Tuesday, April 30, 2013


One of the most noticeable trends over the past two decades has been the globalization   of fashion, especially in how people comport themselves in casual appearance. While it has been true for many decades that elites, especially, have worn western dress, there is a contemporary universality to it now. There has been an observable change over the years in Europe, most evident in our recent visit. A couple of decades ago in, say, Rome  (and points north in Italy) the people were dressed beautifully. It was easy to spot the Americans in a crowd because they stood out and their attire was generally awful. Not any more. Now everyone looks the same, most often in a ubiquitous uniform of jeans, sneakers, and t-shirt or lettered jumpers, unless in some cases, they are going to work (which is something that much fewer Europeans do these days). They have totally succumbed to the “American” look. Thus tops worn by people who don’t speak any English, contain American phrases, or a numbered jersey of a presumably American team. However, you can often spot logos that emulate sportswear, for nonexistent teams, such as the “US Giants,” that are likely made in China with a strained inauthenticity. (Actually you can also spot similar dress in crowds in the middle east improbably shouting anti-American slogans).

From a geopolitical standpoint it is nice to see Americans and Europeans have more and more in common on various fronts, but stylistically it represents a coarsening of taste compared to the way people have dressed in the past. We are more alike than ever, especially the young, who are observable everywhere with the same smartphones and IPads as in the US. The ubiquity of the Internet ties people together as never before, and in terms of that technology the US is where it is happening,  and thus permeates a worldwide system. 

But there is a kind of feedback loop and the traffic goes two ways. Americans soak up European luxury goods and Italian designer wear, especially in men’s apparel. There are good reasons for this in terms of quality and style, and the appeal is so strong that you often find department stores carrying unknown or made-up Italian sounding names on their cheaper apparel (which are often made in China without any true “Italian” connection). Italians in turn seem drawn to all things American. Then you also get synergies as a result, i.e. all of the big Italian designer houses now create what was originally an American product - jeans, (which are beautifully designed with typical Italian finesse and of high quality, and consequently price). They have added some class to the now universal mass outfit. 

We are living in an informal age, and what originated here is now present all over the world. At this point if you’re traveling to most of Europe, (with the exception of high fashion places like Milan) you don’t have to be overly concerned with what you’re wearing to fit in any more. You can just basically bring what you wear in the US. (There are some obvious limits though, such as flip-flops, which will make you look ridiculous).  For nowadays it is nearly impossible to tell the Americans from the Europeans by appearance alone. Even carrying a camera, which makes the fact that you are a tourist obvious, but not from where you come. The primary reason all of this has transpired is that people everywhere want to be “modern,” with the latest goods, and for the present at least, that emanates from America. Thus, it is a mistake to think they want to be “American,” but rather to be what they perceive subconsciously or consciously as modern. 

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