The Birth of Cool – Fashion Culture

In this lecture we looked at the items of clothing and the meaning and reasoning behind them when we describe them as fashion. Through semiotics we look at signs and symbols and how a certain item can be represented for a particular gender.  (Roland Barthes, The Fashion System. 1967) This is through colour, material, the fit and posture.

“Taste Between Common Sense and Meaning” from The Clothed Body by Patrizia Calefato

This chapter describes fashion in terms of the onset of modernism and modern capitalism in Paris.

The flaneur; He is the poet, the man of leisure, the idler, the urban explorer, the connoisseur of the street. It was Walter Benjamin, drawing on the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, who made this figure the object of scholarly interest in the 20th century, as an emblematic archetype of urban, modern experience. •

The boheme is the creative class. The flaneur, as a member of the boheme, could meander in and out of the proletariate and the bourgeous.  He does not need the technology of the bourgeois to make a product.

The lecture looked into the idea of representation and objectification.

Representation is the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way.

Objectification is the action of degrading someone to the status of a mere object.

This is incorporated into fashion in terms of items of clothing and how we are seen as an individual for wearing a particular thing. This is linked to the male gaze and how women were presented as objects for the male pleasure. An example of this idea of the male gaze was the Calvin Klein campaign in 1992 which featured Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg.


Mark Walhberg and Kate Moss for Calvin Klein (1992)

Kate Moss receieved a lot of negative feedback for posing naked for the Calvin Klein advertisement, whilst Mark Wahlberg was appreciated for his figure. This shows the early sign of how women were represented negatively even though they were both display their bodies.



  1. the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically.


In fashion this looks at how the incorporation of cultures were mixed into a new society. For example black history and how most African Americans are the descendants of Africans forcibly brought to and held captive in the United States from 1555 to 1865.  History of America is black history in terms of culture, architecture and fashion.



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