Hypebeast culture has run amok in present day America. Teens and adults alike line the streets of metropolitan hubs like London and New York City, camping out overnight just to receive early bird access to a coveted clothing line drop or a new collaboration between designers. Large brands like Nike and Reebok are worshipped by millions of “sneakerheads” who spend thousands of dollars on rare shoes to upgrade their personal collections. When the popular street wear brand Supreme drops online releases, every single item sells out in seconds just to pop up minutes later on reselling sites going for three times as much. The popularity of high end apparel and the hefty price tag that comes with it has reached an all time high in the U.S.
A representation of modern day fashion. Purchased at retail, this outfit would be well over two thousand dollars.
I was not left untouched by the craze. Shoe fever hit me around seventh grade, when I proudly forked over a couple hundred dollars for some brand name basketball shoes after making the school team. In hindsight it was definitely not the most rational decision, which is why it serves as a reminder that anyone can get caught up trying to own the newest, most exclusive stuff on the block. This thought raises a question: is the exaggerated importance of clothing modern day specific or have there been instances in the past of society giving clothing high value? One other time period and place in which citizens had similar sentiments about clothes was England in the late 1500s to early 1600s, or the Elizabethan Era. In the Elizabethan Era clothing was a distinguishing indication of social standing and had an implicit meaning that expanded far beyond the basic, functional value of clothing.
My first love, I could have sworn I jumped five inches higher in these.
Clothing in the Elizabethan era was much more than a protective fabric: it was a projection of social importance. “Who was allowed to wear what was supposed to be strictly controlled. It was essential that the Queen’s subjects should know their place, and dress accordingly, so that no one could be misled” (Picard). In the time period the separation of subjects into distinct social categories was thought of as a necessary evil to keep the nation running smoothly.
An accurate depiction of a noble man's dress in the Elizabethan Era.
The Elizabethan Era was a highly fashion-conscious age, and prized a look that was elaborate, artificial, stylized, and striking. “Men and women alike were concerned to be wearing the latest and most fashionable outfits. Elizabethan dress was gorgeous and elaborate, mirroring the prosperity and energy of the age” (History of Fashion). While in the present there are no laws to dictate what you can and cannot wear the popularity of clothing is still booming. Without regulations and restrictions clothing has evolved into an art form like any other, offering a way to express yourself.
Two young men dressed in flamboyant, vibrant street wear.
For example: while in the middle of a casual stroll down Main Street, I can’t help but notice the variations in dress around me and what they indicate about the wearer. At Mark’s Carts I see a street food vendor wearing a worn apron, on a bench nearby a woman is dressed in a flowing floral dress and sandals, and just a few steps later I pass a man with slicked back hair in an expensive three piece suit. Styles and laws may change, but clothing still carries an implicit meaning that expands beyond its functionality.
Alchin, Linda. “Enforcing Statutes of Apparel.” Enforcing Statutes of Apparel, Elizabethan Era, 16 May 2012, www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/enforcing-statutes-of-apparel.htm. Accessed 23. Apr, 2018
History Of Fashion - Elizabethan, History of Fashion, 2007, fashionhistory.zeesonlinespace.net/elizabethan.html. Accessed 23. Apr, 2018
Picard, Liza. “Clothing in Elizabethan England.” The British Library, The British Library, 15 Mar. 2016, www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/clothing-in-elizabethan-england. Accessed 23. Apr, 2018