Fashion Meme Deep Dive, Part 1: Falling Down the Rabbit Hole of Degeneracy
Writer: Casino Riv
So I’ve been sitting on my couch for the past few days trying to figure out how to write a concise yet elegant introduction on meme and fashion meme culture, but then something happened: I got a life and winged it!
You can scour the face of the planet for definitions and analyses far and wide, but when it comes down to it, memes mean many things to many people. They’re a way for us to take a mental break from class or work, they can spark connections with other like-minded ince- I mean individuals. Hell, they can even encourage conversations on the perils of global warming that threatens our very existence, all the while making us chuckle a little bit from their dankness. At the end of the day, memes and meme culture are almost as unexplainable as life itself, and that’s ok, because sometimes the most groundbreaking phenomenon known to man can’t be understood... But if that was the case we wouldn’t be writing this goddamn article.
Like memes, fashion memes are eerily difficult to explain to the outsider, as they require a level of sophistication, wits, and cunning that must be earned over time. From the heart shoe with eyes to the big converse ramones, fashion truly is the perfect target for memes, and for good reason. It’s no secret that the fashion industry is one pretentious son of a gun, and as you progress through the higher levels of fashion the pretentiousness of its participants and the ludicrousy of the clothing only get weirder. Look no further than the now classic ‘Seven Circles of Hell, Fashion Edition’ meme for a small peak into madness:
Seven Circles of Hell, Fashion Edition; the deeper you go, the more obscure the brands get.
Source: r/malefashion subreddit.
So why are we making a deep dive article on fashion memes anyway? Aren’t they just another means to pass the time? While that is very true, like memes there’s so much more to it, and this couldn’t be more evident than through our talks with some of the most legitimate fashion meme accounts in the scene. From fashion meme titans like Vetememes, Meme Saint Laurent and Fashion Wankers, to rising fashion meme stars such as Anarchokapitalism, the ARCHIVE.pdf Team have interviewed all individuals to truly understand just how deep this fashion meme rabbit hole goes. From educating the masses on fashion, to their impact on the fashion industry, the toxicity and beauty of the community, and much more, today we’ll be revealing one of fashion’s greatest online mysteries: Fashion Memes. Enjoy!
Memes and Fashion Memes Recap
Writer: Khan Delin
Before memes we really lived in a society… a society where nothing was funny and no one had any sense of humor. Some of the world's greatest technological advancements only came from memes. With these great advancements came social media platforms and forums like Facebook and Instagram. Many of us Gen Z-ers grew up consuming memes on online forums or social media platforms like Instagram, Reddit, and Facebook that allowed us to connect with others all over the world and with that power came great responsibility to make memes. Some of my fondest meme-ories were being a part of a Facebook group during high school called The Bathroom, a subgroup of The Basement, dedicated to fashion memes. Lots of users created their own original memes while others just spammed the comments section with countless stolen memes. With every community or niche group, there is always a group of people making memes about the subject, fashion is no different.
The fashion meme usually revolves around today's latest trend or someone just wearing a bad outfit. With this rise in social media and constant oversharing, the fashion meme has flourished and spiraled into its own meta-memed whirlpool. From the humble beginnings of fashion enthusiasts in small forums online, the fashion meme has transcended with the help of Instagram meme pages. With every fashion week or runway show that happens, a whole new set content can be created, and if all you really do is scour the internet looking for bad outfits to make jokes about, I’m sure you will find a lot.
If there are two main points I want you to take away from this part of the article it’s that:
1. No one is safe from being memed.
2. Rick = Good, Heart Shoe = Bad.
The Current State Fashion & Prevailing Existence of Memes
Writer: Art V.
Let’s be honest. The memes have taken over and have spilled over to niche communities such as archive fashion. Nowadays, even if you are not an avid follower of fashion, your Explore page on Instagram will contain at least one fashion meme from one of the more prominent accounts. To fully understand the current state of fashion and the prevailing existence of memes in the fashion community, we must go backwards in time and analyze what was going on in the 2010s. The current state of fashion and memes is significantly impacted by that time period, as social media steadily became our main source of digital consumption. As the information and content became more accessible, the demographic of the average consumer became younger and younger. These variables, combined with the prevailing elitism of luxury and archive fashion, played a vital role in the establishment of modern day fashion and all the memes that come with it. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Ever since the creation of the Internet, memes have always existed as a method of digital comedic relief to a world of suffering and existential crisis. This plays directly into the creation of fashion memes, as Instagram began to really take over social media consumption circa 2012. Before the fashion meme accounts and the jokes that hit way too close to home, there were starter packs that mocked a specific demographic and the cliche way they dressed. The “hypebeast” starter pack visualized the latest Supreme and sneaker drops, with obnoxious typography logos and colors. The “minimalist” starter pack showcased a Steve Jobs turtleneck with some stonewash jeans and Dad shoes. These starter pack posts would proceed to pave the way on how people would make jokes about fashion on the Internet.
