Who here is either fed up of seeing multi-millionaire celebrities sporting a simple tracksuit, which you know would have been likely to cost them hundreds of pounds. Yet bizarrely, it resembles something similar to something which you might have wanted to wear to take the dog out for a walk. How about these apparently “hipster” coffee shops, where a few years ago, they seemed to be popping up everywhere. And even though they promoted a rather fun and laid back atmosphere, they were actually strangely expensive. Now let’s rephrase the question. Who likes to (or know someone who does) save up for some “casual” sportswear, which is rather expensive. And at the same time, you are probably not going to exercise while wearing it?
Now as random as this may seem, I am sure that most of us can relate to at least one of these scenarios outlined. Therefore why are basically more well off people falling for things which less well off people are interested in?
Why is there a Working class “aesthetic”?
Ask anyone who does any kind of menial work if they think their uniform is stylish, then they would simply laugh at you. And I can’t really blame them! Do you see anything attractive about an old, muddy, high-vis jacket? How about an old patched up hoodie? Yet somehow, the fast fashion industry has managed to successfully take images of Appalachia and re-brand them for profit. Meanwhile Nostrum, a high end department store, has somehow managed to sell “Heavily distressed medium-blue denim jeans… that’s seen some hard-working action with a crackled, caked-on muddy coating” also commenting that it “shows you’re not afraid to get down and dirty”. A bit odd, but what’s stranger is that it was priced at 425$. The same sort of clothing is also featured on runways. For the majority of us, anything which is directly marketed on runaways etc is going to be well out of our price range! However it is a reflection of how dressing in a more working class way is becoming more desirable, and this too can certainly be seen on the streets.
Why is this a problem?
As easy as it is to point out how clothing for the middle and upper classes seems to be becoming more casual, it is harder to understand at first how this can be such an issue. But to start with, it basically enables the affluent to appear poorer than what they are, in order to look “cool” etc. However these people are not going to share the same struggles of the working class. This way, they are almost able to dress up, without facing any prejudice or discrimination as a result of their class. Meanwhile, it is as if the working class subsequently lose something belonging to them, as because they can no longer afford to wear their traditional clothing and fashion, because of the brands which are popularising it.
Yes, working class clothing has successfully been monatised. No, this is not a good thing. However many would rightfully argue that this process has been kind of inevitable. But what’s been more problematic has been the lack of understanding shown by the approach some upper and middle class people have taken toward working class culture. It is said that the brand Puma, threw a party inspired by council estate drug dealing. Meanwhile 4,000 teenagers from London are being exploited and trafficked to sell drugs in rural towns and cities. Furthermore universities (and I imagine more so ones which contain a higher proportion of students from private schools), have thrown raves where people have dressed up in various costumes, such as that of a Tesco or Deliveroo worker. Throwing away the costumes after use…
Whilst not directly relevant, Cultural appropriation is basically where individuals from one culture adapt some of the more desirable elements of another culture, whilst ignoring other aspects of it. Often being the oppression experienced by those of that culture. In relation to class, this can be seen by how many will choose to dress accordingly to someone of a lower class, or adapt some of their slang (also true in relation to other cultures), whilst turning a blind eye and/or mocking other aspects of it.
In my view, I don’t see anything wrong with some middle class or upper class people choosing to adopt some features of the working class. Or people engaging features different to their own culture. However this should only be the case if people are more aware on the oppression which these groups of people face, and are respectful of other elements. While concerning things like slang, we should all really have some idea on the origins of the terms, before being subconsciously embarrassed to use some terms, yet happily and freely use others.
PSA: Working class culture isn’t a fashion trend (thetab.com)
Working class appropriation is the new cool (epigram.org.uk)
How Brands Appropriate Working Class Fashion (refinery29.com)
How Working Class Culture Has Become Monetised | by Isabelle Drury | Medium
Appalachian Clothing and the rise of the “working class” aesthetic | by Maddie Harrison | Fall 2018 VT Intro to Appalachian Studies | Medium
5 thoughts on “The Working Class Aesthetic”
It’s funny how these things cycle through fashion. 20 years ago Paris Hilton made Juicy Couture tracksuits a really popular look. Rich people need to find better things to do with their time.
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Agreed, perhaps they could educate themselves, but often they don’t.
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