Anything as long as it is classic – Beauty Story


On February 11, 2015 & posted in Beauty, Editor's picks, Editorial Submissions, Exclusive


What does it mean when a trend from the past reappears? Why are we so attracted to classic attire and aesthetics? The duality of what we call classic is in its place in history versus its affect on the present. But what we consider as classic reveals something deeper about modern attitudes of society. This article examines what we mean by ‘classic’ and why we let spill into modern aesthetics.



If you’re concerned about becoming an individual, then you want to make your own decisions and create your own plans in life. But this presupposes that you already know who you are and know what you want. Your desires and interests change over time and yet you are expected to make commitments to projects and take responsibility for your decisions.

But to be an individual isn’t a solipsistic existence. You often depend on other people, whether they are musicians, artists, or authors, for knowledge, inspiration, or things that contribute to your identity. To borrow from sociologist Georg Simmel, fashion is meant for both the union with other people as well as an assertion of the person’s distinct identity. Although everyone is unique, there will always be a collective or social identity that is inescapable.



You only need a glimpse at history to see how these social identities affect people at an intimate, individual level. Different eras can almost be separated visibly. Changes in the fundamentals of culture manifests itself in one way through fashion. In the 1920s, when the United States famously experienced economic prosperity, bob haircuts, flapper dresses, and head feathers were representative of the flamboyance, indulgence, and freedom of the time. It is not a surprise that there is a modern romanticization of this era. In a time of economic recession and debt, why not?

Fashion allows this kind of escape for a person, but only when a type of fashion is accessible both practically and conceptually. According to a study conducted by a market research firm, NDP Group, show that nail polish and other nail-enhancement products rose by 65% since the 2008 recession. Affordable luxury fits the economic ability of a person as well as her desire to be fashionable. The history of fashion can be reduced to a series of collective trends, but ultimately how an individual presents herself through clothing requires creativity, not conformity. To mindlessly purchase whatever is on the display window takes the whole meaning and intention away from both the fashion designer and the consumer. And not everyone has the same means of other people to acquire certain pieces of clothing.



What does it mean when an entire institution or an individual firm wants to take from different cultures or periods of time then? How is fashion a reflection of a certain culture if the culture decides to takes ideas outside of its culture?

The hasty reply is that the culture is diversified and that taking from other cultures reflects the diversification of the culture. The reason why this is wrong is because this reflects a multicultural society, not a single culture. Most societies are multicultural but in their own way; New Yorkers and Texans stereotypically have different cultural idiosyncrasies and yet part of the same society. But what happens when a New Yorker adopts the style of a Texan? There is a sense where a New Yorker who wears a cowboy hat wants to have the identity of a Texan, but the very fact that a New Yorker has to make a conscious decision to wear a cowboy hat, and consciously say that he is wearing Texan attire shows that he isn’t at all Texan. The very attempt to be something prevents you from being it.



When a person wears clothing from the 1920s today, it contrasts a previous time from ours to show aspects that modern society is not. This is the point of using anachronisms. Individuals in the United States aren’t exactly economically and therefore individually free as before. When The Great Gatsby (2013) was released in theaters, the movie was more relevant to our times despite the 1920s aesthetic. The unachievable promises of capitalism and all the dancing and glamor amid the despair have been characteristic of the middle class throughout the 20th century and so far in the 21st.

The word “classic” is a relative term and the 1920s have recently been bestowed as a classic time. It isn’t much of a different usage of ‘classic’ as when we say a ‘classic novel’ or ‘classic films.’ It connotes age and value. Anything that has age without value is just old and anything with value without age is popular. When society dubs something as classic, it is a much more solemn and sacred process. It requires a society to examine its own history and how certain pieces, whether they are films, clothing, or people, have shaped present day ideology. The classics in life are discrete items in history, the points where new curves on a parabola begin, that have made significant contributions to culture, whether they represent the popular view or change it entirely.



But in fashion, classic has an additional connotation of reinvention, of handling an aged idea with young hands. It is not a return but a revival. Classics also have a big imprint on our identity more so than simply history. History by itself has a realism that our conception of classic does not. Classic objects mirror the ideals and romantic visions of that day mixed with the ideals we have now. Though dependent on the facts and mood of that time, fashion will always represent who we want to be, not really who we actually are.

We confuse the two a lot of the time. There’s some truth to that. If we want to take Freud seriously, our dreams and unconscious are what represent who we really are and what we really want, and that for most of the time we are repressing these authentic urges. What we idealize and not what we do, what we aspire for and not what we achieve, is accurately reflective to our individuality.



But we cannot ever escape the realism of history and the world. Everyday we are pushed and pulled by forces that make us deviate from who we are. A shift at work in a job you hate is an additional shift away from what you want to do and the person who you want to be. Society may see you as a janitor, but as a human being you know that you are capable of more than just mopping floors. In fact no matter who you are capable of an infinite range of experiences, emotions, and thought. The limits on those experiences, emotions, and thoughts are placed by the world and society. For a person to discover himself inwardly, he must be able to express himself outwardly.

Calling something classic is not so much as recognizing a thing that has expressed the popular opinion of the time; 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) and Fight Club are two films that no one saw when it was in theaters, but later hailed to be two of the most influential films ever made. Calling something classic is means that a point in history has, not necessarily a timeless importance, but a modern importance. It is paradoxically something in history that makes us feel younger.



There are still some enigmas about how we see things as classic or not. Can something ever lose its status as ‘classic’? How old does something classic have to be?

But what we do know is that classic things represent more of what we want to be than what we used to be. A more important question seems to be should we make these resurrections of trends that have died? Should we instead adhere to the Darwinian process of fashion, that whatever exists now is the best?



The reply is that classic things never really die. They are forgotten but forgotten in the same way natural mechanisms in our psychology repress our authentic selves. The automatic tendency is to look forward, but that shouldn’t mean that we look away. But there is one warning from Mark Twain: “Classic – a book which people praise and don’t read.” But that might be a good thing. It’ll allow the people who do actually embrace the classics be even more eccentric.


Written by Athena Chen
Makeup Yuki Hayashi,
Hair Jun Goto using Oribe Hair Care @ Joe management
Model Carly Moore @ Society Management,
Creative direction & Production Artistic cube inc.


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