'Artisanal Hypebeast' Starter Pack Meme.
As Instagram started becoming the first app people would consume right as they woke up, the globalization of information accessibility was evident. It would remove barriers of entry for information and fashion consumption, as the overflow of “mood board” accounts like @Hidden.ny and archive fashion accounts took over the fashion community and slowly initiated the saturation that exists today. The mechanism of consumption of fashion content on Instagram was now a well-oiled machine, ready for anyone with spare time and a smartphone.
The consumption of fashion content and memes on the Internet is increasing drastically while the ages of the consumer are decreasing drastically. Davil, founder of Vetememes emphasizes that “you have to grow up in a certain generation to fully grasp it. Boomers are completely out of the picture when it comes to a lot of memes''. As a verified fashion meme page on Instagram with over 100,000 followers, Davil is able to directly see the phenomenon of fashion content consumption. Whether the post contains a heart Converse Chuck Taylor or a Rick Owens Geobasket, he knows that the “memes have penetrated the mainstream market” and a good amount of people will get the joke. Sorry boomers!
Meme Character Cheems wearing Rick Owens Geobaskets.
While the consumption of fashion expands globally, there is another variable that contributes to the explosion of fashion memes on the Internet: luxury elitism. Karsten, founder of Meme Saint Laurent, emphasizes that “fashion has never truly been a non-toxic community, even before the Internet”. A significant amount of that toxicity comes from the pretentious gatekeeping demeanor of luxury and high fashion brands, as they try to establish barriers of entry for new consumers that don’t pertain to their targeted audience. Davil of Vetememes believes in the same sentiment, as “the fashion community in general is elitist by default” and can often remove accessibility from specific demographics of consumers. With all that in mind, this elitism and gatekeeping endeavors are where fashion memes thrive. Karsten strongly believes that fashion memes are “being counter-cultural towards the elitism”, as each meme is a reminder to not take things so seriously. It’s very refreshing to see the mocking of the elitist gatekeepers, and fashion memes play a significant role in expanding the concept of fashion for all, not just fashion for some.
'I Want to Go Home' Fashion Meme.
With the prevailing existence of fashion memes, the mantra ‘If you can’t beat them, join them...’ becomes reality as luxury fashion houses are actually using memes to implement marketing campaigns for specific collections. Instead of being the center of the laughing stock, these brands and houses have ultimately turned the joke onto themselves to expand consumer marketing. A great example of this is the Le Marché des Merveilles watch collection via Alessandro Michele’s Gucci, as the Instagram was filled with #TFWGucci memes that pertain directly to the watch collection. Creative directors are now taking very diligent notes on the impact of fashion memes in modern-day fashion and they begin churning out witty captions with a “tasteful” alignment of images. It is truly the epitome of a full-circle moment.
The alignment of fashion memes and the brands that they make fun of can be defined by one trailblazer in the fashion world: Demna Gvasalia. He is honestly the OG Meme Lord. As the founder of Vetements and current creative director of Balenciaga, Demna has made a living utilizing fashion meme culture to his advantage. He began his impact with Vetements collections that contained meme-baiting strategies that would draw the attention of every consumer, even the parody artists. Vetememes would not exist without the infamous AW2016 Vetements raincoat, as Davil remembers that “everyone would have the Vetements raincoat and it became a meme”, providing the incentive he needed to create the Vetememes raincoat. Not only did Demna embrace Vetememes, he emphasized that Vetements will not be filing any lawsuits over the Vetememes raincoat and he hopes that Davil has enjoyed making his project as much as they did making Vetements clothing. This embrace of fashion memes occurred before all the fashion houses and brands hopped on the trend of utilizing memes to sell their collections. Demna genuinely thought it was funny and he believed Vetememes aligned directly with his meme-baiting marketing campaigns. That man was playing chess, not checkers.
