Equal opportunity clothing…anyone?

I had been thinking about doing some further academic studying when a friend suggested I should consider a Masters Degree. She made it sound so simple, all I would need would be a worthwhile area of study and something original that interested me and dealt with a burning question. As a writer I wanted it to be something that had some artistic merit as well. A day out shopping gave me all I needed and perhaps a little bit more than I bargained for.

Is it just me or is the fashion world a little bit one sided in the West. I say this because when I look at adverts on TV I notice that very few of them are geared towards non white people, marketed specifically for me. Now I am not getting on a band wagon and I am not going to start crying out for equality across the board in everything because I don’t think this is realistic or indeed possible. But as an observation, I realised that some black people in particular, suffer in mostly minor ways every time they purchase certain items of clothing.

So what started this?

I went to the Dagenham market this morning, in East London. Now East London is probably the most multi cultural place on this planet and I say that with some confidence. As I watched the diversely back grounded people on the market, two African women stood out in particular. They were shapely, over weight by the European modelling industry standard, and were squeezed into tight fitting jeans. I could see the look they were going for and at first thought that they simply had the wrong sizes on. Then it occurred to me that perhaps they didn’t and maybe the problem was their shape, they had good back sides! And it would seem that ‘good’ back sides were not the industry norm! If a jean doesn’t fit your shape it doesn’t matter what size you get, but how do you get jeans that are made for your own racially unique shape? And what effect does not being able to do so have on you? Right there, with a hot dog in my mouth and a new duvet cover under my arm, the idea for my PhD thesis was born, the title? Western Jeans Fashion, and its visual effects on a non conformist customer base – A Psycho Social perspective.

Perfect. But where was the proof?

A few years ago a friend of my second cousin’s, who worked in the car industry told me that all cars built were based around a standard driver’s height of 5ft 9 inches. Obviously I understand that as a car manufacturer, you have to pick a height and go with it but when you think about the number of women who now drive, (compared to how many did when the car, and the standards, first came about), coupled with their average size, you quickly realise that most women, and short men for that matter, suffer driving vehicles that are not really made for them.

Fashion is the same thing. I believe that most clothes are based on a standard European body size and shape, probably five foot 6 with no discernible additional material for the back side and this makes sense given the way the Western world is. Unfortunately it also means that anybody not fitting this ideal, this racially biased norm, is wearing clothes not made for them that will ultimately fail in doing their job of fitting properly.

As an alternative example, in Nigeria, in West Africa, fashion for women is based on a different shape. The clothes that are worn complement the wearer and are for that bigger fuller woman, aka the ‘Aunty’ look. Browsing through a Nigerian fashion magazine you would be hard pushed to find a small model, it just isn’t the norm and is a joy to see, (not that I’m a chubby chaser), it’s just refreshing to see something…real!

So what is my argumentative issue?

My issue is that the West has enormous pulling power on every single race on the planet. The influence of America and Britain on the rest of the world is overwhelming and with cities like London, that are now a beacon when it comes to a multicultural society living and sharing together, the disparities that develop are there for us all to see, if we look close enough. But surely it is time to recognise and move past this. It seems that we as a people are trying our hardest to fit into something that isn’t made for us. Now I am not saying to abandon jeans and other useful garments, I am just saying that if we are not being catered for then perhaps we should look elsewhere, or maybe just ask the companies in question to spare us a thought and adjust those age old sizes to ones that take into account the vast array of ‘Benetton’ people now wearing their products. As individuals perhaps we should ‘vote with our Western credit cards’ and demand something a little more ‘fitting’. It’s not too much to ask for is it?

With the world changing the problem I suppose will eventually die out, leaving things to change naturally, over time.

Then again, maybe I am completely wrong and those two women were wearing tight jeans because they thought they actually looked good! Maybe they just had bad taste and a completely different view to mine as to what works and what doesn’t work in the public arena. Could it have just been that?

If it is, then I guess what my title should be is possibly, Western Jeans Fashion – and how it shows the disillusionment and short sightedness of its non conformist customers – A Psycho Social perspective.

Yes, this could work.

Perhaps that doctorate may not be too far away after all.


One Response to “Equal opportunity clothing…anyone?”

  1. Hi there, someone has just sent me this as I’m writing a business plan to grow my graphic design company into an ethical clothing / fashion brand. I happen to be from East London but living in Surrey at the moment…

    …I’ve piloted a few of my own “Don’t Label Me” t-shirts based on Equality & Diversity, in the same year this blog was written funnily enough. Feel free to check them out at http://www.mancinismdesign.net/leftees.html

    I’m building up a nice little close knitted team [pardon the pun :o) ] and am always open to further collaborations, so if you know of any opportunties – please share.

    Kindest regards,


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