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Is moral decay the new fashion?

The previous year can in many ways be described as the tipping point of our moral-heavy society. You either hold the correct opinion in your narrow social media sphere and if not could easily get accused of being morally wrong. Not posting the black square? Still following a cancelled brand? Sharing a post to show off that you are woke, or actually raising awareness? Call-out culture and social media activism seem to reach their climax. We tend to enter a new paradigm shift when something is about to tip over. And is not that exactly where we are heading?

The moral is on such high stake that it is more or less the wider mass opinion to behold its high position, and like all trends, at some point, they go out of style. We’re heading towards a backlash of cancel culture, or rather instagram activism. Does this mean it will be untrendy to keep a high moral? This can be quite frightening when thinking of political development. But if we’re looking at fashion, is the potential of moral decay just liberation of its artform?

Flashes of full-frontal nudity at Rick Owen’s AW15, a collection raising awareness to the taboo of male nudity.

Culture has always been visible through fashion and clothing. The desire for change has been relevant as starting-points of various trends. Criticizing the prevailing norm might even be the foundation of creative motivation. The backside of this is might be the assumption, or expectation, that all fashion attributes must comment on society or hold a certain value. It captures the creative freedom into only being a message carrier. If fashion doesn’t have to be tied to moral assumptions, if we could remove the moral-gaze when consuming it, we would be freer in the aspects of creativity, letting us consider fashion as art or design, rather than political statements. 

As seen on TikTok lately, being hot is something that you determined by your self and not based on external factors or structures. This can be translated into the fashion scene as well. Social constructs will not continue to monitor or control our thoughts on fashion, not if the potential backlash of morality starts trending. It might even increase the willingness to comment on social issues through fashion in the same way we did before the age of Instagram activism - not as a necessity to follow certain expectations, rather as an aesthetic addition. Sounds liberating and sexy af, right?

Harry Styles for Vogue, breaking the internet in 2020. To dislike a fashion story featuring a male dressed in a feminine-coded garment would not be appreciated in the age of Instagram activism.

Written by Siri von Bothmer

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