But, getting past all that eloquence, and back to the point -- doesn't it seem like too much intelligence wasted on too little substance? I think the person in the lumpy blue sweater can say, I actually do not care about your convoluted story. I put this on because I have to wear something rather than nothing, but its history has no interest for me.
This is not a philistine rejection of all design. Just a certain frivolous part that takes itself too seriously.
That's an interesting argument. The answer is no, and it's because fashion and other seemingly frivolous pursuits serve a very clear function in the society. Finding a mate, a business partner, a friend, etc. is often very difficult. You generally want to hang out with the best, the smartest, the most influential people possible. However there is no easy way to tell! It would be nice and easy if the best and the smartest were also the best looking, but it is not always the case. Also, there is no "IQ coefficient" badge on the forehead. There is really no way to tell other than either by asking questions (too direct!) or by observing subtle social clues. Fashion sense and social skills are some of those clues.
From the other side of the coin, when you are smart, you want to advertise that. But it would be unsubtle to put up an IQ coefficient badge on your forehead. And being unsubtle (which equates to failure to consider all possible consequences) is seen as a mark of low intelligence. It is the same way in the human society as it is in chess. In chess, if you don't think through as many possible moves as you can, you lose. So you try to look smart, subtle, sophisticated, and up-to-date, at the same time without coming across as too direct or vulgar. It is very hard.
BTW, the unkempt "nerd" look is also an advertisement -- albeit to a limited audience.
It works the same way in humans as it does in lyrebirds. All animal societies share some fundamental similarities.