Fur, feathers, hair, cloth are intimate to our most vulnerable body, our infant self, almost as early as the warmth of our mother’s breast and the shelter of caregiving. Clothing is our first shelter tool and we transfer feelings and dependencies onto it as powerfully as we have transferential feelings for our parents.
Clothing is our first opportunity to control our environmental needs, staying warm or cool and taking shelter. Our relationship with clothing is our prototypical human condition of need. We are born naked and we need clothing.
And we seem to be essentially unique amongst living things in needing a personal shelter with us most of the time. Think of how powerfully seated this need is in our mind. Think how powerfully physically real this need is on a freezing night. And think of how difficult it would be to make clothing without help.
We are born naked into a cold world entirely dependent upon one another to make the clothing we need to survive. Clothing and all its nesting, derivative forms- shirt, jacket, hat, house, building, car, are all sheltering tools but, essentially, cannot be made or are useless without the cooperation of neighbors.
Clothing and neighbors have been the fundamental building blocks of human survival through all of history. When lost in the woods shelter first, food and water second. To survive, individually and collectively, we need each other and shelter. And we organize, or reflect, the power hierarchies we develop to manage these two needs with fashion.
We use fashion, and its capacity to illicit feelings of being well fed and warm (sheltered), to signal in every arena of life and commerce from clothing to healthcare, military to industrial, appliances to sneakers. All human activity partakes of the dynamics of fashion to signal how much power we have or how we express that power. And power is the capacity to acquire and use energy. This metric of dissipation is fundamental to living things.
More fur would have been the result of access to more meat and the subsequent use of that caloric gain and bounty. A Brioni suit is the presumable result of access to more money (proxy for energy) and the subsequent use of that caloric gain. So are dreadlocks and tie-die.
This dynamic is ubiquitous and universal now and in the past. The capacity of clothing as fashion to signal is so powerful we buy clothing having very little value as clothing but high value as social signal, or social shelter if you will, to both join in and say something unique about the self.
This motif is carried through most spending that most of us do every day and all around the world. From T-Shirts to colonoscopies fashion is often both the vehicle and the cargo. Generating the desire beyond need on which growth based economies depend.
We buy products that are essentially empty but full of logos.
Clothing is a prototype of all human cooperative activity and now we waste clothing so much there is no room to dispose of it, no use for it, and even the poorest people on earth (least able to access energy) don’t want it.
That waste clothing now uses energy instead of helping us to conserve energy. It is not just a metaphor or a simple, single example confined to clothing. We have commodified everything. This is the real manifestation of our transferential relationship with the world.
We intend to waste it to say something unique about the self.
We will Shop Till The Last Drop.
Unless someone finds a way to say to no, fashionably.