Vetememes Raincoat, based off the Vetements Raincoat.
With products like #DHLVetements, where Vetements partnered with their shipping partner DHL to create t-shirts, Demna began to fully embrace the fashion meme community. He would bring this energy to Balenciaga and as the creative director of one of the most prominent fashion houses, Demna would take the memes to the next level. Every Balenciaga marketing campaign and lookbook would indirectly hint at the fashion memes on the Internet. Pieces like the Balenciaga IKEA bags, platform Crocs, and the T-Shirt Shirt would be Demna’s successful attempts at portraying his personal humor through his fashion endeavors. It was almost like he was making pieces that would immediately get meme’d into oblivion. What was once just 2D images on a fashion meme Instagram account was now on Vogue Runway and Paris Fashion Week. You can just imagine how the Internet reacted to it all. Consumers would respond to the creations as ironic or iconic, but no matter what they were responding. A thousand memes about a shirt means a thousand set of eyeballs on Balenciaga.
Fashion Products created by Demna Gvasalia. From left to right: Balenciaga x Crocs, Balenciaga Frakta Bag inspired by IKEA Bag, Vetements x DHL T-Shirt, Balenciaga T-Shirt Shirt.
Whether you are a fan of fashion memes or not, the reality is that they are here to stay and the current state of fashion has created space for them to exist independently. With designers and creative directors fully embracing the existence of fashion memes and dry internet humor, fashion memes will continue to prevail. However, there are pros and cons to their existence. Oversaturation of fashion content, whether it’s genuine art expression or humorous memes, can bring forward lots of positives and negatives to the community. It is truly the best of times and the worst of times.
Pros and Cons to Fashion Memes & Its Community
Writer: Art V.
To fully understand the impacts of archive fashion memes and the consequences of their prevailing existence, we must analyze the pros and cons of their existence in fashion history. The universal backbone to these fashion memes is humor, in which its subjectivity can impact many demographics in many ways. Some may take it seriously, others may laugh it off and keep scrolling. The aftermath of consumption of these memes will always vary person to person.
Let’s be completely honest and transparent: memes in general have a bad reputation on the Internet. No one likes being a meme because it basically means everyone is laughing at you, not with you. There are a significant amount of gray-area issues if memes are consumed differently than intended, especially fashion memes, because at the end of the day you cannot win against the memes. If taken seriously, fashion memes often belittle the consumers of specific products. All the Instagram collages about your favorite CCP or Rick Owens piece that you just spent your rent payment on are now going viral, and you have no choice but to either like the post and act like it doesn’t hurt or keep scrolling. The memes hit way too close to home sometimes and trust us, it hurts.
Fashion memes are considered niche humor and unfortunately, niche humor can often create more barriers of entry for people who aren’t a part of the niche community. You have no idea everyone is laughing at your chucks with heart eyes because you aren’t a part of the fashion meme community. Your Rick Owens Ramones just got called Converse Chuck Taylors because a fashion meme page just posted a side-by-side comparison for the lulz. This can often lead to the potential to elevate the elitism in the fashion world because of the barriers of entry and the belittling of various demographics. By utilizing the fashion memes, people are now able to belittle and laugh at others for wearing specific brands and products, even if they have no idea what the joke is.
'I'm sorry... I have to go...' Fashion Meme, Courtesy of Fashion Wankers.
And let’s not forget the toxic comments. Nothing is more frustrating than to see all these comments of Instagram burner or private accounts all over an image making fun of your favorite brand. Let's be honest, it can be super toxic. Davil of Vetememes emphasizes that even though he believes people should wear what they want, he also understands that if you’re wearing CDG Play Converse Chuck Taylors, “you might as well sign your death sentence essentially” because of “the Internet being the Internet, people tend to just gang up on certain things”. This is a harsh reality that exists within the fashion meme world.
Screenshot on Comme des Garçons Play Heart Shoe Meme Instagram Comments Section (Note: Screenshot is not a reflection of the comments section as a whole).
