Trends come and go but one thing they all have in common, at least to the wearer, is that they look good.
Now when we look back at pictures of ourselves wearing hipster jeans we can’t help shuddering with remorse but, at the time, they were cool.
In 2018, however, there’s a new type of trend emerging. For the last year, there’s been a widespread and willing adoption of fashion that’s already considered .
It’s worth qualifying that this isn’t just an opinion. Objectively speaking, designers are deliberately producing rule-breaking, and typically unflattering, fashion. Think Balenciaga x Crocs or Rick Owen’s runway parade of nightmarish mattress men.
And since fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s worth asking ‘why are we suddenly obsessed with ugly fashion?’
One possible explanation is that, in the increasingly competitive attention economy, we’ve become somewhat numb to ‘trends’.
The fashion world is moving faster than ever and, rather than seeing new styles emerging every decade or year, we’re now seeing different trends pop up every month.
“We become kind of calloused in a way,” explains Dawnn Karen, a psychologist spearheading the fashion psychology movement. “The world is so much closer, we can see everything, there’s no spark.”
To maintain relevance, designers then respond by creating even more daring and outlandish collections in a display of industry-level ‘peacocking’.
“Ugly fashion is a way to effectively wake up the people,” Karen says.
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On a more personal level, we’re craving something different to break through the perceived monotony, allowing avant garde pieces to bleed from the runway into the everyday.
“When someone wears that ugly sneaker or that ugly sweater, we’re going to look because they’re defying a norm,” adds Karen.
“The irony is that, a person could be trying to stand out, but ‘standing out’ is actually fitting in, because they’re fitting in with the crowd that’s standing out.”
Another possible explanation for the rise of ugly fashion is that, rather than being a symptom of desensitised sartorial addiction, we’re just a bunch of hyperaware hype-beasts. Within the industry, there’s a growing appreciation of fashion for the sake of fashion (or ‘far-shun’).
From Demna Gvasalia’s new Vetements logo tees emblazoned with toddler-like drawings (each fetching near $1,000) to Alessandro Michele’s overt embracement of bootleg culture by deliberately misspelling the Italian house’s name, we’re witnessing a parody on fashion culture from the inside out.
It’s now considered cool to not take yourself, or your clothes, too seriously.
Alternatively, ugly fashion could also be a broader reaction to the #MeToo movement.
While dressing to impress those around us was once considered socially savvy, there’s now a renegade spirit infiltrating the ranks of women. In this sense, ‘ugly’ clothes are a form of protest to show we’re no longer beholden to others for validation.
Perhaps, rather than one particular cause being solely responsible for ‘ugly’ fashion, 2018 combines all of these conflicting pressures to create the perfect storm.
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