In today’s world, any ordinary schmuck can go from being horribly dressed
and fashion unconscious to being unquestionably stylish and cool in about a
day with the help of a few hundred dollars and couple hours on the internet.
Each social denomination has a dress code and a whole industry aimed at
refining it. The boundaries have been so established that with a little
observation you can pretty much figure out exactly what a hipster, a rapper, a
punk or a prepster (just to name a few) will look like and emulate accordingly.

And despite the general tone of disgusting conformity, it’s hard to argue that
the clothes don’t look good. The various industry supported fashion scenes
have certainly managed to attain a certain expertise. Simply put, a pair of
Converse, skinny jeans, a tight heavily decorated t-shirt and black thick
rimmed glasses look amazing. A baseball cap, a baggy shirt, saggy jeans, high-
end kicks, a gold chain and a couple fake diamond earrings and rings can look
just as good.
Further listing of stereotypical uniforms would be redundant. However what
this all boils down to is, by its extreme availability, hip fashion has lost any
value it might have had. Of course there are slight variations, but in essence,
anyone can buy a look with a short trek to the shopping mall, or it’s city
equivalent of that stretch of Broadway which goes through SoHo and has the
highest clothing store density I’ve ever encountered.

Anyone can fit the standard for ‘cool’ with minimum effort. Therefore, being
well dressed is no longer a sign of any sort of admirable agency or cultivated
taste; the condition of pleasing attire is harder to avoid than to find. What this
means is that for fashion to retain any sort of original productive and
respectable value (for those who wear the clothes and not the folks who make
them), it must grow from the individual rather than an industry. We must make
our own clothes, or at least change them substantially from their original store-
bought condition.
While it’s exceedingly difficult to trump a business which has grown to be as
immense and talented as conventional fashion has, it isn’t necessary because
no, it’s almost impossible to splatter your shoes with paint more elegantly than
some art school graduate who’s stared at Pollock for twenty years and now
works for a clothing designer. However, what you can retain is distinction. And
distinction ultimately carries more importance than a complete knowledge of
the moment’s new trends.

So what do I advocate? Wear the same Converse, skinny jeans and tight t-
shirt, just put something interesting on it, or if that seems impossible, find
someone who can. Is there really a substantial difference between the soon to
fade homemade garment array and the almost perfect store-bought getup?
Perhaps the literal difference is slight, but the spiritual difference is quite

Fashion Zombies
by Tola Brennan
images by Danelle Manthey
The New York Optimist
February 2009