I guess I'm not a real man then. I have a number of pink shirts that I wear for work (amongst a whole load of other colours) and I've never even thought about my masculinity when wearing one. Frankly, the opposite seems to be true to me. If you have to put a big sign on your pink shirt talking about "real men" then you are pretty insecure about your pink shirt and your man status.
Bell also explained a second way to signal high-status: conspicuous outrage. Wear a shirt with the word "FUCK" on it in big letters (or, if you prefer, FCUK). This signals "I am so high status that I think I can wear the word 'FUCK' in big letters on a t-shirt and get away with it." It's a pretty good signal. It signals that you don't give a...well...fcuk what anyone else thinks, and the only people who would be able, either economically or psychologically, to get away with that are the high status
Is that a joke? High-status people wear shirts that say FCUK to show how high-status they are? Utter rubbish. The people who wear FCUK shirts (and other 'outrageous' designs) have nothing to do with high or low status. They are just being provocative, and I expect many, if challenged about what they were wearing would fail to be high-status about it.
Or maybe you're SO insecure that you try to look like you're so secure that you can afford to look oh god I can't finish this sentence.
Careful study of the mirror revealed only the same old familiar geek in jeans, work boots and a shirt that --while brighter than anything else I owned-- just didn't make a difference either way.
I couldn't help but conclude the whole notion was bullshit pop psychology; cousin to such useful social tools as horoscopes, fortune cookies and dream analysis.
Huh, wearing a pink shirt makes me look insecure? The signal given by the wearing a pink shirt is in the eye of the beholder. If you think less of me because of it, that's your issue, not mine.
I agree with him: you can't claim to signal nothing.
I don't doubt your conscious intention.
Out of curiosity, how many high-status people do you know? Would you say that Bell's theory is invalid for all age ranges?
I'd reckon there's room to say that both showing-off and being provocative could be reasons for a person (who's by no means average) to wear a fcuk piece of clothing instead of something else.
Could you explain this euphemism in plain English I have no idea to what it refers?
"In Western culture, the practice of assigning pink to an individual gender began in the 1920s. From then until the 1940s, pink was considered appropriate for boys because being related to red it was the more masculine and decided color, while blue was considered appropriate for girls because it was the more delicate and dainty color, or related to the Virgin Mary. Since the 1940s, the societal norm apparently inverted so that pink became appropriate for girls and blue appropriate for boys, a practice that has continued into the 21st century."
So yes, you're right, this association is recent.
This changed sometime in the early 20th century.
The source was some parenting/manners/etiquette book from 190x.
Go to Italy, then. One of the good things in life is to wear a dark Italian suit with a pastel-colored shirt (light blue is the norm, light-pink is not unusual). Only utter morons would associate a color with a sexual orientation. But then, most Americans are utter morons. In fact, most people, Americans or non-Americans are complete morons. It's an epidemic.
I agree -- the "wear a pink shirt to indicate confidence in your masculinity" trick only worked briefly (was it in the late 90s?), for the first few men who started doing it. As soon as it got noticed and people started writing articles about it, it stopped working, since it was an easily-faked signal; I remember the bars suddenly being flooded with desperate-looking weak-chinned men in pastel pink shirts at some point. Nowadays, I think, that whole phase is over and pale pink is just another colour for men's shirts, though I personally try to avoid it because of all the layers of attached symbolism.
This, of course, is the whole point about fashion -- those who aren't at the top try to look like those above them, and those who are at the top try to look different from those below them.
If you're thinking "but surely a highly confident man doesn't care what he wears" then you're right, but a highly confident man still needs to go to great effort to make sure he doesn't look like he cares what he's wearing, otherwise he risks being confused with those below him.
It's not saying much to say that different signals are easier or harder to fake.
He claims that the goal of fashion is to signal status. So far, so obvious. But low-status people would like to subvert the signal. Therefore, the goal of lower class people is to look like upper class people, and the goal of upper class people is to not look like lower class people.
