Fashion’s most remarkable ability is its use as a magnifying glass into the soul. A person’s style, whether they are aware of it or not, will always display their deepest virtues and truths. Fashion cannot hide a person’s intentions. It wraps itself around its host like a costume when it feels it is being used for dishonest portrayal, turning them into a living display of tomfoolery. But when used honestly and fittingly, fashion exists as an unspoken impression – the first glimpse into one’s mind and heart – a handshake and an opening statement with nothing but visual confirmation.
And like it or not, a visual confirmation is what each and every one of us, as members of the animal kingdom, draw upon all others we see. We can hide the opinions we may shape, we can funnel them into our subconscious, but try as we may, we will never undo our instinctual tendency to judge others through visual impressions.
Fashion is an incredible invention that allows human beings a choice seldom allotted to any other species in nature – the choice to physically display interests, intentions, ideals, and personality. Imagine if a wolf could choose its coat, if a bird’s feather arrangement was to their liking, if a chameleon could choose not to blend into its surroundings, but to contrast them. Sure, the wolf probably wouldn’t change anything, the bird probably likes its arrangement, and the chameleon would probably die, but that is not the point. The point is, take advantage of your style; don’t let it take advantage of you, because an opportunity is exactly what fashion is to humans and to no other beings.
When threatened, the king cobra rears upwards and uses muscles in its neck to produce a hood – a violent and abrasive act of intimidation that both enlarges and distorts its appearance. It is not necessarily a threat or a plea, but rather, a statement. The cobra’s hood is a violent and obvious statement on its form and its function as a machine bred for death. Die they very well may, those who choose to ignore the warning, but respect, understanding, and peace fall upon those that heed it.
Statement pieces in modern fashion, especially those of the brutalist sense where form, not only fabric, is distorted and arranged differently from styles and cuts rooted in tradition, accomplish what their name sets out to. And of course, the statement of intimidation is not generally one sought in the world of fashion, but statements of many kinds are nonetheless made each and every day with a plethora of stylistic decision-making. Coats both especially long and especially short, high-tops and boots perhaps particularly tall or bound of an uncommon hide, ripped denim, and high-watered cuffs all represent just a small percentage of the off-kilter, anti-traditionalism string of ideas that shift and distort form with the intention of becoming a statement piece, just as the cobra shifts and distorts form to make its own statement.
A polar bear’s coat is one designed through the painstaking process of hundreds of generations of evolutionary genetics in ancestral bears. Where a once-dominant bear of another shade used to roam, a bear with a much lighter coat – perhaps born of an albino mutation or a less dramatic series of whiter and whiter bear births – became increasingly powerful. As their coats blended further with the white of a snow and ice-packed region, they became superior hunters, slowly becoming larger and stronger creatures, slowly weaning out smaller and darker bear populations, and slowly adapting even further to their harsh environment. Their coats became warmer, more water-resistant, and even whiter until they were built to not only survive, but to thrive in the polar North regions, become the world’s largest and most feared bears.
In the world of fashion, a similarly painstaking process has given us amazing feats of engineering and technology that are worn, as the polar bear’s coat, for the user to thrive in the midst of even the harshest environments. The earliest roots of clothing have come for the reasons perfected by the polar bear – protection, adaptation, and survival. Where once we dawned the skins of warmer animals (though the trend is still alive), today we have our own superior options. From PVC-coated rubber raincoats to things as simple as stocking caps and down jackets, the thriving markets for environmentally and climatically-designed clothing provide human beings warmth, comfortability, and quite simply, adaptation and the proud stamp a wearer gets when display their prowess as a literal product of their environment.
The black panther, though widely believed to be its own type of big cat, is actually a melanistic color variant of any big cat species. Theorized to be the middle stages of evolutionarily selective advantage, a black panther, due to its dark, one-tone coat, blends into many dark environments, making it a lethal hunter and especially difficult to be captured or poached. It is not flashy like its jaguar or leopard littermates born with colorful markings. It is instead, dressed with meditation and purpose not to draw attention or to be beautiful, but to disappear into its surroundings even further than its brothers and sisters.
Minimalistic trends in fashion and design function under the same guiding principles. Ornamentation – excessive and unnecessary aspects added to design – if seen as functionless, have no place to exist. Beauty can certainly be defined in its simplistic forms as doing everything necessary without any wasted effort, adaptation, or function. So, in fashion, unnecessary prints, fabrics, cuts, and ideas in general that do not provide its wearer any necessary functionality, must be stripped, leaving behind what the fashion world refers to as basics. White t-shirts, black denim, and pieces without branding, achieve their goals by doing the opposite of attracting attention, and by simply letting its wearer avoid many of the impressionistic judgements of others or stress for themselves.
The peacock, although given a bad name primarily due to its namesake being that of a word with negative connotations, is quite an exceptional creature. Though most birds use their feathers and their markings as a way to attract mates, no bird can compare to the plumage of the peacock’s covert feathers. A remarkable display of vast color and flamboyance, the peacock is certainly an attention whore, but is so in a respectable and beautiful way.
The people in this world accused of peacocking are not the ones worth discussing, but instead, the ones whose fashion choices make a fool of themselves. But, another school of well-styled individuals, though fond of the excessive exuberance of certain high fashion sectors, wears their feathers with grace and respect. Absurdities in color, in form, and in cut can all be seen as peacock-worthy flamboyance, but when worn by the right people in the right circumstances, the outcome is not only fitting, but beautiful.
When it’s all said and done, few people in the world stick to the realm of one of fashion’s spirit animals. Even within one outfit, a person often wears elements derived from all four. Something form-shifting, something environmentally-smart, something simply-basic, and something attention-grabbing. The idea is not to funnel ourselves into one of the four categories but to know how to use them in relation to our own selves, our own interests, our own desires, and our own circumstances. While certain scenarios call for flash and flamboyance, others call for simplicity and preparation. But, it is important to dress with purpose, and to know that the purpose is an accurate representation of one’s self. For this, the knowledge of the cobra, the polar bear, the panther, and the peacock, is important and may just make your difficulties in deciding an outfit, a hell of a lot easier. So, the question is: What animal do you want to be today?
And do you have what it takes?