September 6, 2013

"Speaking crudely, football and sport are 'important'; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes 'trivial.'"

Wrote Virginia Woolf — "it is the masculine values that prevail."

An old quote, echoed here by fashion writer Robin Givhan:
I always compare fashion to sports, and when you think about some of the issues that have come up in sports, particularly in baseball, with steroid use and all of that, you wonder, “Why is Congress having hearings and calling Barry Bonds? What does that have to do with anything?” And you realize it’s because we as a culture, or at least some people in our culture, take sports really seriously, and they believe that it represents something about who we are, about our belief in fair play, and they recognize that that has an impact on younger people. I don’t think that fashion will really change until that same sort of recognition happens. 
I agree with the proposition that sports and fashion are exactly equally important and that it's helpful to keep that in mind even as you personally feel more drawn to one than the other. I hate to think that the essence of being taken seriously is that Congress holds hearings, but I don't think Givhan is saying she wants congressional hearings into the problems of the fashion industry. The baseball hearings are evidence that sports are taken seriously, too seriously maybe.

Keep the equation of sports and fashion in mind and use it to test whether we're taking something more seriously or less seriously than we should. This is similar to the way we analyze reactions to Obama by asking what if Bush had done the same thing.

ADDED: Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important. You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes. Set your percents however you want other than that.

The total amount of time that is your 100% varies from person to person. I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!

35 comments:

SteveR said...

Somehow it seems that with the whole antitrust exemption for major league baseball, Congress is keen to be involved with baseball more-so than other sports. And its a male thing.

Strelnikov said...

Although one may be more enjoyable than the other, both are equally trivial. I say that as a big football fan, having both played and coached, but it needs to be kept in perspective. Same goes for the mini-skirt.

khesanh0802 said...

I guess I'll be stereotypical and say "How can you possibly equate fashion and sports?".

Fashion is foolishness, the more foolish the design the hotter it seems. At least in sports ( forget the pros) some valuable life lessons are learned: losing gracefully; making the best with what you have; hard work; and that old stand by teamwork.

I have been involved in sports and fashion and I agree that sports are important fasion trivial.

Kristian Holvoet said...

I suppose that sports could be equated with fashion. But in a lot of ways, sports transcends its nominal niche in a way fashion doesn't. Consider cultural and historic impact of Joe Louis, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jesse Owens, 1980 'Miracle on Ice', Vince Lombardi, Joe Namath, Muhammad Ali, the Super Bowl. And that was just American Sports from 35 or more yeas ago. While I don't want to predict the impact of Michael Jordan, Lebron James, much less stars in emerging sports like Jon Jones (MMA), Shawn White (Xtreme Games), or the divisive acts of Barry Bonds/Lance Armstrong/Mark McGwire/Alex Rodridguez, it is clear that sport's impact is still happening.

Now consider soccer and the Olympics and I hardly think fashion has the impact of the felt importance of sports.

As a complete aside, the durative nature of sports performances is why I think
1) Sports are more important than fashion
2) Why the Bonds/Armstrong/McGwire/Sosa/Rodriguez stories offend so much. We remember the '27 Yankees, Maris's 61 Homers in a way that we don't remember Ralph Lauren's 1989 Summer Blazer.

I remember being outraged that the first edition of 'The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy' had essentially no sports.

Henry said...

One conversation we have had at work is that Giselle Bundchen is worth wayyyyy more than Tom Brady.

And here they are.

Another cultural benchmark to apply, besides congressional hearings, is the response to Aaron Hernandez's homicide arrest. Since Hernandez is a football player, his alleged crime is taken as some kind of greater indictment of his teammates (who won't provide juicy quotes), his coach (who didn't keep him from being a sociopath), the owner of his team (who said something nice after paying him a lot of money), his college coach (who mostly kept him out of trouble, or at least out of the papers), and so forth.

If Hernandez had been an actor, would anyone had passed blame on the director of his movies? Or his drama coach?

Specifically, when O.J. Simpson was on trial, did anyone treat it as a broader indictment of the makers of Frogmen? Was Warner Bros accused of malicious indifference? Was Don Ohlmeyer derided for casting a man with a domestic violence charge on his record?

It's a whole different world.

Ann Althouse said...

"At least in sports ( forget the pros) some valuable life lessons are learned: losing gracefully; making the best with what you have; hard work; and that old stand by teamwork."

Obviously, you don't watch "Project Runway."

Anyway, playing sports corresponds to fashion designing. Separate that from the business of sports (running the stadium, sportscasting, marketing) and the business of fashion (manufacturing, marketing, retail). And the third thing, which is what most of us are doing, is being on the receiving end of the industry.

So what's more trivial: watching sports (in the stadium and on TV) or shopping for clothes and wearing them?

Obviously, you need to wear clothes, and you've got to go about in public dressed. Naked people are not the movers and shakers in this world.

Whereas not watching sports would not leave you exposed in any damaging way, and it would leave you with a lot more time.

Also, if you're interested in making connection with the opposite sex, men putting less time into watching sports and more time into dressing well enough would generally improve their relationship with women.

