Johanna Blakley

Media | Entertainment | Fashion

Fashion, Taste & the Aspirational Class

How do you demonstrate your taste? In modern consumer society, there are myriad ways to project our interests, our attitudes, and our values into the world. It’s not just a matter of wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt (which speaks volumes) — we send a constant stream of subtle signals that situate us within society. With the rise of social media, we orchestrate the projection of our class, race, gender and age not only in the office and at the gym, but in digital space as well. Some people try to duplicate their offline identity online; others create entirely different personas that free them from the constraints of their physical life.

In this Facebook Live session, produced by the University of Southern California, I have a conversation with Professor Elizabeth Currid-Halkett about social media, fashion, taste and her new book, The Sum of Small Things: a Theory of the Aspirational Class. Professor Currid-Halkett explores a profound shift away from “conspicuous consumption” (wearing giant logos) to “inconspicuous consumption” (buying heirloom tomatoes) and “conspicuous production” (pour-over coffee). We discuss the causes of this sea change (the fast fashion industry is one factor) and the impact it’s had on the fashion industry, which struggles to provide its customers the products they need to curate their own social identity.

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