Originally Posted by ghostface Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
i thought i'd follow up on my part of the most recent wisfw post with some further thoughts about self-presentation and ambivalence about (caring about) style. i'd be genuinely curious to hear others' thoughts on the subject.
i assume that for most of us on this forum, our interest in clothing is one aspect of a broader of interest in aesthetics and design. but while it's pretty easy to recognize and applaud the value of the latter, general interest-- after all, for those with a particular sensibility, it's a large part of what makes life worth living-- the worth of the former, specific interest is more fraught. i take it that's largely because having a serious interest in how one dresses pulls one deep into the realms of self-presentation, while admiring the beauty of a painting or the graceful geometry of a mountain (or the sleekness of one's macbook, or whatever) paradigmatically involves focusing on the object itself, rather than on oneself. (the same point holds even if we think about aesthetics in terms of how the subject perceives and interprets the object in question, as opposed to positing some intrinsic aesthetic quality in the object, e.g., beauty, harmony, etc.).
so, this is the first strike against taking an interest in one's personal style of dress: it involves focusing on oneself. and this is supposed to be troubling because that focus may easily manifest as a kind of narcissism. but things get even worse. caring about how one dresses does not primarily concern being a certain way, but rather concerns appearing to others in a certain way. this distinction is tied to the kinds of ethically-significant contrasts that have long troubled reflective people. some of these contrasts: inner vs. outer, reality vs. mere opinion or mere appearance, what is deep vs. what is superficial, and so on. while we may be tempted to chalk these contrasts up to a kind of puritan squeamishness, they occur over and over in a wide variety of philosophical and religious traditions.
in any case, one might worry that focusing on mere appearance not only amounts to spending time and energy on a pursuit that is basically worthless--thereby wasting time that could be better spent on something actually worthwhile-- but that doing so is also positively damaging, since it corrupts one's ethical sensibility. for instance, here is pascal: "we labor incessantly to embellish and preserve our imaginary being, and neglect the real one." and again, "we are not content with the life we have in ourselves and with our own existence; we wish to live an imaginary life in the thought of others, and we consequently force ourselves to appear."
now, i think this is very ripe territory, and that it touches on some of the most fundamental (and sometimes, uncomfortable) aspects of what makes us human. my question for you all is this: to what extent do you feel the pull of these ethical considerations when reflecting on the role that your interests in clothing and personal style play in your life? do you have other values that you find it difficult to reconcile with (the extent of) your interests in clothing, or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, do you find these interests wholly unproblematic on reflection?
I work for a do-goody non-profit, so I give myself a free pass to be a narcissistic asshole the rest of the time. (5)
I have other rationalizations related to the stores I buy from, the manufacturing process behind the goods, &c., but those are peripheral concerns unrelated to the heard of the matter.
I'm fundamentally ok with playing dress-up, recognizing that it is an end unto itself. While I realize that this particular hobby has an influence - possibly a strong influence - on others' perceptions of me, is it all that different from going to the gym to maintain a certain physique? I may enjoy acquiring and owning a certain garment on multiple levels - an appreciation of the intrinsic qualities of the garment; identification with the ethos, practices, or branding of the manufacturer or vendor (by 'branding', I mean the public representation of the brand, not logos and the like); the idea that it may help 'complete' my wardrobe; positive feelings or improved self-confidence while wearing (anyone who owns a ToJ leather can identify with this); the aforementioned positive influence on others' perceptions of me; and even, to some extend, sf e-cred.
Don't many of these same principles apply to other hobbies? The online gamer may be fascinated with the mechanics of a game, admire the designers and programmers, feel a sense of accomplishment as he realizes certain goals or achievements within the context of the game, and enjoy recognition from his peer group of gamers as he advances in abilities, levels, or acquisition of items. Is gaming any less shameful than clothing as a hobby? Then again, maybe that's a bad example.
Originally Posted by KingJulien Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
I feel this same conflict, not due to ethical considerations, but because of my eventual desire for financial independence. If money = freedom, how much freedom is a pair of baller sneakers worth?
The ethical considerations don't actually bother me much, because I find when I'm actually
trying to impress someone (i.e. on a date), I dress a very specific way and avoid most of the clothes that I really love, which are silly and fun. In other words, I know what I'd wear if I were really concerned about the impression I give off, and it's not normally what I reach for.
I would probably do the opposite and wear the clothes I enjoy most, both for the enjoyment of those clothes and for the feeling of presenting the best representation of myself that I can via the clothing I wear. Then again, I'm not into particularly weird or esoteric stuff, so it's less likely that my preferred articles of clothing would