It's probably also true -- but maybe LESS true -- that women would improve their relationship with women if they put less time into fashion and learned how to do at least some sports spectating.

Ann Althouse said...

"t's probably also true -- but maybe LESS true -- that women would improve their relationship with women if they put less time into fashion and learned how to do at least some sports spectating."

Oops!

I mean: women would improve their relationship with men!

Ann Althouse said...

Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important.

You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes.

Set your percents however you want other than that.

The total amount of time that is your 100% varies from person to person.

I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!

Ann Althouse said...

Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important.

You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes.

Set your percents however you want other than that.

The total amount of time that is your 100% varies from person to person.

I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

"Clothes" are not "fashion." I can wear clothes without attending to "fashion" (as generally understood) at all.

I work from home, so my "fashion sense" generally prescribes jeans and a T-shirt. Making sure there are clean, laundered jeans and T-shirts takes up more of my attention than how I look in them does.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...


It's probably also true -- but maybe LESS true -- that women would improve their relationship with women if they put less time into fashion and learned how to do at least some sports spectating.


I wish you hadn't corrected this; it was right the first time. I'd swear that a large fraction -- maybe the majority -- of female dress choice is aimed at outdoing and shaming other women, not impressing men. Women who don't view dressing as a competitive sport are a lot easier for other women to get along with.

Michael K said...

"You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes. "

My ex-wife used to say, "A party is to a woman what a battle is to a man." She was very pretty so she thought it was an equal contest.

She also likes baseball.

Paul said...

Ann, I don't think covering one's nakedness could be called fashion anymore than a daily calisthenic routine is sports. It is entirely possible to have no interest in fashion and still look presentable because department store buyers DO have an interest. Dressing badly takes some effort, and requires fashion sense if only to avoid looking good.

Inga said...

I spend precious little time on either subject. Maybe I should stop wearing double knit polyester.

Kidding.

Seriously I probably should force myself to follow sports a bit more. Watching a baseball game is like watching paint dry to me, football only interesting if the Packers are in playoffs or Super Bowl. Olympics, much better, especially the ice dancing and figure skating, diving is mesmerizing and skiing not too bad.

Brian said...

Where I live sports and fashion are not only 'equal', they are completely inseparable.

I went with my wife to a boutique in a nearby city the other day; every garment in the place was in SEC colors. (Not garish logo shirts or anything; fashionable dresses, but everything in red-and-blue, crimson-and-white, purple-and-yellow, etc.)

Meanwhile, men all have collections of the polos and hats the coaches wear on the sidelines each year, and many obsess over every tweak to the team's uniforms.

The University publishes a guide telling us all to wear red for this game and blue for that game.

The school-wide tailgate party is internationally known for, among other things, the way the students dress.

They had --- I am not making this up --- a combination pep rally and fashion show on the town square last night.

Freeman Hunt said...

"I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!"

Ha ha. I'll bet it's not!

Freeman Hunt said...

I am wearing a shirt right now that I bought at a thrift store when I was a junior in high school.

Ryan said...

I think fashion and sports can be merged. Let me explain.

The problem for men is that fashion is HARD WORK - going out, shopping, spending money, trying to figure out what to wear and what looks good on us (harder than you women might think), making sure clothes are clean, and being fit and in shape to wear nice clothes. (Let's face it, no matter how you dress them up, fat people never look good.) After a hard work week, many men are tired and just don't want to be bothered.

Spectator sports are the opposite: you are looking at someone else (rather than someone else looking at you) and hence the clothing you wear is unimportant, except as a means of showing team spirit. You can just sit around in front of the tv or on bleachers and drink beer. It's what most men want to do.

Personally I have never seen the appeal of watching sports. It's a waste of time. Cheering for someone else to win some game you are only watching just seems pathetic.

However, I do enjoy playing sports and exercising: lifting weights, surfing, running primarily. This helps keep me fit. And as a fit person, its much easier to look good, and hence less work to be fashionable.

To me, this is merging sports and fashion into one thing: looking and feeling good.

BarrySanders20 said...

I have three daughters and one son and they all wear clothes. They also all play sports. Soccer, swimming, dance. All of them would say they are athletes and sports are not a male-only domain. None would say they care about or pay attention to fashion, though the teenager certainly has items she will and will not wear. So their interest in sports dominates the equation. Mine even more so, though I do admit I wear dark suits and am picky about my ties.

So unless you ignore the tens of millions of American girls and women who are athletes, it is not a male/female issue.

While recognizing it's true most of us need to wear clothes and don't need to pay attention to sports, that's not really what the fashion is about. We also need to eat more than we need to wear clothes. So I suppose our interest in the farming and food industry trumps all?

I can go to any country in the world and if I find some space and a soccer ball, people will join me and I will make new friends. Granted, I must also be wearing clothes (unfashionable shorts even). Sports can be more of a connector of people and culture than even language, and certainly far more than fashion.

Fashion is at the elite margins of society, while sport is at the heart.