Signals aren't interpreted the same way by everyone (hence "high-status" and "low-status" are very coarse terms), but anyone actively trying to control the signals they give off through clothing has some idea of how they will be interpreted by those they are seeking to impress.
There's a practical purpose that has very little to do with fashion.
They're wearing clothes that advertise French Connection UK, a high-end clothier.
I don't find "fuck" to be particularly offensive, except that the reason people are using it (in this instance) is because they wish to offend the public sensibility, so they are attempting to be offensive; which I _do_ find offensive.
French Connection, before this campaign, was a high-end clothier. Now it may charge high-end prices but they sold themselves into chav-dom.
It's pretty rare to see a FCUK t-shirt in the US (apparently they only have 19 stores nationwide) whereas they're ridiculously overplayed in the other two countries (14 stores in Sydney alone).
Of course it's not "high end" anywhere, but it's not so chavvy (or local equivalent) in the US.
But it also serves as an advertisement for fitness, fitness in terms of energy and thought you can devote to staying in fashion.
If you're a bit hurried and busy or just lost in deep thought like programmers, you don't have the resources to be on the cutting edge of fashion, and you tend to look a bit dumpy.
If you're in real distress, you tend to look really like crap, what ever you're waring is strictly serving the function of protecting you from the elements, and nothing else.
Like the peacock's tail, fashion is advertising excess resources.
In some way it can also advertise genetic fitness, as in you have high social IQ and can read the crowd's mind.
And then there's the I'm so proud of being a hacker I walk around looking like homeless person crowd, that's advertising that you're kind of a dick.
Here's a partial list of reasons people wear what they do, which the author misses (though some are mentioned in the comments):
- To enhance one's body (appear more attractive, muscular, thin, etc)
- To indicate a lack of concern for fashion.
- Peer pressure to conform to what others are wearing.
- Self expression of any number of things.
- Aesthetic taste.
- A sense of moral obligation (modesty, patriotism, etc).
It's interesting that the author fixates on the motivation of status signaling above all others.
That's like saying "I want to read a simple, good-looking book that entertains me and even makes me look intelligent." You can't be that simplistic without appealing to the lowest common denominator. Past a certain point, you've got to make an effort or else it doesn't really matter to you.
There is a stigma which casts Fashion as vapid and illogical, but a serious look at avante-garde and haute-couture designers will show the opposite. Designs are highly intellectual and innovative, encompassing all variations of form and function, and the interactions between elements. Very commonly, a single stitch or element is given as much deliberation as a core feature in a programming language or a chip in a circuit due the angles which it must be analyzed.
- To enhance one's body (appear more attractive, muscular, thin, etc): being thin is inherently better than not, so I want to appear more thin.
- Self expression of any number of things: it's important to me that people not kill animals, so I'll be conspicuous in the ways I don't wear leather.
- Aesthetic taste: I prefer the look of the color red, so I'll wear it for my own pleasure.
- Entertainment: keeping up with fashion is stimulating to me, so I'll do it for fun.
Could you expound on why you think these things signal status in some way?
I also think this thread is missing the point slightly: status signaling doesn't explain every clothing decision ever made by anybody, but it does explain why fashions change the way they do.
Ahh, but not entirely. One of the cardinal sins of fashion (at least for heterosexual men) is looking like you're trying too hard. Spending too much time trying to look good (or, say, buying a subscription to GQ) is actually an indicator of low status since only low-status men need to expend effort on looking like they're not low-status -- this is what my favourite fashion site magnificentbastard.com calls "The Principle of Artful Dishevelment". You want to indicate that you have naturally exquisite taste (and plenty of money) but that you're not sufficiently status-conscious to spend an hour on your hair before leaving the house.
Yes but that's a case of sprezzatura: to stay in fashion (or create trends), you'll need to work hard. But you must make it appear completely natural and done without trying.
