The Man wants you lookin’ good. Maybe not perfect, not like stepping off the pages of a magazine at the salon or the dentist’s waiting room, but lookin’ pretty good. Showing that you know what the fashion is just now. The same way you’re careful to use slang that has come into your ear just often enough to convince you that it’s new and cool. Of course, you’re careful to put your own thumbprint on it, the fashion, the slang. Wear it and say it your way and no one else’s. You want people to think that you’re not a slave to fashion. The Man smiles when he sees you.
He smiles because it’s your awareness of fashion, your vigilant spotting of changes and your concern for the impression you are making on others that serves his purposes. You may think you are your own person, independent of the fanboys and -girls. But, so long as your compass points toward advertised fashion, he is in control. You may carefully set your course 45° to the left of the hot trend, but the hot trend is the determining factor.
And this isn’t only about what we wear and what we say. New electronic gadgets, music, movies, activities, and ideas almost always mean profits for large corporations. Politicians and their wealthy supporters work hard to see that their ideas shape public attitudes. Advertisers and political operatives employ trend spotters and image manipulators to multiply their influence. Much of this influence manipulation takes place out of sight. They do their best to wipe their fingerprints from the trends you spot.
Yet how can we not follow fashion? We are, after all, social creatures. Our reputation in our community of friends is a valuable resource. If people think we’re out of it then out of it we will be. Information and assistance from members of the in-crowd will become out of reach. Ostracism is a powerful motivator.
However, establishing an image as a fashionable someone may be less useful than making a reputation as a person who can be trusted to be authentic. Your friends will care a lot more that you are speaking and acting from the heart than that they can learn cool slang from you. Couple a bass line of social honesty with treble notes of realistic knowledge and reasoned insight and your music will be listened to. Dance to that and not to the Man’s latest hits.
Note: Tony Stavely is a retired Professor of Psychology with specialties in personality theory and social psychology. This is his first article for Can the Man.