Published Thursday, February 21, 19 | By PaulvHill
contributed by Ronna Fleischman
In America, styles tend to come rapidly into vogue, then disappear just as quickly as they came. But fashion as an expression of self is intrinsically connected to elements of the American experience, from the economy to pop culture, religion, politics, and social status. From our Nike’s to our Levi’s, what we wear has, for centuries, spoken volumes about who we are and what we want. Style carries a certain social meaning because American culture has long placed great significance on individualism and public image, and image has long been intertwined with the American capitalist economy.
Significant differences in American fashion are certainly determined by wealth and whether one lives in an urban or rural environment. However, what people wear generally hasn’t changed much over the decades. Fashion is at once relaxed, classic, inspired by popular culture but not fussy. Americans are casual, even in restaurants and offices (although it is not uncommon for some men to wear suits and women dresses and heels in certain business environments). The American gold standard is still denim jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. The western states are commonly more informal in their manner of dress than those on the eastern seaboard. Individuals belonging to certain ethnic groups may wear clothing to represent their ethnic identity at certain events.
Conspicuous consumption and a desire for quality have also lead to a strong preference for designer clothing among many the middle and upper classes. New York’s semi-annual Fashion Week is one of the four major shows held around the world. And cities like Miami and Los Angeles commonly debut the latest runway looks.
A recent trend in America is towards affordable couture. There are entire cable networks devoted to the fashion industry and TV shows like Sex and the City opened the eyes of small town America to the hottest designers, like Christian Dior and Manolo Blahnik. Designer “knock-offs” can be found in any discount store, but be prepared to pay a high price for the real thing.
Some distinctly American styles include the Hawaiian shirt, the cowboy boot, and hip-hop wear.