I don't see the point in denigrating people's passions, Bill. Paul Graham likes programming and making money. Not everybody does. Other people like to write music. Others, buying attractive clothing and learning how to look good. These things aren't inherently better than one another unless you want to buy into a specific social idea, and then we aren't required to go along with you.
The one thing I do detest are people with persecution complexes. Nerds are frequently unpopular because they insist so passionately how unpopular they are. That's unpleasant and leads to people not liking them. As I've discovered, if you talk to people about designing web sites and programming innovations, they'll still like you. You've got to understand going in what other people will be interested in and what nobody gives a fuck about, and that some people will never care, but if you know that going in, you can make delightful friends even with non-nerds.
The other problem is that some nerds know nothing but one specific thing, and they look down on everything else, so nobody likes them. There are people who know nothing but fashion, too, though they're rare and they're just as unpopular as nerds.
I was tempted to argue that providing "value to society" is always good but what you really mean to say is not that passion leads to "value" (there's no guarantee of that) but that passion leads to the motivation to act and the desire to have an effect somehow. Whether that will be good or bad is unknown, often irrespective of intentions, and can only be evaluated through value-judgement.
If that's your belief, currently, I can't fault it.
Then I was given a really nice dinner jacket for Christmas, tailored and fitted and all. I felt like a new man wearing it. Since then I've spent considerably more time (though honestly not that much) thinking about what I wear, and I'm still in the process of replacing my disgusting t-shirt-and-shorts wardrobe with something better.
News flash: it fucking works. I feel more confident, the clothes no longer hang off me like rags, they ARE more comfortable, and for the first time in my life women are hitting on me.
If you don't care how you look, don't come crying when people judge you based on how you look. After all, you don't care right?
Since my route home after work passes through the transit hub under the downtown shopping core, I've taken the habit of just randomly perusing clothing stores on my way home. I do this about once a week - it keeps your eyes sharp for particularly interesting pieces of clothing that isn't just "yet another collared shirt".
And the essay by PG is relevant because it points out that nerds are unpopular because they have more valuable things to do with their time than suck up. The "in crowd" spends effectively all its time sucking up to each other, and shutting out everybody worthwhile.
" In the early 1900s, The Women's Journal wrote that pink was a "more decided and stronger colour" that was best suited for boys. According to the Journal, blue, was "more delicate and dainty" and better for girls. "
The original radio broadcast is available online.
Stockings were worn way back to keep peoples legs warm. Lipstick was in use at least as far back as Ancient Egypt (but perhaps by prostitutes I don't know).
Fashion appears to be largely cyclic and those cycles have been accelerated recently in a bid to extract more cash from fashion victims. Haute Couture is not so cyclic (but probably the influences are) but then on the whole it's not affordable or useful to the general populous.
It's also about what cut you're wearing. Mass-market retail (walmart, kmart, jc penny, et cetera) sells clothes in a few sizes, and generally the sizes that most people wear. They're extremely generalized, and don't really fit most people well (even loose clothing can fit well - it's about how it hangs on your frame).
For example, most people can wear Levis jeans. Most people look decent in them. But they don't truly fit them.
Go for a pair of G-Star Raw jeans, you'll pay eight times as much - but they will fit you perfectly.
And if pink is considered a status symbol, they've never seen the bridge and tunnel crew ;)
A few years ago, I wouldn't have understood paying extra money for something that serves the same general purpose. What I didn't understand then was what you said now: It's all in the detail. I can buy less expensive clothing, but it doesn't feel as good and it doesn't look as good, and I think that the extra money spent is worth it for how it feels. Hell, you can even get a feel of it when you wear an American Apparel t-shirt versus a Cafepress one, and that's not a foray into fashion at all.
That's why it's fun for me right now, going to university with a bunch of fashionistas. Last year Abercrombie was everything; this year, the fashionable people are obsessive in their knowledge of clothing. And I love it. I don't know if I'll be able to afford their level of obsessive outfitting, but even if I can't I'm hoping that just being around stuff like that will rub off on me.
