Is High Street Becoming Uniform?
Buying and wearing high street has reached new heights; thanks consumerism for making it affordable! Everybody wants to get their hands on the Zara Camel Coat or a pair of Chelsea Boots from Selfridges… You know, the ones famous bloggers have. But when did high street become so popular? And if we’re all wearing the same shtick, isn’t it just like being back in the lunch queue again, all dressed as one?
According to This is Money.co.uk high street profit boomed last year; with people buying more and more from the same shops, and now high street has gone beyond just doing replicas of designer glad-rags, they do collaborations too. Smart retailers like H&M pair up with designers and use celebrity endorsements, remember the Lana Del Rey campaign or Alexander Wang diffusion line? Who wouldn’t want an Isabel Marant dress for £50, when the original price would’ve been your mortgage payment?
Shops like Zara and the online label Boohoo work on the premises of ‘fast fashion’, tapping into our new needs. A collection in store or online twice a week ensures that they always have the newest trends in stock, meaning we can keep looking fresh in our outfits; built to be trendy from breakfast till evening… and then be thrown out next week. But what I think is really changing the scene is the domino effect from cheap clothes. From ‘fast fashion’, ‘fast journalism’ is born… bloggers!
Fashion bloggers are persuasive and can deliver a certain type of coverage on current trends that glossy magazines can’t. By buying those affordable yet up-to-the-minute high street garments and uploading haul videos, fashion bloggers are able to convince their readers what is cool and what’s not. Uniform is traditionally clothing you wear to show you are on duty. For bloggers and their followers, the streets have now become catwalks, dressing is the full-time job! Inexpensive high street clothing means bigger wardrobes and more outfits for the bloggers to display, discuss and encourage us to copy and paste into every area of our life.
We can eventually end up looking like clones of each other, and in most cases our everyday outfit has turned into something which could be considered a uniform. A costume put together by a stranger, which we wear all day to show that we’re prepared for anything. Is that really what we are aiming for? Well, yes! Since we continue shopping in the same stores and buying identical items we are all part of the same ‘institution’, in the same uniform!
From the age of five, most of us have been programmed into wearing uniform five days a week. We began school in a uniform, on the pretext that if this strict dress code were not in place we would either be bullied for not sporting the latest trend, or would have bullied those that didn’t. From here on out, in a professional environment, a sense of uniform is still to be worn, resembling that of the school palette; an ocean of navy, black and grey. So why is it, on the streets, away from the institutes of uniform, high street fashion simulates the same mass visual aesthetic?
Take a stroll down any fashion driven area of London; Oxford Street, Brick Lane or Kensington High Street, and each and every one has a specific dress code. Fashions foundations lie on self-expression away from rules and regulations, an artistic display of individual character, yet high street stores have progressively helped limit that creativity. London, acclaimed globally for its buzz of purely expressive street style, seems to have gone a miss led by high street stores, and a culture for instant gratification has taken a stronghold. Fashion used to be an indicator of subculture, a compass needle pointing to your political beliefs and music tastes. But as subcultures have become less exclusive and arguably less authentic, it seems the necessity to dress to indicate your personality has decreased rapidly. This, sistered with the mass use of Instagram has spurred on a white-washed street style. There could be an argument that people, as a majority, are less confident in dressing outside of the high street norm. Take Autumn/Winter 2014 for example, a season filled to the brim with colour, textures and cuts, but once this has filtered through press, buyers and PR, the high street stores honed in on two pieces in particular; the duster coat and the tailored culottes.
If you proceed to purchase these items, in the eyes of the public, you’re displaying yourself as a fashionable individual. This poses the question, why would anyone who wishes to be deemed ‘fashionable’ buy outside of the norm? Another possible argument is that in fact, with everything at our fingertips, we’ve become lazy in aspiring for an individual style, when we can buy what the high street stores inflict on us and still have style, even if it is the style of the masses. If everyone can be instantly recognised as someone who is ‘on trend’ and they’ve managed to achieve that affordably, and without much hassle, it is no wonder London has become a sterile uniformed, shadow of its former self. In order to re-ignite the individual, there needs to be a drive from the negation of standing out and recognition for self-initiating a creative, non-uniformed style. Marching together like a bizarrely efficient, scholarly structure is a sad affair for fashion when we’re talking about our free time.