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Moreover, does every fashion, in its distinctiveness, display contempt towards our fellow citizens from whom we are distinguishing ourselves?In other words, does fashion imply a relationship between social envy and contempt? this quiet personal usurpation of the envied property contains a kind of antidote, which occasionally counter-acts the evil effects of this feeling of envy." (F, p.Georg Simmel's famous article on Fashion, published in 1904, is reviewed, and it is proposed that his analysis, especially in as much as it highlights the roles of both imitation and the need to make distinctions has contemporary relevance to simulation models and to mimetics.
Every economic choice is bound not only to the pure computational rationality of individuals, but is influenced by "irrational" factors, i.e.
by social imitation and by what Simmel calls the "need for distinction", which is the contrary of imitation.
But social life changes in so far as the balance between the socialising force and the de-socialising force is always unstable and provisional.
Fashion is an example of the way in which actual social life always includes in some way its own opposite, an asocial life.
On one hand, each of us has tendency to imitate others.
On the other, we also have a tendency to distinguish ourselves from others.Except that while in economics the "reverse bandwagon effect" is limited to a specific series of commodities, in fashion this effect is generalised and constitutive of the fashion itself.We can say that what we call fashion - a fast change of cultural features - is basically anything which fundamentally depends on the game of bandwagon and reverse bandwagon, on imitation and distinction.Thus, moving down from one level to another, in a short space of time this skirt no longer distinguishes the upper class girls, since everyone is wearing cheap imitations.So the girls from the upper classes will once again have to look for something else to distinguish themselves, which will once again be imitated, and so the cycle will goes on.A game which does not concern just a small portion of consumers - the snobs - but all or nearly all members of a culture.Do we thus imitate persons who we admire and/or envy because we perceive them to be superior?Undoubtedly, some of us tend more towards imitation (and thus to conformism) while others tend to distinction (and thus to eccentricity and dissidence), but fashion's flux needs both of these contradictory tendencies in order to work.In short, Simmel argues that we need to postulate two radical drives which he attributes to human nature.Economists also talk about a "bandwagon effect" when a product is sold more because of simple imitation.But there is also a "reverse bandwagon effect", when a "snobbish" consumer stops buying a product because too many others are buying it.