Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The American Dream in Fashion

American dream
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized D
Date: 1931

Meaning: an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also : the prosperity or life that is the realization of this idea

The American Dream is a myth communicated by the ideals of a nation, its people and the media. It is both nostalgic, part of post-WWII prosperity, and still evident today. What do the clothing styles of Americans communicate? The bright, solid colors of both first families, above and below, are consistent with clothing, images and brands throughout the country.

Sites like the Satorialist and Streetpeeper show Americans in a lot of denim, casual cottons and bright colors as well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, an Austiran immigrant celebrity politician is a great case study on American values. He began in sports, showing below bright gym attire and American Nikes.

In films in which he was not robotic, he wears "ordinary" American clothes such as collared shirts and khakis and now as a politician appears in the dark Western clothing code of power - the business suit.

American Clothes
As a largely working class nation, the suit is not only evident on men but also women.

Schwarzenegger's American style appears in everyday wear both for work and leisure.

Denim is a reoccurring code in American fashion, finding origin in the cowboy and re-invented seasonly on the runway.

Colorful cotton shirts, often with messages across the chest are common and show the combined conformity and diversity and identity expression of the culture.

The sporting element is evident in women, men and even its appearance in the hip hop subculture.

The sneaker is an American staple communicating sports and leisure activity as important values.
There is no way to narrow Americans and their dreams to a short list of style. Part of the American Dream is freedom of expression which is diversity in style from skater to prep.

Also essential to the American dream is the red carpet, the idea of media constructed Americaness and Hollywood glamour.

American Images
Because the idea of the American Dream is a post war nostalgic vision, we can look back at historic sources. Below a Life magazine editorial on Hollywood producer Robert Evans in khakis was titled "Living the American Dream," 1968

The 2005 W Editorial on Brangelina showed the fulfillment of the American Dream, a 1950's family at home.

The American Dream is also used in strategies by European brands as the Hollywood sign for YSL and a Los Angeles Case Study House used to promote Valentino. In both instances models are wearing suits.

The V editorial American Idolatry shows a Eastern European model at a wax museum, communicating the great American achievement of fame

American Brands
There are no shortage of brands that rest on the American Dream. But there is only one that claims to be the oldest and that is Brooks Brothers, established in 1818.

Ralph Lauren is quoted with saying, "I don't design clothes, I design dreams."

Levi's and the Gap are American staples the communicate the American values of practicality and mass availability, as well as some sense of disposability in their low price and ease of replacement.

American Apparel is redefining the connotations with the word American by associating with sexuality.

The essence of the American Dream is a democratic right to ownership and happiness which is opposed by the extreme disparity between America and the rest of the world. Images like the one below from French Vogue December 2009 communicate the global sensibility, which make the concept of the American Dream seem outdated and limited.

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