Social Media may have given us more Fashion than we can swallow but does it bode well for style? By Daniel Goh
Social Media, in its exciting democracy, has thrown up all manner of “style influencers”, most self-proclaimed, many deluded. It certainly has expanded the vocabulary of style and what it means, because on social media, anything goes. Anything tacky, gimmicky, and vulgar, I might add. I’d like to think this fashion democracy good, but have to admit that oftentimes the ceaseless parade of people presenting themselves to be admired (with not a stitch of irony in their conceited expressions) is in fact bewildering, and makes one want to click off, block and delete.
This non-stop, revolutionary channel for expressing fashion, which upsets the traditional top-down model of rarefied tastemakers dictating trends, make it impossible to separate the man from the boys: the really stylish, who practice subtlety, nuance and refinement must lose out in a storm of likes for the flashy, brazen and bold. To click ‘like’ takes a fraction of a second, but style takes a lifetime to perfect, and may not be immediately recognizable in a quick scroll, as you’re watching that latest K-drama.
Social media has made style into a game of competitive shopping with the influencers around the globe: It has become about who was seen wearing whatever first, regardless of the merit of the item or design. It’s about speed, grab, snap, post – fly there, eat that, eat up the scenery, edit the photo and post. And then the next gaudy item, postcard location, etc. This sort of race really isn’t what personal style is all about. It isn’t even about fashion anymore – forget about relevance, craftsmanship, technique. Fashion has become a circus for vulgar wealth: For isn’t this what it is all about? You can only afford to fly there, wear this, buy 1,000 handbags, multiple carats, lay your hands on the very latest shoe every other hour if you have Money. It isn’t about style or intrinsic value or integrity or beauty. It’s all about money, and only money.
I’m constantly surprised that people would enthusiastically shut themselves up in this prison of the material. There they are, in that gilded cell, reading labels on each other’s backs and bags and boots (and IG captions). Doesn’t this immediately remind you of some people you know? Can you think of anything more depressing? Style should be about not needing the constant approval of others, not needing the constant reassurance of the ‘in’ labels, startling hair colour and nail art, the ‘cool’, the ‘It’, the most expensive, the purportedly exclusive, the supposed one-of-a-kind, the chorus of likes. These are the manacles and padlocks and delusions that weigh these influencers down. Because being stylish is all about freedom. It’s about not having to conform; it’s about having that sense to make discerning and appropriate choices; it’s all about the freedom to fearlessly be who you are.
What has this generation of influencers really given us but a vapid and perverse fashion environment in which taste is nothing compared to the blind worship of the filthy rich? This worship makes the world a much smaller place, being a narrow and unimaginative creed; There’s nothing intrinsically creative about shopping – influencers famously do nothing, have no skills, ideas or craft. Some of them take a good picture, but that’s just dieting and apps. This focus on the material and the surface of things is the antithesis of style. In the end, the focus on money is just unimaginative, and terribly, terribly dull.