Fashioning Identity

by The Crowded Camel

Shopping for clothes is an inevitable part of modern life in which the Crowded Camel, too, must take part. He is seen here in a fitting room trying on a new sweater, and appears to be unsatisfied with his appearance. Having tried on several different colors and patterns, and failing to find one that he likes, the Camel is becoming frustrated and is beginning to wonder why he feels so uncomfortable in these seemingly fashionable sweaters.

Georg Simmel, a 19th century German sociologist and philosopher, wrote at length on fashion and its role in society, proposing that its primary function is to unite those of a particular social class while distinguishing them from other classes. He claims that the elite initiate fashion and the masses imitate what they see (Simmel, 541). Moreover, fashion allows the individual to express himself in ways that, if expressed by other means, would be acceptable neither to society nor the individual himself:

As a member of a mass the individual will do many things which would have aroused unconquerable repugnance in his soul had they been suggested to him alone….But as dictates of fashion they find ready acceptance…because it represents a united action, in the same way that the feeling of responsibility is extinguished in the participants of a crime committed by a mob…(Simmel, 553)

The Camel, upon consulting Simmel’s theory, might realize that his desire to purchase a new, fashionable sweater is actually rooted in his repressed desire to express himself creatively. He might be better off allocating his time spent looking for a new sweater toward creative pursuits that allow for self-expression. The Camel, like many of us, may find that having a regular creative outlet might fulfill his desire to express his individuality, while discouraging misguided submission to passing social trends.

Sources:

Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” American Journal of Sociology 62.6 (1957): 541. Print.

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