Which Came First – The Media Or The Masses?

Carrie Bradshaw - SATCYou know you’re in trouble when you start getting style-envy over a puppet; it’s that pixie-looking one off the Diet Coke advert with the striped skirt and white blouse combo that looks so darn well-dressed, but try as I may, I can’t seem to recreate her look. I probably shouldn’t be trying.


Of course everyone knows the media is a great (if not the greatest) influence on what we buy and how we buy. I have a good male friend who went through a phase of recreating the ensemble of Captain Black Sparrow, closely followed by Justin Timberlake during his shirt-tie-braces era. He wasn’t five, he was twenty-five! I can also remember when I was seven, I proudly wore my cut-off denim shorts with ripped grey tights, having seen the girls on Byker Grove imitating Madonna. It seems no matter how old you are – you just can’t escape the influence of the media.


Only recently have I had a massive argument with both my parents over the influence of Eastenders; of all things! For two people who flat-out refuse to watch the programme, they don’t half have an opinion about it – my mother practically has a full-on vendetta against poor old Pat Butcher. I don’t watch soaps either (except Hollyoaks which I will resolutely deny if anyone ever asks), but I did spend three years and over twenty-thousand pound studying the complexities of modern media and communications at university. A waste of money? Different topic I’m afraid. Anyway, my parents used Eastenders as an example for diminished creativity in the modern world; in their opinion we (as a society) simply imitate what we see on television and no longer form our own ideas – in terms of fashion, they argued we simply pop down the shops, pick up the clothes we see on our favourite soap stars  and return home in time for the next episode of ‘Enders. Job done. No creativity, no individuality, no nothing. Society has become a big homogeneous by-product of the mass media; robots if you like.


My counter-argument was simple – what came first? The media or the masses? Obviously the masses, so it’s the media imitating the people and not vice-versa. Surely the costume designers down at the Beeb analyse what the general public are wearing and simply copy it for the characters on Eastenders? If we were as influential as my parents would have me believe, we’d all be wearing horrific Pat Butcher-style earrings and thankfully, minus a few misguided old ladies, most of us don’t.


Carrie Bradshaw - Sex and the CityIt is, however, an interesting theory. Unfortunately my lack of maturity got the better of me and rather than argue my point successfully, I got incredibly irritated and stormed off. I do not doubt the media has an incredible influence on us – if it didn’t then advertising would be pointless. However, we don’t brainlessly follow trends without actively thinking what we are doing. Surely we are more individual than that?


Take Sex And The City for example – a totally fashion-orientated TV programme/film. I have the entire box-set and I adore the clothes and the shoes…..and hats…..and bags. But if any one of us normal folk were to throw on one of Carrie Bradshaw’s ridiculously flamboyant outfits and wear them to an Orange Wednesday, or to pop down the shops, or out to our favourite restaurant, we’d get laughed and ridiculed all the way home, never to show our face again.


Granted the shoes are amazing, but find me one person who would wear a bright-pink tutu and matching satin heels to brunch on a Sunday morning (and hasn’t been drinking beforehand) and I’ll eat my ‘fabulous’ SATC-style hat. Sex and the City is fairy-tale fashion – it appeals to childhood memories of dressing up boxes, where nothing matches and everything is worn for show, not practicality or the real-world. And that’s all Sex And The City fashion is – a huge dressing up box; hundreds of costumes stored in a TV studio. It’s fantasy and it’s wonderful, but bar a few adventurous soles, real people don’t wear such stuff because we actively decide not to, regardless of how popular the media makes it.


Fashion’s a funny, fickle thing but it should always be worn with a big portion of common-sense. Will you look stupid if you dress up as a pirate and paint a thick layer of black eye liner on your bottom eyelid? Yes you will. But you can still adapt that dishevelled Captain Jack style and not look like a complete plonker. In fact, at it’s most subtle, the media’s influence on fashion is a very good thing – it’s inspiring and ignites passion and creativity, and as long as we all maintain our individuality, we might just pull it off.