Everything You Do or Say or Think or Feel or Have…Is Guided by Fashion

There was a time when people were tyrannized by tradition. In the modern, hyper-connected world, we are tyrannized not by tradition, but by fashion. You can’t be “in” unless you are in fashion with those of the circles in which you move.

We are here not discussing “high fashion,” or even fashions in clothes. We will want to come to terms with the fact that fashions tyrannize us in all aspects of life – how we think, how we feel, what we drive, what we eat, how we choose a friend or a spouse, house or a neighborhood, the illnesses we have and the treatments we seek, and how we look in the mirror and how we comport ourselves in public.

We have what might be termed a “social conscience.” We want to be seen by others in a certain way. Whether in the office or the restaurant, we want the others of the crowds we move in to attribute to us the persona we are trying to broadcast.

Our first and compelling thoughts are, “How will others judge me?” “If I say this or do that, how will other people pass judgment on me?” “Will I gain or lose social capital if I live in this sort of house or travel to this sort of place?”

There was a time – still is in some cultures – when most things were dictated by tradition. But, as Goethe wrote:

“What is called fashion is the tradition of the moment.”

It is just as tyrannical. Almost everything you do or say or think or feel or have is guided by fashion – the tradition of the moment in your circle of friends and acquaintances. You even want to be “in” and awarded social capital by people you don’t know or may never see again.

If you’re normal, you are like a puppet, and the strings are the pushes and pulls of fashion – of the tradition of the moment. You are more likely under the yoke of the social protocols of the day than of your own private thoughts.  What you say is more likely to be what “people” say in such-and-such a situation than what you really wanted to say.

We will talk to others about the celebrities we share. We will talk about the “news, ” and of the TV shows we share. We will talk about what we did – which will be essentially what “everybody” else did that day or yesterday. If you talk ideas, they will likely be the ideas of the day. They will have been promulgated by the gurus, experts, or media celebrities of the day.

This is why our current buildings look so much alike. This is why politicians sound so much alike. This is why professors think like academics and plumbers think like plumbers. This is why diet fads come and go. This is why advertisers copy each other. This is why even you may wear clothes that are in fashion, or are at least not “out” of fashion.

If you want to craft a better life for yourself, you will want to delve into this pervasive condition of our lives. If you are committed to doing life as you would have it done, you will need to understand what’s at stake.

-Lee Thayer, Thought-Leader


If you are open to what others say or do, they are colonizing your mind.  If they are open to what you say or do, you are colonizing their mind.  What kind of impact would adopting this perspective have on the way in which you communicate?

Everything you know and know how to do came to you because you were susceptible to it — that you had no immunity to it.   Where would you say you are most vulnerable?

True or False: Fashions are “contagious.”

-Joelle Moles, Institute Mentor