What I'm Reading: "Thinking Through Fashion" by Agnès Rocamora & Anneke Smelik
Fashion is a foreign concept to me. Hard to believe I know, considering I’m part of a fashion school, but it’s true. That’s not to say that I’m unfashionable, rather, I’m just not “fashion”. While I’ve always been drawn to fashion, in the broad sense of the term - dress, style, appearance - fashion theory is not my first language. So I guess you could say that this PhD I’m doing is a baptism of fire.
I’m attempting to theorise around hip-hop in a new and exciting way. When I began this journey (all bright-eyed and eager to unearth some bomb-ass knowledge), I suggested that talking about hip-hop from the perspective of clothing would bring something different to the research table. On paper, it sounded great. In reality? it’s been really, really tough. I’ve dwelled on hip-hop’s history, hip-hop as subculture and hip-hop dance because that’s the stuff I know and understand. All the while I’ve skirted around fashion (no pun intended) for fear of making a misstep. But I’ve recently learned that if you take away the ‘F’ word, there are other terms that can be used to explain it, for example, ’material culture’, and ‘symbolic system’. Terms that make me feel a bit less out of my depth.
It’s easy to shy away from unfamiliar territory, but if we knew all there was to know about a subject, then there’d be no need for research, right? This book, Thinking Through Fashion (2015), edited by Agnés Rocamora and Anneke Smelik has been a great introduction to the ideas and concepts of key theorists whose work can be applied to both hip-hop and fashion. It’s helped to orient me to possible different approaches to ‘thinking through fashion’. It would appear that fashion studies, like hip-hop studies, is an interdisciplinary field. This book has brought me back to my roots in social theory and revisiting the likes of Marx, Bourdieu, Merleau-Ponty, Baudrillard, to name a few, has certainly dampened the anxiety and put me back in the right frame of mind. Let’s see how I get on.