Fashion is something that we are always using in our lives. There are people who care more than others about what they wear every day, but most people use fashion as a form of communication. Fashion is constantly changing and is an effective tool for not only making personal statements, but also separates people into groups in terms of social status and position in society, predicts the actual climate of the time, and advertises the personal social and political interests of the individual wearing the fashion. This is especially true for teens, who are increasingly vulnerable to the attempts of advertisers to make them buy certain fashionable products. In order to understand the role of fashion in society, it is important to look at how the young people interpret fashion and how they use fashion as a means of expressing their individuality and their own personal style. On the other hand, it is also important to determine how advertisers are manipulating teens to purchase certain products, which according to one expert from the American Psychological Association (APA) is a $600 billion dollar industry (“Driving Teen Egos” 60). Therefore, the issue is that fashion is not only a personal issue, but a psychological one with positive and negative effects.
Studies have shown that teens are not only the largest consumers of fashion, but they also determine future trends, which designers will become most famous and commercially successful, and they can use fashion as a way of communicating their interests as well as their unity as a group. The downside is that advertisers are extremely sophisticated and manipulative in their attempts to attract teens and many specialists argue that advertising needs to change the way they communicate to teens because they are sending a message that materialistic things are the most valuable in contrast to more important values such as doing the world good or becoming a better person.
TEENS ARE THE LARGEST CONSUMERS OF FASHION
One reason why teens are the largest consumers of fashion is due to their brand loyalty and spendable income. While wealthy and middle class designers clothes, are always important to adults, they are, especially important to teenagers. Each teen desires certain brands and most teenagers are brand loyal according to Yahoo Voices author JK Fiorello, who writes about teen consumer culture. Fiorello argues that contrary to adults, teens actually have more money to spend and buy more clothes. One of this reasons is because the parents earn more money than they did years ago and they are more likely to spend more money on their children so that they can provide them benefits they never had themselves. Parents buy more clothes to give to their sons and teenage girls and these teens are used to hanging out in the mall with their friends using “mum's” credit card. Doing this, the parents believe that they are giving their children the capacity to be more responsible with money and another idea is that parents are over compensating for their own childhood. Many teens today also use a pre-paid debit card, this is a new idea presented by the banks for parents to feel more secure regarding their teen’s spending. Those credit cards can be used by online shopping. (“Teens and Consumer Culture” 1)
Some of the parents give the chance to learn about financial responsibility by giving them an allowance and this impacts the type of financial decisions that the students make – including what types of fashion students can purchase. Allowances have always been traditionally used to help teach students learn about money and how to manage it. However, the types of purchases that students are making have changed. Not only are they purchasing clothes and using money for entertainment, some use their allowance to purchase more significant items such as vehicles and computer technology. Unfortunately, the cost of buying name brand fashions has increased. Some argue that brand name purchases are “extra”. The facts presented in the media tell a different story- fashion is a very significant “extra” purchase. In fact, studies have shown that female teens alone spent $9 billion dollars on make-up and skin care products and as the APA stated in the article “Driving Teen Egos”- this fact tells us that this is an “example of advertisers successfully selling the quick fix” to American teenagers. This is on only one side of the industry. The increased use of debit cards and credit cards being used as a form of allowance has increased teen spending, especially on online purchases. For example, in the article “Teens and Consumer Culture” JK Fiorello argues that teens spent $175 billion dollars making online making online magazine purchases! (1). All manufactures know that the teens are becoming a powerful consumer. So, all production industries of clothes become known to the teenagers by magazines, television, and mall retail stores.
HOW TEENS DETERMINE THE TRENDS
Studies have also shown that teens are determining trends in fashion. According to the APA, this happens because they are targeting teen girls and the fashion industry is using psychology to help influence teens to “select” the right trend. According to James McNeal who wrote the book “Kids as Customers: A Handbook of Marketing to Children”, the huge increase in teen consumers is due to the use of technology and psychology. The industry knows that kids want to be “cool” and design their marketing to fit that need. Teens are not as interested in self-expression as they are in fitting in with their peer group. So while, we might say that the market is driven by teens, the teens are driven by the marketing. They are advertising to appeal to teenagers, they use stereotypes and gender roles, and the industry is encouraging materialistic values. Kanner, a scientist, compares the new strategy to the old by saying that the old is like a “BB gun” and the new strategy is a “smart bomb” based on how the fashion industry giants are trapping teens to buy more and more. (“Consumerism: Driving Teens” 2-3).
Teens determine trends by also modeling political figures and historical cultural icons. Currently, the music world has a huge impact on how teens dress and what they buy. This is not a new thing. Evidence states that “even folks in the 1700’s pored over fashion magazines to see the latest styles. Women and dressmakers outside of the French court relied on sketches to see what was going on.” (“What is Fashion” 1). According to the article, “Why Fashion is so important to teenage life?”, teens determine the trends because fashion is “fashion is first and foremost a social statement” and they are interested in attracting the opposite sex as well as interested in rebelling as a form of expressing their individuality (1).
WAY OF COMMUNICATING THEIR INTERESTS AS A UNIFIED GROUP
Fashion changes very often and these changes are because of new ideas presented in music, videos, books, television and especially in movies and on television. Many cultural icons influence teenagers’ fashion sense. For example, the newspapers and magazines often will show political leaders such as Hilary Clinton and iconic fashion representatives such as Diana, Princess of Wales. People are categorized into groups as a form of individual expression based on what they wear. This is easier to recognize in high schools. A few groups that are commonly represented are: skaters, goths, preps, and herbs. These groups have their own style to show who they are and the styles separate the people in groups. Wearing such clothes may be used as a form of social protection , to display physical attraction, the teens’ emotions, or may be used as a form of religious expression, identification and tradition (“What is Fashion?” 2).
