Clothing and social class : the necessity of the distinction

In the extract from the article by Roland Barthes, which follows, I propose to you of what to continue thinking about the distinction, which began with the citation of Goblot. How to perceive the distinction ? On what signs are they based ? Roland Barthes takes this as said Goblot on the detail, the little extra that is the distinction. The art of the small detail is also highlighted by Beatrix Le Wita in Neither seen nor known. Ethnography of the bourgeois culture.

Roland Barthes, ” The mere dandyism and fashion “, United States Lines Paris Review, July 1962, reprinted in Barthes. Complete works. Tome I. 1942-1965, Editions du seuil, 1993, p 963-966

“For centuries, there has been as much clothing as social classes. Each condition was his habit, and there was no embarrassment to make the outfit a true sign […]. Thus, on the one hand, the clothing was subjected to a code entirely conventional but, on the other hand, this code returns to a natural order, or better yet, divine. Change of habit, it was to change both of being and of class, because the one and the other were mingled together.

However, in fact, the separation of the social classes was not erased : defeated politically, as the noble had still a prestige powerful, albeit limited to the art of living ; and the bourgeois himself had to defend themselves, not against the worker (whose costume was still expressed), but against the rise of the middle classes. It was therefore necessary that the garment trichât, in any way, with the consistency of the theory that the Revolution and the Empire have given her, and inside of a type now universal, it réussît to maintain a certain number of differences of a formal nature, own to express the opposition of the social classes.

It was then that we saw appear in the garment an aesthetic category new, to be promoted to a long future : the detail. Since we could not change the fundamental type of men’s clothing without waiting for the democratic principle and time-consuming, it is the detail (” nothing “, ” I do not know what “, ” how “) that collected all the distinguishing function of the costume : the knot of a necktie, the fabric of a shirt, the buttons of a vest, the buckle of a shoe, have therefore been sufficient to mark the finer social differences ; at the same time, the superiority of the status, impossible now to view halt because of democratic rule, masked and sublimait under a new value : the taste, or better yet, because the word is rightly ambiguous : the distinction.

A distinguished man, he is a man who separates himself from the vulgar by means of which the volume is modest, but the strength of which, in any way, energy is very large. As, on the one hand, it does not claim to be recognized as similar, and as, on the other hand, this recognition is mainly based on details, it can be said that the uniform of the century, the distinguished man adds a few signs discrete, which were not the signs spectacular condition openly assumed, but simple signs of collusion. “

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