Photo by IQRemix, Flickr CC
Embracing and shaping fashion are not without issues of power and inequality. Different consumers have varying degrees of access to certain products, whether in terms of money or knowledge of what is happening in a particular arena of fashion. In most societies, clothing is a way to signal social class and occupation. While some privileged consumers assert class identities through conspicuous consumption of luxury goods, not all fashion choices are about creating or maintaining an image of wealth and power. Researchers have studied various subcultures to understand how fashion relates to identity.
Think of English punks or the 1970s or goth teens as examples of subcultures that use style and clothing to brand their identities rather than fit in with mainstream culture. In light of this, interpreting and predicting fashion trends remains difficult because individual and group identity expressions are in constant states of negotiation. Consumers decide if and to what extent they adopt a new trend or practice in order to fit in with a certain group or distinguish themselves from them. In other words, fashion is not just about the clothes themselves; it is a process of constant change that occurs in the contexts of existing culture and society.