though!

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