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Fast fashion and sumptuary laws

Summary:
Various societies at various times have passed sumptuary laws. Detailed regulations upon who may wear what that is. The aim being to make clear, rigid even, who are the top dogs by preventing the mere rabble from wearing the insignia of being a leading hound.Of course, we’re entirely beyond that now:Legitimised by Kourtney Kardashian and anyone who has ever lasted more than a week in the Love Island villa, fast fashion has become an accessible and budget-friendly way for “normal” people to embody the aspirational lifestyles they see on their screens.Perhaps we’re not so far beyond it. For the sniff of contempt there is audible, isn’t it? That the rabble, the mere proles, are able to dress up like those they see as being socially superior to them. That the poor have more than the one change

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Various societies at various times have passed sumptuary laws. Detailed regulations upon who may wear what that is. The aim being to make clear, rigid even, who are the top dogs by preventing the mere rabble from wearing the insignia of being a leading hound.

Of course, we’re entirely beyond that now:

Legitimised by Kourtney Kardashian and anyone who has ever lasted more than a week in the Love Island villa, fast fashion has become an accessible and budget-friendly way for “normal” people to embody the aspirational lifestyles they see on their screens.

Perhaps we’re not so far beyond it. For the sniff of contempt there is audible, isn’t it? That the rabble, the mere proles, are able to dress up like those they see as being socially superior to them.

That the poor have more than the one change of clothes, the Sunday best and the other set, is one of the great equalisers of our time. These past few decades have been first time in human civilisation that this has generally been true, it’s not all that long ago that the poor were not considered to need a wardrobe given they had so few robes.

One ethical commentator back in history suggested that our reaction to the naked should not be just to donate clothes, but to split our cloak so as to share both the covering and the cold. Today’s fashion seems to be to sneer at people for being uppity enough to desire their own clothing. That they can have it shows that we’ve advanced materially, the reaction to their being able to do so shows that there’s still some ethical work to do.

Seriously, where do these people get off when they insist that even the poor having a change of clothes is a bad idea?

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Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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