Despite all the cons, there will always be pros that offset the negatives. The mass-spreading of fashion memes across the Internet can remove barriers of entry for consumers curious about fashion. It can often spark a series of Google searches for curious consumers, as they wonder what everyone is laughing at on these Instagram posts. It can also promote a good amount of public service announcements like sustainability in fashion, as each Instagram post memes the status quo. It will always be “F*ck Fast Fashion” on this side of town, and fashion memes can play a big part in passing along that message and making it stick. It also increases the power of cancel culture - whether that is a good thing or not is up to the consumer. Fashion memes have a big role in the transparency of the racism and micro-aggressions that unfortunately exist in the fashion world. Like Davil said, the people on the Internet tend to just gang up on certain things, and that mob-mentality is needed in order to remove all the racist and problematic status quos. Karsten of Meme Saint Laurent remembers vividly the impact fashion memes had on the legacy of fashion influencer Ian Connor, as “all of a sudden memes kind of played a role into bringing his voice down a notch” after the numerous sexual assault allegations surfaced. In the moment, the memes were funny and brought to light information that needed to be publicized, but it also made the audience sit back and reflect on the questionable choices that many of these problematic influencers have made. Karsten was able to utilize fashion memes to share “commentary on Ian as a person”, which was much needed in light of all the controversy and problematic actions.
Fashion memes also provide endless humor for everyone, allowing for the ability to unite all walks of life and different demographics. No matter how different you are from everyone else, you can all come together to laugh at some Rick Owens. Ollie, founder of Fashion Wankers, is the living representation of that. “...Memes probably saved my life to some extent, because it was just fun. It was just a community of people. Obviously there are some thickets in there but it was just people having fun, laughing at things that were inside jokes and made you feel welcome”. Fashion memes are a comic relief outlet for an industry that often takes itself and its consumers way too seriously. At the end of the day, it’s just a joke bro.
The Essence behind Fashion Memes (The Deeper Meaning)
Writer: Isaac L. Davis
In the past there have been revolutions in communication, ranging from the development of written language, to the printing press, to even the primitive telegraph. However, for all the past revolutions in communication, their effects seem to pale in comparison to the ongoing internet communication age’s advancements. From how we as citizens vote, which governments go to war, what media our algorithms of choice feed to us, and what stupid memes we share, this technological revolution in communication has utterly changed us as humans and the way the world around us functions. A significant development that this communication revolution has brought to us has been the ability to share memes instantly and widely. In this vein, memes have become yet another tool of communication on the internet, being used by individuals, businesses, governments, and every organization in-between.
Asides from this broad use of communicating ideas, however, the memes we post and consume say a lot about ourselves as well. Beyond just providing a laugh or a slight chuckle to the reader, memes often help us form identities or reinforce ideas of our own identities. Memes, and by extension fashion memes, show others what we believe and how we identify ourselves externally, as well as reinforcing with our own minds what we believe to be true about our identities.
Fashion Meme, Courtesy of Fashion Wankers.
In terms of fashion memes, many are relatively silly, with the formats and the aim being quite benign in nature. One only needs to look as far as Meme Saint Laurent or Anarchokapitalism to see that more often than not, fashion memes are just good natured fun. This is not to say however that these fashion memes and messages contained within them have no deeper meaning, as they often do convey more than just the surface level words and images.. Often the memes will poke fun at things such as products, designers, or consumers of products, which on a surface level does not convey much beyond “ x is good'' or “y is bad”. When one digs deeper into what these memes are saying though, you can easily see that the memes are signaling more often than not aesthetic values, class identity, consumer identity, and possibly even moral values of the creator, poster, reposter, and consumer.
It is best to illustrate this signaling of values and identity through an example, in this case a meme by Anarchokapitalism in which the brands Visvim and Kapital are compared and contrasted. This meme in particular signals that the sharer likely agrees with the creators’ views on Visvim and Kapital. The views espoused by the meme are quite clear, i.e. Visvim is overpriced, and unattainable to the average fashion consumer. By saying this, the creator is expressing themselves, and their identity as part of the segment of the community that cannot afford Visvim. Then, the second slide of the meme offers Kapital as a more affordable, and more reasonable alternative, to which it is implied the creator and sharer of the meme belong too. This of course is a way of signaling a class identity, regardless if the creator or sharer intends to do so.
On top of this the meme also offers a stylistic critique as well, with Visvim being painted as somewhat drab and Kapital being uplifted as “actually original” among other comments. Again, this is signaling that the creator and sharer, at least in part, think that Visvim is merely a redux of past ideas, and by comparison, Kapital does a better job in moving old ideas into the future. This is once again signaling to others or themselves what they believe their aesthetic values to be. Clearly as seen in this example, by consuming, sharing, or creating a fashion meme, we are signaling to others our values and identities, whether these be moral and aesthetic or consumer and class. In doing this we help to reinforce our ideas of who we are, as well as convey to others our values and identities.
