You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Individuality

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Traditionally, fashion has both celebrated and punished individuality. Over the years, men and women have been mocked for particular fashions that at other times are quite popular. We are often encouraged to be unique and be “ourselves”, but to do so within certain boundaries. In contemporary society, there is an enormous variety of styles and aesthetic ideals, almost to to the point of rendering individuality impossible. What does it mean to be an individual in today’s fashion world? What do we expect from our fashion retailers in this regard? What about from our fashion models? These three articles below explore those questions, addressing styles like the now ubiquitous Converse All Stars, the concept of fast fashion co-branding (driven by consumers’ need for uniqueness), and the once derided maxillary midline diastema (AKA “gap teeth”), which has in recent years become the calling card of several high fashion models. We hope you enjoy!

1. Lewis, K. C., Sherriff, M., & Denize, E. S. (2014). Change in frequency of the maxillary midline diastema appearing in photographs of Caucasian females in two fashion magazines from 2003 to 2012. Journal of Orthodontics, doi 10.1179/1465313313Y.0000000081.

The objective of this study is to ascertain if there has been a change in the frequency of appearance of maxillary midline diastema in two leading women’s fashion magazines over a decade. Two observers counted the frequency of maxillary midline diastema that appeared in Caucasian female models featured in British Vogue and Glamour (UK). An increase in the frequency of maxillary midline diastema appearing in both publications was observed between 2003 and 2012. This change may indicate an increase in the acceptance of the maxillary midline diastema, which may in turn influence orthodontic and aesthetic dentistry treatment planning. — Paraphrased Article Abstract

2. Mackinney-Valentin, M. (2014). Mass-individualism: Converse All Stars and the paradox of sartorial sameness. Clothing Cultures, 1(2), 127-142.

Through a study of Converse All Stars sneakers, this article explores an apparent paradox in the notion of ‘individuality’ in current fashion consumption where the potential freedom of choice among consumers in Denmark appears to have led to a sartorial sameness rather than radical pluralism. The concept of mass-individualism is used as a vehicle for understanding this paradox that is heightened both by the social value attributed to individuality in much of contemporary Western society and the image of All Stars as a symbol of individuality and self-expression. The concept is seen as part of an ambiguous strategy of status representation operating on conditions of fashion democracy. The study is interview-based and focuses on consumers aged seven to 71 in the greater Copenhagen area in which All Stars may be considered a transplanted, American cultural icon. Themes of undercoding and visual assemblage run through the exploration of mass-individualism in contemporary fashion. — Full Article Abstract 

3. Shen, B., Jung, J., Chow, P-S., & Wong, S. (2014). Co-branding in fast fashion: The impact of consumers’ need for uniqueness on purchase perceptionFashion Branding and Consumer Behaviors, 101-112.

Co-branding is deemed as an effective strategy of brand development and has been largely adopted by fast fashion brands such as H&M. A fast fashion brand collaborating with a luxury designer fashion brand is recognized as “fast fashion co-branding.” This study explores the consumers’ need for uniqueness and purchase perception of fast fashion co-brands, which also relates to the consumers satisfaction and welfare. A self-administered survey questionnaire was employed in main shopping areas in Hong Kong and 175 valid respondents were obtained. The empirical results show that the consumers’ needs for uniqueness among the associated fashion brands have significant differences. The impact of their need for uniqueness on the purchase perception of fast fashion co-brands is also revealed. This study gives an important implication of fast fashion co-brands on consumer-purchasing behavior and provides managerial insights to companies’ co-branding strategies centered on fashion brands of different brand positioning. — Full Article Abstract 


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