Fashion is worthy of considerable academic study and has been looked at by some of the most important philosophers of the past few centuries. That is the message of Daniel Leonhard Purdy's 2004 collection of essays The Rise of Fashion: A Reader. At least we've been clued into that for some time, as fashion is certainly not outside the scope of this blog, as indicated here and here.
The book presents essays from some of the greatest minds of philosophy and literature, including Voltaire, Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, Goethe, Hegel, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For those interested in cultural studies, this book offers conclusive proof that there's nothing wrong with studying fashion because some of the greatest mind in Western thought have done the same thing.
This collection shows how views of fashion's role in society has shifted throughout time and how understanding the marketing of fashion is important for understanding a group of people. This collection moves beyond the restricte "I hate (insert brand name)" anti-commercialist rhetoric that surrounds many of the most popular teen clothing lines today and moves into legitimating a focus on fashion. Part of the disrespect to fashion has been that it has largely been considered a feminine concern and thus somehow considered less legitimate.
Thse views are shifting, and men's fashion is becoming the focus of study as well. And, books like Purdy's reader prove that further emphasis is being put on trying to understand what makes clothing and fashion connect with people's lives and their self-expressions.
In the latest Journal of Popular Culture, Patricia A. Cunningham of Ohio State University concludes her review of the book by recommending that not only academics but marketers could benefit by reading what some of the greatest minds in history wrote about fashion throughout the years. As anyone who studies history knows, the best way to understand the present and predict the future is often to study and understand the past. This reader provides an interesting historical perspective on the mprtance of fashion in society that might be worth taking a look at.