The teen tendency to identify and associate with a particular clique leads to strong brand identification and is one reason why teens are targeted by marketers, sometimes with serious consequences. Undoubtedly, fashion is a big business. and teens continue to buy. According to the Washington times, this identification with a group is a natural human desire and has an enormous financial impact in marketing- as much as $155 billion dollars in 2000 alone went to clothing, CDs, and makeup alone. People get inspired on clothes because they can see designs on buses, magazines. The question is whether or not the way the way they are being targeted is a healthy or fair practice.
On one hand, marketers use celebrities to introduce fashion to the teen world/ Most teenagers desire to be like celebrities. “Why is Fashion so Important to Teens?” reports that celebrities are the best influence on teenagers in the modern world and they give a huge impact on their ideas about fashion (1). The article suggests that teens do this for the following reasons: 1) to make a statement 2) to express their identity 3) to express physical attraction 4) to make a statement of rebellion 5) as a result of peer pressure and finally 6) to be like celebrities. Celebrities are by no means on the last of the list (least important). The problem is that teens do not have the same financial resources as celebrities and the desire to buy high price clothes results in unnecessary financial stress. Gabriella Boston, a writer with the “Washington Times” explains to us that Emily Kell, an average 14 year old, wears cargo pants from Abercrombie & Fitch that costs $60, tops from Arden B and stiletto heels from Steve Madden. What teenager can pay for that? Some argue, what average American parent can pay for that? Just the same, billions of other girls place great importance on what fashion brands they use. Emily, offers an explanation: “It’s got to be Abercrombie, otherwise it doesn’t look right”, “Looking right,” which really means “fitting in” (1). Apparently, it is very important for teenagers especially for girls, to wear brands according to Jeanay LaRue-Robinson, a guidance counselor at Andrew Jackson Middle School in Forestville, Maryland. Before teens form their own identity, teenagers form a group identity to feel accepted. Usually, school girls wear the same clothes as other girls to “fit in”. Fashion can be really fun , but it can also have a bad influence in teens ability to express who they are or cause problems like bullying. One way to avoid this is to make students wear uniforms in schools. Uniforms can sometimes help reduce the teasing and conflicts. But even schools that don’t use uniforms, have a dress code to prevent inappropriate clothing (Boston, 1).
Most child psychologists agree that teens need to select what they wear.to help them to express themselves and they use it to show they are growing and maturing. Most teens having a sense of personal style and fashion. Those that who find the style that they like , feel that the clothes give them an idea of the person who they are. It also helps to feel comfortable with their self-image. “Style and Fashion”,says that fashion is one way for teenagers to best express their personality and feelings. Teens can also use their consumerism to discover their likes and dislikes with differing fashions trends. Their likes and dislikes change easily, just as easily as their mind is changing and developing.
As in all the things, there is a bad side to teen consumerism. In this case, teens can choose to be “bad” or rebel and they may begin to wear inappropriate clothes.This may create a false image and give a bad impression to those around them. . They want others to see through revealing clothing that they have another side to them. In those cases , the parents should tell them what they should wear because some individuals wear clothes that make them appear to be a bad influence, giving a wrong idea about who they are . In reality, teens use fashion to rebel against their parents, their classmates, and society.
DOWNSIDES OF MARKETING TO TEENAGERS
Aside from bullying , there are other costs to marketing to teenagers. Some feel that the business industry is easily manipulating teens, causing undue financial stress by influencing teens to purchase items that are far too expensive, resulting in psychological stress if they must carry the social cost of not fitting in because they are not in the “right” clothes. According to Katherine Hamnet, a top British fashion designer, “Clothes create a wordless meaning of communication that we all understand”. No matter what race, religion, or gender teens are- it is the language that speaks to the hearts and minds of all. “In the perspective of costume history, it is plain that the dress of any given period is exactly suited to the actual climate of the time” says James Laver, a noted costume historian- be that climate a political, social, or business climate. Clearly, marketers are using teens to meet their financial goals, even in a poor market, which communicates to many that we are in an age of materialism (“What is Fashion?” 2).
According to Alissa Quart, the author of “Branded” The Buying and Selling of Teenagers”, teen fashion is nothing new. What is new is the amount of financial resources devoted to attracting teens as consumers independent of adults. Branding is how many teenagers are not only using fashion as a form of expression, the fashion is now becoming sometimes the most important influence in developing their individual identity. This is a dangerous concept, to be defined only by the clothes that they wear. The old saying that a person’s beauty should be judged by the inside is simply no longer true, causing great pain to many.
In conclusion, marketing only to teenagers is defined by some as a moral problem. Do we force teenagers to “buy” not only the clothes but the attitude that they create is a serious moral question. Should marketers use teen psychology to manipulate buyers? Do companies have the right to determine an identity just by what a child wears? These are questions that the business community, schools, and parents need to ask. Money should not be the only motivation. Businesses need to consider the “right” and “wrong” of their practices, especially when their practices can result in shaping identities of so many young people. The image is not only the clothes, the image is what the teens become.
Thanks for reading
Thanks for reading