This is why Bridge and Tunnel folks (and their equivalent in every other major city) are an excellent example of what's being talked about in the article -- they are the low-status people trying consciously and desperately to indicate high-status people. However it doesn't quite work, since they appear to have only a limited grasp of what high-status people are actually like.
They know suntans are high-status, so they fake-tan themselves 'til they're orange. They know high-end brands are high status, so they wear Ralph Lauren shirts with polo logos twelve inches high, or carry loud and clearly fake Louis Vuitton handbags. And they heard somewhere that wearing a pink shirt is totally masculine nowadays, so they continue to do so even though the people they seek to emulate moved on about ten years ago.
High-end clothing is, well, expensive.
I know a tailor who charges very reasonable prices for his work, and I've gotten many a pair of mid-range jeans or jackets fitted. It is often that I walk in on a sale, walk out with an item that I really like but doesn't fit quite right, and spend an extra $30-50 getting it altered. Makes your dollars go a lot farther.
I don't think this qualifies as "foppish" clothing budget. I don't think I've ever even bought a shirt over $100 - like I said, I'm not fashionista. I'd rather pay to get mid-end clothing right as opposed to go for the luxuriantly expensive stuff.
Also, "well cut" is a very large gradient. Yes, you can buy a vest from a store that fits decently without any alterations whatsoever - but that's also a long way from fitting you like a glove. The point I was communicating is: if you know and have a regular tailor, you can get the absolute perfect fit from factory wares without much extra expense.
The extra bit of fit has a lot of profound effects that are well worth the minimal amount of money you're spending on it. The clothes become yours. They're not a "size 10" or whatever, they're fit for you. All the minor bits that aren't quite right are made right, and even untrained eyes can tell the difference. Given how little it costs I really don't see a reason not to do it.
"Aha - so peacocks must find humans wearing Fubu to be astoundingly beautiful! " :)
My friends wear them all the time and it's a bit sad. If you're really pretty, why would you hide your face behind huge sunglasses like that?
Then it dawned on me. Celebrities wear them to conceal their face when they go out in public. They don't WANT to be noticed, so they wear huge masks over their face.
People saw these "upper status" girls doing it, and they copied it in an attempt to appear the same.
Thus: huge sunglasses as a status symbol.
I don't think it's as much to do with celebrity behaviour as it is the fact that past fashion tends to re-emerge after 20 years or so.
I don't think this explains why upper middle class suburban kids wear "ghetto" clothes. I think it has more to do with a kind of insecurity about being wealthy, and in particular a fear of being "spoiled."
It kind of reminds me of how a lot of kids I knew in college (myself included) got a kick out of living a bit more rugged than usual--for a while I bragged about not having a pillow, for instance, partly because there seemed to be a competition going on among my friends for who could be most frugal.
(Of course, saving is a good idea and plenty of people have trouble affording college, so it would be silly to begrudge them for that. But there's definitely a kind of signalling going on, too, and I don't think it's as related to peacocks as this post's author claims.)
It lets them vicariously experience the emotional highs and lows of life in the ghetto (at least as that life is painted by hip-hop lyrics).
Another would be to make it illegal to wear clothes of a higher class than your own:
What the hell is he talking about? Does he live inside of a locked Ed Hardy store, never allowed to see the light of day? Can't this guy just go to the Gap and stop whining about non-existent conspiracies?
They're testing this idea by issuing predictions for popular names in years to come.
So if there are so many effective separators of provocative vs. regular fashion people - how important can status be?
Fashion is for when you don't know how to dress to achieve what you want.
Men won't look at her and think "clueless" they'll think "I'd like to 'have' her". Gay men may think "nice outfit". Women will accuse her of being "clueless" whilst secretly thinking about whether they could ever look that good (even if they look better).
Sweeping generalisations? Shallow stereotyping? Never! ;0)>
Unfortunately that link to the funny t-shirts stole like 10 minutes from me because I had to read every single one.
Apparently the upper class is confident enough to wear stupid, unfunny t-shirts and get away with it.