While scrolling through street style slideshows from New York Fashion Week, I’m taken aback by the kaleidoscope of trends displayed in full force: oversized faux fur jackets, leopard print coats, pepto-pink separates, and statement purses. The list goes on and on.
Setting seasonal tendencies aside, exaggerated proportions, mixed prints, and vibrant colors remain permanent on the street style scene. With a growing number of bloggers and “social media influencers” filling up front row seats, the clothes off the runway are seemingly bigger and louder than ever. As the number of street style photographers grow, so too does the number of industry insiders dressing to maximize their photographic potential.
This sartorial phenomenon has a name: peacocking, or so it’s called by the veteran fashion critic, Suzy Menkes. Peacocks can be spotted from a mile away, usually clad in fantastical clothes and flamboyant shoes. Case in point:
The clothes are big, bright, bold, bizarre, and more often than not, designer. You would be hard-pressed to find a peacock clad in head-to-toe Zara or H&M. However, just because a particular item of clothing is expensive does not necessarily make it fashionable or even admirable. Should we then condemn these fashionistas’ ostentatious outfits as desperate pleas for attention? Or should we praise them for embracing unorthodoxy and pushing the limits of sartorial convention? I honestly don’t know. Where do we draw the line between eccentric and egregious dressing?
It seems to me that peacocking has transformed into a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle where flamboyant dressing attracts swarms of street style photographers, whose presence only encourages more conspicuous exhibitionism. Now that photographers have become a mainstay on the streets outside every venue, there’s a burdensome expectation to dress the part. Who wants to be the only attendee ignored by all the photographers? Sure, it may encourage experimentation and celebrate creative expression, but doesn’t dressing for the camera rather than for yourself also, to some degree, discourage authenticity and foster insecurity? My feeling is “yes.”
That’s not to say that peacocks are a detriment to the industry. We are all free to dress however we want (and for whomever we want). But, maybe we do need to more cautiously consider the very real and substantial effects that this phenomenon has inflicted on the industry.