Monday, December 12, 2005

Thorstein Veblen and ripped jeans

I was pondering on the concept of pre-ripped clothing, and stylings that (generally) would lead an outsider to believe that the wearer was homeless. My mind fell upon an old book that I had mused upon: Thorstein Veblen's- The Theory of the Leisure Class.

In it he speaks on the "leisure class" (here synonymous with upper class) and its tendency to go over the top, culturally, in proving that it is, in fact, very well-off. My favorite example is when Veblen speaks on the economics of the corset. Loosely, he says that the corset is designed to physically destroy the person who wears it, therefore proving for all to see that the wearer is in fact, SO rich that they can afford to denigrate their body making it a less useful tool (in the sociological sense).

I wondered then, if ripped jeans and the high fashion of making oneself look homeless might be along the same vein. In this instance, the person is not physically destroying themself, but socially. The thought process might go: I am so well-off/popular I can overpay for these clothes, and look like a hobo without suffering negative consequences in my high-class social circle.

Granted neither in Veblen's time, nor now, are these thoughts/actions conscious. Isn't wonderful to know that our fashion sense has evolved from physically harming ourselves to only attempting to harm ourselves on a social level?