Memes are important in the way that we create our identities and personas online, as they serve as either external or internal reinforcement to our own ideas of who we are. By sharing what we share, saying what we say, and doing what we do we are, whether wittingly or unwittingly, signaling to others about what type of person we are and the values we hold. Fashion memes are no exception to this rule, as they are another part of building our identity, even if a small one. When we post things like “Chrome Hearts is overpriced crap” or “CDG Heart shoe bad” we are expressing so much more than merely the statement we are posting, whether we mean to or not.
Converse x Comme des Garçons Heart Shoe Meme, Courtesy of Vetememes.
While not necessarily a bad or good thing, the way that our identity and persona’s online are constructed is extremely new to humanity, especially when compared to the way that forming identities has been done for millennia before us. So next time you repost a meme from an account or make one yourself, maybe take a few seconds and think deeply about what the meme is saying about yourself and your identity, even if just for fun. You may learn more about yourself or find this analysis to be completely wrong, but in any case you'll be better for it.
Conclusion and the Future of Fashion Memes
Writer: Casino Riv
So far we’ve talked about the past and present of fashion memes, but what about its future? Well according to everyone involved in this article, it can all unravel in so many different ways, as there isn't a crystal ball nor magic 8 ball that can solve this rubik's cube. All we can do is speculate, but perhaps what’s been shared throughout our interviews can help us envision the possibilities.
Balenciaga Meme, Courtesy of Vetememes.
On one hand we have Fashion Wankers, who suggests that fashion memes can be compared to the cyclical nature of fashion trends: “They always come full swing. And as long as you're paying attention to it, as much as you would pay attention to fashion trends, memes are just as easy to follow. If you're actually listening and you're watching and you're seeing how people react, what's performing well, what's not. It’s like designing jokes. It's the same as designing clothes in a sense.”
On the other hand Meme Saint Laurent has seen the astronomical rise of TikTok, and said with confidence that the platform may just be the next frontier for fashion memes, and by extension fashion criticism as we know it. “If you're smart about how you post what you post, you can get content out to a lot more people than on Instagram, it's so much easier to grow a community on there. As far as what those formats will look like, I don't know, similar to vine, but TikTok and fashion TikTok, which has also been a thing as it's grown pretty big. As far as criticism goes, I think TikTok is going to be a pretty big platform for fashion criticism. It's a lot easier to do fashion criticism on current events by speaking in a video format, but condensing it down to three minutes at this point is doable. I can definitely see a huge part of culture being invested in TikTok”.
When it comes down to it, perhaps the future carries a multitude of possibilities, similar to how fashion memes of the now also have a multifaceted nature to them... Anyways, fashion memes are cool, the fashion industry can laugh to the bank while we laugh at them, and we’ll continue to embrace the memes we wear for the culture.
On a real note, the world of fashion memes knows no end. What may have started as a simple means to mock the ridiculousness of fashion has transformed into a multifaceted space for creativity, critique and most importantly comedy. The scene has the ability to change our opinions on both fashion and all of its participants, making us more attentive to what we wear in both good and bad ways alike. There are both pros and cons when it comes to fashion memes and its community, and this is a beautiful thing. Fashion memes can even be considered as a tool to fight against the inherent elitism, snobbery, and corruption of the fashion industry. And although the dankness of these memes seem silly and irrelevant at first glance, they can in fact say a lot about how we perceive ourselves and the world we live in, and if we try to dig deeper into them maybe we could change for the better n the process.
Perhaps most importantly, fashion memes teach us to not take fashion so seriously, because at the end of the day it’s just clothes man. So next time you find yourself delving into the world of fashion memes, take a second to appreciate just how real it can get!
TLDR: Fashion memes are more than they seem. They’ve made an impact in the fashion scene and carry both pros and cons, from their ability to unite all walks of life under one roof to potentially gatekeeping out those who aren’t in the know. Fashion memes, although seemingly superficial to the untrained eye, can have deeper meanings and can teach us about how we view fashion and life as a whole.
Go even deeper down the rabbit hole of fashion memes: