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Philosophy of Fashion. Georg Simmel, a sign of his times

He was considered eccentric and extraordinary in the lecture theatre and dealt with topical issues. Word also got around that he had fun thinking for himself, which is why his audiences comprised not only students, but also guests from society and off the street. Ernst Bloch, Siegfried Kracauer, Marianne and Max Weber and even Leon Trotsky are said to have been among these audiences. On 5 April 1905, the philosopher and sociologist Georg Simmel (born 1858, died 1918) published an essay on the “Philosophy of Fashion”. In it, he studies the ego in front of the mirror, discusses fashionable provocations at length and analyses the functionality of fashion in terms of social differences. Today, Simmel is still one of the most frequently cited authors in fashion theory and his findings help understand phenomena such as Vivienne Westwood’s punk-inspired fashion. German radio station WDR has broadcast an entertaining and recommendable episode of its “Signs of the Times” series on Simmel and these findings entitled Philosophy of Fashion – Georg Simmel, available in German on the station’s online streaming service. It even concludes by establishing a link between fashion and yodelling, courtesy of Joachim Ringelnatz’s poetry: “Let it be yodelled throughout space / For the profit of all tailors: / Fashion lives while lives are spent modelling fashion, / And that is how both find reason.”

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