The fact that women like to buy ungodly numbers of shoes is something I will never understand and choose not to try to figure out. If they leave me alone and don't ask why I like to play, coach, and watch sports for what seems to them to be an ungodly amount of time, then I'm OK with that trade-off.

Matthew Sablan said...

On history, dress ways are a recognized folkway. They tell you a lot about a culture's norms, etc. So, I wouldn't trivialize fashion (even if I wear plaid. But never shorts, except for running.)

Mike said...

Boy you guys really don't like to address what Althouse writes, do you? We ALL have to interact with fashion, by which she means we wear clothes that we purchase after at least some consideration of whether it fits our needs and/or wants. But we don't all have to, as a matter of routine living, interact with sports. At all.

Sheesh. It didn't seem that debatable a point!

mrs. e said...

"I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!"

I'll bet not.

Smilin' Jack said...

ADDED: Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important.

Has Title IX been repealed or something? Anyway, it's math that is related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness.

The total amount of time that is your 100% varies from person to person. I'll bet my 100% fashion/sports time is less than yours!

Q.E.D.

khesanh0802 said...

Ann;

Your first post said nothing about watching being the criteria so I leapt to the conclusion that we were talking about participation. Watching sports is non-participatory, shopping is participatory. You are talking apples and oranges.

If we are talking about looking, I have even less to say for fashion (you're right that I don't watch Project Runway nor will I ever!). It is a closed world, of self-important, self-promoters. The people who design the clothes that most people wear aren't really part of the fashion designer schtick. Do you know who designs for Hollister, or J Crew or Lands End?

Participation in sports is significant to a large percentage of both males and females. You post photos of yourself paddle boarding and Meade kayaking. We've seen no shots of either of you in Haute Couture!

Skyler said...

Sports develop the traits of courage, strategy, and strength which are what are needed to defend a civilization.

Fashion makes pretty girls look think they look prettier.

I don't think there's much comparison on the importance meter.

Henry said...

When Givens asserts that fashion is just as important as sport, she is being prescriptive.

When Givens turns from the prescriptive to the descriptive she acknowledges a difference. The culture -- part of the culture -- acts as if sport is more important than fashion.

But in culture, description rules. The way culture acts is the way culture is.

That said, I think Givens is wrong. Fashion isn't deprecated in favor of sport. It simply ties into a different power structure.

For example: Fashion magazines are very thick and they are legion. Sports Illustrated is very thin and its biggest issues are fashion-based. Two different power structures.

Belial said...

You can get by with 0% of your interest in sports as you do your sports/fashion allocation, but you can't get by with 0% of your interest in fashion, since you must wear clothes.

No, because fashion is not clothes any more than salt or basil or cilantro is food. Your food allocation cannot be 0% (vs., say, listening to music) but your spice allocation can.

Bruce Hayden said...

Sports are as related to maleness as fashion is related to femaleness, and the 2 things are equally important.

No matter how much I dislike both, I tend to agree.

Playing football, along with many other male activities, is essentially ritualized or simulated combat, which males engage in in order to procure mates. Football, being closer to real combat than most such ritualized forms of combat, is esp. prototypically male.

My view of fashion on the other hand is that it is a signalling mechanism for females to indicate status, esp. when living in societies where they don't know most everyone around. The status comes from both recognizing proper fashion, and in being able to financially procure the approved fashion objects.

Smilin' Jack said...

I agree with the proposition that sports and fashion are exactly equally important...

Yeah, forget the playing fields of Eton. In the future our wars will be won on the runways of 7th Avenue.

Strelnikov said...

Based on being a long time fan of "Project Runway" (Motto: A full year's gay content in 48 minutes.), fashion is tres trivial.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Mike,

We ALL have to interact with fashion, by which she means we wear clothes that we purchase after at least some consideration of whether it fits our needs and/or wants. But we don't all have to, as a matter of routine living, interact with sports. At all.

Is getting oneself clad to the extent that one isn't going to be arrested for public indecency now "fashion"? Only in the sense that opening a can of chili and waving the contents is "cuisine."

Foobarista said...

If nothing else, sports gives you something to talk about that's reasonably neutral, unlike politics or "topics of the day", which nowadays can quickly degenerate into a political discussion. And in my area, men and women follow sports.

If you didn't follow sports - and don't have kids - it would be hard to have casual conversations at work, particularly if you're an essential introvert like me.

As for fashion, I get by with T-shirts and jeans 90% of the time, and polo shirts and khakis when there's need to "dress up". I've owned the same suit for 25 years and wear it about two times per year.

Archie said...

Fashion is to clothing as curling is to sports.

Austin said...

I think it was Stephen Jay Gould who once argued that the appeal of sport has it roots in anthropology. He went on to explain that all sport involved two fundamental skills which were critical to early hunters, and accordingly, survival: aiming and chasing. It seems to make sense. High Fashion, on the other hand, is frivilous and empty, and a useless waste of time and energy.

ken in sc said...

Traditionally, sports is what warriors do between wars. Fashion is what women do to get warriors to impregnate them. They both have the same goal--the next generation.