In early September, my halftime consisted of lunch spotting, catching up with homework, and mindless meandering down the Eaton Centre. The latter part was a way to treat myself. If my eyes weren’t glued to the fluorescent screen on my laptop, I could treat them to sights of discounted clothing racks or accessory stalls. Since H&M was relatively close to the Dundas subway station, it was usually my first pitstop.
H&M, like so many other stores at the mall, helped me stay on current fashion trends. If I wasn’t going to buy anything, I could at least educate myself on the latest style crazes. In the midst of corset lace-up hoodies and cold-shoulder tops, I was astounded- but not surprised- to see a sweatshirt ripped from a University giftshop. Written in laughably bold letters: Hype college- as if it was a sans script way of doing the ol’ wink wink nudge nudge to its fellow students that shopped there. Naturally, I felt called out.
Relatability is far from a used marketing trick by big-name retailers. If anything, it’s been done by other industry leaders. I won’t say that it’s a shady tactic by any means, but that untasteful collegiate sweater did get me thinking: how does relatability play in fashion, and is it a significant role?
The first thing that comes to mind is the upsurge of Y2K fashion. I know, I covered this topic to death in a recent post but it’s still mind-boggling to think that such a dated trend has now become stylish and refreshing. I mean, haven’t we all collectively agreed that low-rise bottoms were a bad idea?
Nevertheless, it’s a classic example of relatability and fashion doing the ol’ tango. It’s familiar and it reminds us of a better time. Don’t get me wrong, Hollister t-shirts will continue to forever haunt me, but it does spark memories of somersaulting at recess and playing tag with old friends. If anything, it’s a memento rather than a statement piece.
Political fashion is also a great example of relatability and fashion. Nothing will speak to consumers more than a pressing issue, as some big-name designers are integrating subjects like environmentalism and social justice.
Take for instance, Daniel Fletcher, who created the anti-Brexit collection in 2016. It was a creative way to showcase his political stance by using his talents and expertise. I will say that it’s a subtle way of expressing his viewpoints, but it’s tasteful, grounded, and provides an alternative for activists to showcase their perspective casually.
If you aren’t versed in the political field, I’m sure you have other ways of ‘rebelling against the common curve.’ This is, of course, the uprise of ‘core’ fashion. Thanks to social media platforms like Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram, we’re now open to hundreds of aesthetics. This usually includes popular styles like cottage core, techwear, dark academia, grunge, and vintage.
Relatability is present in all of these different categories. It speaks to a generation of like-minded individuals who share the same interests and values. If you like the brooding, mysterious aesthetic of old London, academia can be your thing. For those who love open fields, book reading, and flowers, I’m sure cottage core will speak to your spirit.
Ultimately, relatability is the way we communicate with clothes. It grounds us to long-lost memories, deep-seated values, and perspectives we align with. Fashion, at the end of the day, is a method of self-expression, and if we can’t relate to it- chances are that we leave it on the racks for the next person to gloss over.