The coordinators

Fashion is everywhere.

It’s not simply the clothes you chose to wear today (and the ones that haven’t seen the outside of your closet for years).

It’s the music that you’re loving right now, songs you wouldn’t have tuned into ten years ago.

It’s the way we understand how the world works, which policies make sense to us and what sort of food we eat. Even the investments we make or the debts we incur.

It’s the rhythm of our days, our priority list and our urgencies as well.

Almost none of our choices in the world are the result of independent direct experience. Instead, we make them in the context of culture, of our surroundings, of ‘people like us do things like this.’ We choose to align with a segment of the culture and take our cues from them.

Sometimes, there’s a coordinator.

Forty years ago, fewer than 100 people determined what songs were going to be the popular ones, the ones that ‘everyone’ would be listening to next week. And a consortium of industry titans decides what colors are going to show up in appliances a few years from now.

We might want to believe that culture simply happens, that it’s organic, distributed and based on millions of independent decisions. And sometimes it is. But more often, there’s an instigator and a benefit for someone along the way.

While many fashion systems are more open and permeable than before (there aren’t three TV networks, there are a million YouTube channels) there are still gatekeepers and narrative setters.

How does the coordinator decide? Are they working in your best interests? Are they erratic, self-deceiving, elusive, selfish, or perhaps a long-term thinker? Do they have a bias toward reality and resilience or is it simply a hustle?

In Latin, the expression is Cui Bono. Who benefits? If it’s you, if it’s us, then fashion is working for us. On the other hand, if it leads to negative outcomes, disappointment and disconnection, it’s worth asking if it’s something we want to keep doing, even (especially) if it feels right in the moment. Because everything we do feels right in the moment.

It’s not a secret conspiracy and it is a choice. Who decides today what’s going to be important tomorrow?