Let's Talk | Class Appropriation In Fashion

Gosha Rubchinskiy is said to be one of the most exciting designers in street wear right now...but is the hype justified?

>> Charlotte Russell discusses the issues of class and how the latest trends and being 'edgy' might be suggesting more about us than we think...
What is ‘class appropriation?’ Two words, so political when divided, that when combined it creates nothing less of an abrupt, blaze debate on our current social situation. Disclaimer, I am not having a dig at you, reader, if you happen to relate to some of the people in this post. But I merely want to put forward the idea that perhaps this concept of ‘class appropriation’ is slowly becoming a thing. And is this ok?

Discourse surrounding cultural appropriation has been increasingly prominent over the last year or so, y’know finally with relation of our worlds understanding of respect for political history and all that. But can we go as far as to say that another privileged portion of society (this time not necessarily just the white western part of it) but the middle classes (or any other if we want to include intersections) are becoming advocates of a different type of appropriation? If you don’t know what I’m getting at, look around you. Look at what it means to be ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ and you must know at least one person that pops up. Maybe they’re wearing a pair of Reeboks, or a baseball hat, or an old zip up fleece and then begin to question where these ‘fashion statements’ have come from.
Don’t get me wrong, I know numerous people who dress up in head-to-toe Adidas tracksuits and look bloody awesome. Also before I continue I would just like to include a disclaimer here, but I myself do also identify with being ‘middle class’. Yet I’m afraid that Gideon-from-Hampshire-who-has-a-trust-fund is not and never will be the next Stormzy. Perhaps Gideon can rap, perhaps he has a lot of things to say about our recent political situation, and perhaps he is very talented. But I’m afraid to say that trust fund Gideon is also not from the ends of South London, and most definitely does not ever wear cheap sportswear.

Source: google

If you can’t see it yet, walk in to a ‘vintage’ shop. Because poor Gideon is the butt of one huge corporate joke right now. Recently I went into a shop to find that they were charging £50 for an old Kappa jumper! Because they can. Because they know there are people out there who will pay this much for a ‘vintage’ jumper to look ‘edgy’. This ‘vintage’ jumper 2 years ago would have probably cost them no more than £10.
Is looking ‘edgy’ nowadays therefore synonymous with looking like you come from ‘the ends’? As if being cool is synonymous with not looking like you’re rich. But what is the big difference here? A lot of people who choose to represent themselves this way are. The class appropriation that is happening here is the fact that these people have the CHOICE to switch this off. It is the choice to dress in a tracksuit all day, but a high-end tuxedo by night which differentiates them from others. It is the fact that nowadays everyone knows that their vintage garms cost them an absolute packet, and in return has created this sort of weird cycle.
I suppose you could argue with me and say that class appropriation could even work both ways - say a working-class person who decides to dress up in an expensive suit perhaps. Yet a more high end branded suit carries off the image of wealth and success, a working-class person is not necessarily appropriating middle class culture because the middle classes are not oppressed in the same way. As a wealthy person, the ability to dress however they want is what shows us that this appropriation exists, and it’s the cheek of exploiting urban culture – making it completely unaffordable and therefore only wearable by those who are rich enough – which shows the increasing emancipation of the middle

Though Adidas' recent Original Is Never Finished campaign and new ad is undoubtedly pretty stunning cinematically, could Adidas clothing and brands alike be misrepresenting this style as 'fashionable' to the upper-class who can afford it and inaccessible to the working/lower class who were once associated with urban culture?
Because arguably with this in mind, it is only the reasonably well-off who can afford to dress in a way that was once associated with urban culture at the moment. I suppose we can blame our current ‘scene’. Let’s point the finger at Skepta why don’t we? This guy has an exceeding amount of power since his music became popular (I’m sorry but Konnichiwa is bangin’ - don’t even try to disagree) and in his music videos and the people he is surrounded with are seen as presenting themselves in a way which is currently echoed throughout this current ‘scene’. They are cool because their music is great, and in return they also look good. Their music is deeply rooted within working-class culture and as a result this has now become ‘cool’. I mean, too right, it’s great to see working class people finally making a comeback in the music scene. But since becoming famous (and most likely incredibly rich) can we still count Skepta in this bracket? Is he as a result, like these ridiculous vintage shops, also exploiting a certain culture in a bid to sell records and make money?

Source: google
Whatever your beliefs are, he is. But the difference between Skepta and, say, your posh friend from the home counties is, Skepta is exploiting a culture and form of identity that he has lived with his whole life (as far as I believe, unless he comes out with some big revelation and he is actually an actor who goes by the name Geoffrey from Kent). Gideon from Hampshire is not. Think of this the next time you go to fork out a million pounds on a baseball cap, or the next time you see yourself complementing your mates ‘wavey’ new bomber jacket. Because, I hate to say it, you and they probably will/do look cool. But just remember you are giving your money to an idea which has exploited and in turn made a style - which was once affordable for a certain section of society - completely ridiculous. Think of the connotations, the class and the culture associated with what you are wearing, and ask yourself, are you being respectable enough to say that you identify with this and the background associated with the class that these garms once possibly represented?

Or do you disagree and think fashion's reappropriation of British Working Class Culture isn't a bad thing? (see article here - the comments section and the Guardian article are well worth a read too, or do you agree with this article?)

By Charlotte Russell
Follow Charlotte on Twitter @swankychar
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