Archives for Fashion



More Talk About Why We Don’t Wear Hats Anymore

From Babak Givi, an assistant professor at NYU’s Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery:

Dear Freakonomicers,

I am writing in regards to your January 9th podcast ["Are We Ready to Legalize Drugs? And Other FREAK-quently Asked Questions"] and the question about hats. Why people used to wear hats? Stephen made a comment about religious roots of hats and Steven talked about fashion.

I am sure there are links with both, but I would like to note that for the most of the human history, hats were protective garments. We are not spending as much time as we used to out in the open environment. If you spend most of the time outside, you will soon realize that similar to the rest of your body, you have to protect your head from the sun, wind, rain, or snow; but most importantly from the sun. Even now, when we spend most of our time inside our manmade structures, skin cancers are the most common type of cancer in humans. Furthermore, the most common area for developing skin cancers is head and neck, which happens to be the most exposed area of human body, as long as you are not a strict nudist. The effects of ultraviolet rays on developing skin cancers is beyond doubt.  Lightly pigmented skins are extremely sensitive to the sun and with enough exposure most people will develop skin cancers. Hats, similar to the rest of clothing items, protect our skin. In addition, less sunlight will delay development and progression of cataracts (point for wide brim hats). I think our ancestors had developed the habit of wearing hats out of necessity not fashion or religion. But of course through the millennia, we start adding religious, fashion, and symbolic meanings to wearing hats.

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See-Through Pants, Fake Fake Fur, and Phantom I.T. Charges

Reading today’s finest newspapers, one learns  it is possible to wear see-through pants from Lululemon (the supplier and the store blame each other), a faux-fur collar that is in fact made of real fur, and to wrack up $70,000 in “phantom I.T. charges” (a story that was broken here).

The world is definitely a bit more interesting this morning than it was yesterday.



Modesty Glasses

Men in the ultra-Orthodox religious community in Jerusalem object to women walking on the street in short skirts or sleeveless blouses, even attacking those who venture out in such unacceptable outfits.  Very few women will dare to go out dressed that way in certain sections of this magnificent city.  News of the Weird reports a solution that shifts the cost of enforcing the policy to the men: Members of “modesty patrols” are now selling ultra-Orthodox men glasses that blur distant images, thus preventing them from seeing “immodestly dressed” women.  This is a neat application of the Coase Theorem, and it seems a fair one: With these glasses, the costs of enforcing the men’s religious beliefs will be borne by the men rather than by women who choose how they wish to dress.



When Graffiti Strikes Back

We’ve written a few times about what we call reverse incentives: comedian and activist Dick Gregory‘s use of the N word; Planned Parenthood turning abortion protestors into a fund-raising scheme; and the “pledge-a-picket” drive.

The latest instance comes from fashion designer Marc Jacobs. It began when the graffiti artist Kidult vandalized Jacobs’s SoHo shop by scrawling “ART” across the storefront. A Twitter war followed, but Jacobs wasn’t done. As The New York Observer reports: Read More »



Who Owns Culture?

The question of who owns culture is a big one, especially when products associated with certain cultures or nations turn out to be very popular in the marketplace. Take espresso. In a famous scene from The Sopranos, Paulie Walnuts rants inside a Starbucks-like café as he watches the cash register ring with espresso orders: 

Paulie: The fuckin’ Italian people. How did we miss out on this? 

Pussy: What?

Paulie: Fuckin’ espresso, cappuccino. We invented this shit and all these other cocksuckers are getting’ rich off it. 

Pussy: Yeah, isn’t it amazing? 

Paulie: And it’s not just the money. It’s a pride thing. All our food: pizza, calzone, buffalo mozzarell’, olive oil. These fucks had nothing. They ate pootsie before we gave them the gift of our cuisine. But this, this is the worst. This espresso shit.

Pussy: Take it easy.  

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More Commitment Devices From Our Readers

Our recent podcast about commitment devices, called “Save Me From Myself,” continues to elicit responses from readers sharing their own experience. The other day, Amber told us about joining the Air Force as a commitment device.

Here’s another pair of stories. The first is from Philip Veysey, who lives in Madrid. He is looking for some advice:

Hi guys,
 
I listened with interest to your podcast about commitment devices and I thought I would share my own which I devised as a way to curb my unnecessary clothes shopping.  I found that I was buying simply more clothing that I needed and although this wasn’t causing me any major problems, I realized that it was really wasteful and I decided to think of incentives to make me stop.

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What’s the Median Income for a Fashion Model in the U.S.?

Take a wild guess: How much do you think fashion models make? It’s one of those professions that unless you know someone, or work in the biz, there’s not a lot of information out there to have a good view into. Judging by models’ perceived glamour and high society status, not to mention the cut-throat competition they deal with, you might think it’s a lot. I think I did. Which is why this line from a TNR review of the new book Pricing Beauty: The Making of a Fashion Model struck me as amazing:

The median income across America in 2009 for a model was $27,330—income that includes no benefits.

The book is by Ashley Mears, a former fashion model and current Boston University sociologist. Read More »



FREAK Fashion: The Narco Polo

In honor of Fashion Week, Freakonomics would like to shine a light on a fashion trend happening south of the border in Mexico. We’ve covered the copyright battle over red-soled shoes, but today we’re focusing on Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez Villarreal, the alleged drug cartel boss who was arrested last year. Read More »