Economy in Walden: Fashion Faux Pas for the Socially Aware

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William Shiner

Susana Jensen

Effective Writing

Fashion Faux Pas for the Socially Aware

"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new" (21),[*] says Henry David Thoreau, in regards to one of the many societal values that he believes to be “trivial.” Throughout Walden, Thoreau examines several different concepts and elaborates on his own ideologies in contrast with those of society. In “Economy,” he plays around with the idea that society has adopted fashion as being more than just a means of dressing for our own personal taste. Dubbing it a “novelty,” he continues to dissect the subject, citing a conforming population dressing to impress, a division of class and a society in fear of being identified as being anything less than prestigious. Thoreau's interpretation of “life's necessities” does not embrace the materialistic focus that much of society has become fixated with. “As for Clothing, to come at once to the practical part of the question, perhaps we are led oftener by the love of novelty...” (18) Our obsession with fashion exists not only to clothe us, but to maintain a “style” that is new or unique. The quote continues with, “...and a regard for the opinions of men, in procuring it, than by a true utility” (18). Adding to the novelty aspect, it implies that the “new” or “unique” features that a particular article of clothing has will draw attention from others. With the assistance of novelty, impression is the primary objective of those that attempt to gather attention through the means of a fashion “statement.” Another perspective that defies materialism is Thoreau's mention of clothing's initial (and obvious) purpose. “Let him who has work to do recollect that the object of clothing is, first, to retain the vital heat, and secondly, in this state of society, to cover nakedness” (18). This quote symbolizes all that fashion has descended into. Instead of serving your body to maintain its temperature and...
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