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The Role of Fashion in Pop Culture

I am a professional teacher, writer, researcher, and learner. I always try to learn because there is no age for learning.


Fashion plays an important role in pop culture, and not just because of its aesthetics or because it’s something people talk about on the red carpet at the Oscars or MTV Awards (or at least, those are the conversations that get the most media attention). Fashion has been changing alongside society for decades—think about how differently men and women dressed 50 years ago versus today—and it’s something that makes fashion interesting to so many people worldwide. Here are some ways fashion has played a role in the changing of societies over time.

Fashion Statement

Humans are as vulnerable to pop culture trends as any other animal. We're drawn to what we see on television, online, and other people. As a result, fashion is a huge part of pop culture. Whenever there’s a new trend, young people are willing to adopt it first; they show up at school wearing it or carry it with them when they walk into work (or school). Before long, fashion trickles up from their generation into society as a whole. Consider sneakers: They were once considered old-fashioned sports shoes used only by serious athletes. Now they’re worn by everyone from high school students to grandmothers. Their popularity has increased exponentially over time—just like pop culture trends that make waves within schools before eventually becoming mainstream in societies.

Woman in Yellow Long Sleeves

Fashion as an Extension of Self

We dress for a variety of reasons, but one key factor that remains is how fashion allows us to express ourselves. No matter what we wear, from sweats and sneakers to a three-piece suit, it represents who we are and how we want others to see us. As pop culture changes so do fashion—and vice versa. At times it can be hard to tell where one begins and the other ends—for example, when Hollywood goes through a reinvention of styles or fads such as punk rock or grunge will naturally come into vogue. And sometimes fashion looks at pop culture for inspiration in creating new trends and styles as well—from break dancing to yoga pants and everything in between. What’s important to remember is that fashion continues to change society because it provides an easy means of expression for individuals, which creates lasting impressions with our peers. The next time you step out your front door, take a moment and think about why you chose your outfit: Was it purely based on function, or did style has something to do with it? If so, then consider yourself part of an influential trendsetter in contemporary society. Your choices impact others and maybe even yourself in ways big and small without you even realizing it; consider that next time you put on your favorite pair of jeans.

Fashion has Evolved Over Time

As cultures have evolved, so has fashion. It’s not just what you wear but how you wear it that matters to society. Style is no longer just something you create through clothing; it’s also represented by hairstyles, makeup, and jewelry. Though people are constantly changing their style with new trends and fads coming out each year, they also remain loyal to traditions that continue to be passed down from generation to generation—like tattoos and piercings. From green hair colors to heavy metal-inspired facial jewelry, there are an infinite number of ways for people around the world to express themselves through their style. And if someone doesn’t fit into a certain mold, then they don't have to conform. After all, many popular fashions of today were once considered weird. It's all about making your own choices and expressing yourself however you choose. After all, we're all individuals!

Photos of Women While Taking Selfies

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What is Fashion

Understanding what fashion is can be a challenge for most people. But, once you get it, there’s no going back. In a nutshell, fashion is all about how we use style to build our identities and self-expression. This form of self-expression may come from clothing, but it doesn’t have to be confined to that. The real fun comes when other aspects enter into play: hair, jewelry, accessories, and more. When fashion enters pop culture—that’s when society starts taking notice. It becomes something bigger than individual expression—it becomes a way for us to have common experiences through shared values and norms for how we represent ourselves as individuals (and members) of larger societies. That’s what makes fashion so fascinating!

Fashion and Pop Culture

Though fashion and pop culture seem disparate at first glance, they've always been closely related. Many people use style to stand out from a crowd and express their individuality, whether it's through clothing or tattoos, accessories, or hair color. Throughout history, fashion has always played a role in shaping our identities as individuals and citizens of particular societies. Today is no different: Look around and you'll see countless examples of pop-culture fads that reflect our changing values. So as you try to decide what's cool (and what's not), remember that while there are no hard rules for popularity, your choices do make a statement about who you are (or who you want to be).

Color Leather Bags Inside the Room

Consequences on Society

This is an open-ended question. If you want to write about how fashion has changed society, that’s fine. But if you want to write about how society has changed fashion or vice versa, or anything like that, then great! It’s also ok if you focus on specific societies and cultural icons (i.e how fashion in America differs from Pakistan) as long as you bring it back to larger ideas like societal change. You don’t need to outline a thesis statement—that will come later when we start writing draft versions of your paper—but think through your topic and make sure you have a clearly defined idea. You should give some thought to which people/societies/fashion trends you’re going to discuss: are they widely influential? Are they popular but not quite universally recognized? Are they important for one reason only? Do they fall into any other categories? Do they show socio-cultural trends in clothing styles across time or geography, but not both? Is there any overlap between them? What do all these things mean for how we define fashion and pop culture in terms of style and representation today? Once you get your head around all these questions, keep brainstorming; write down whatever else comes to mind. Have fun with it—it doesn't have to be perfectly organized at first.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ghulam Nabi Memon

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