Wetenschap - 18 april 2002

Column: More money than sense

Column: More money than sense

It is what is on the inside that counts, but it is your external appearance that people see. You cannot judge a book by the cover but you are more likely to peruse it if the exterior interests you. As much as common sense suggests it is wrong to make judgements based on face value, it is almost automatic for our minds to make the connection from observation to opinion. With so much information at our disposal immediate interpretation is second nature to us. We wrestle with our superficial tendencies.

Our genetic obligation to procreate, during the hormonally driven times of our life, motivates us to be attractive to the opposite sex. Regardless of the fact you are being sold chewing gum or soft drinks, advertisers have learnt a good way to fool our brains into wanting something if to associate an object with lust, desirability. We attempt to perform the same trick by dressing ourselves with the myriad of designs on offer. The affluence of western culture brings with it the freedom to waste money on frivolity and luxury and thus the fashion industry thrives.

We can identify clothing with individuality and with membership of a group, an intriguing contrast. Even our small town of gives some extreme examples with musical preference closely linked to the characteristic styles. Gothic rockers, a scary bunch for whom androgyny is a preference and wearing black is mandatory, are not to be confused with heavy metallers, usually endowed with an abundance of hair and a T-shirt sporting a band insignia. Then there are new age types emulating the sixties with their hippie sensibilities. The ghetto look is popular with baseball cap and bagginess impersonating US street gang attitude.

Dutch fashion is not excessively flashy on the whole, function reigns supreme. Perhaps it is more thorough emancipation in the Netherlands that has led to a predominance of trousers on women. In England you can frequently marvel at scantily clad girls braving arctic conditions simply to bear their legs. Students in Wageningen seem relatively reserved in stark contrast to the clothing label worship among British university residents. Denim prevails here for the most part, occasionally giving rise to the terrible 'smart-casual' faux pas of blazer jacket and jeans combination. Still, that is not quite as bad as sandals and socks!

Clothing is a breeding ground for elitism and vanity. Expense leads to exclusivity, which adds to the popularity. Allure it seems is a saleable commodity but at a price that is not easy to define. Vogue is an interest requiring more money than sense but one that is much-invested in. Beauty is only skin deep but we do so love to keep up appearances.

David Lee Hopkins

DLH@dr.com

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