Power of #Celebrity Part 2. #Fashion Industry Influence on #Youth Culture



This article is part 2 of the Power of Celebrity series and a follow on from Part 1, Musicians Influence on Youth Culture. Last time I talked about the power of the music industry to influence adolescents and emphasised the need for musicians to take responsibility as good role models and project a healthy image to our youth. Similarly, the fashion industry has the power to influence adolescents who are still in the process of establishing a sense of who they are and who they want to be and should therefore also take their responsibility toward our youth seriously.

Clothing and fashion throughout history have always been the most obvious way that individuals express who they are and identify other similar or like minded individuals. We are naturally attracted to those who are like us. The way we dress visually tells others a great deal about our characteristics such as gender, sexuality, education, economic status, race and interests to name a few. This ability to recognise like minded individuals is most evident in sub cultures such as different ethnic and religious groups, the punk rock movement and more recently the hip hop movement. But the idea of youth fashion is something that has only really developed since World War 11 finished, when the fashion industry realised that adolescents were obtaining more disposable income. The fashion industry quickly cashed in on this new direction and began targeting a teenage audience.

US teenage rehabilitation center Newport Academy have said that “Body image can have a huge impact on teens. Teenagers might be the most fashion-conscious people on the planet.” They also say that along with their peers, media such as teen magazines, online publications, television and films has a powerful influence on them and that “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, four out of every five advertisements in teen magazines includes clothing or beauty items that are “fashionable.””

Young girls are particularly vulnerable to the stereotypes portrayed in the fashion industry. According to a 2003 article in the Eating and Weight Disorders journal “frequency of reading fashion magazines influences the idea of a perfect body shape in 69% of adolescent girls. This effect is so strong that even 60% of infrequent readers of fashion magazines feel that the media influence their idea of a perfect size (5). Likewise, adolescent girls named media images as exerting the strongest pressure on their desire to be thin (4)” In addition to influencing self esteem and body image fashion also affects adolescents beliefs, social status and their interactions and bonding with peers. Many teenagers see their own and their peers worth based more on external appearances, not on who they are inwardly.

According to Teen Health and the Media “One in every three (37%) articles in leading teen girl magazines also included a focus on appearance, and most of the advertisements (50%) used an appeal to beauty to sell their products. The commercials aimed at female viewers that ran during the television shows most often watched by teen girls also frequently used beauty as a product appeal (56% of commercials). By comparison, this is true of just 3 percent of television commercials aimed at men.”

The general trend in the fashion industry towards teenage fashion has been to make teenagers look more like an adult, sexier and more provocative. They are bombarded with fashion advertisements using celebrities that they know teenagers look up to such as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Justin Bieber to name a few,. I am not suggesting for one minute that the fashion industry should not use celebrities to endorse their products, just that they should use more discretion and choose more age appropriate celebrities projecting a positive teenage image.

There has recently been positive moves from some sections of the fashion industry in this direction with the introduction of former Disney and Nickelodeon television stars to endorse products for adolescents. Former Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice is a wonderful ambassador for adolescents with her charity and humanitarian work and has appeared in advertisements for fashion retailers such as Ralph Lauren, Gap, Guess and Mervyn’s. Another example that springs to mind is former Disney Channel star and activist Zoey Deutsch having appeared in numerous fashion magazines including Marie Claire, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan.

But wait, I can hear the critics of this line of thought protesting already. What about former Disney star Miley Cyrus, how are we to guarantee that new age appropriate positive role models will not evolve as she did? It is true that Cyrus evolved from the wholesome image of Hannah Montana to a sexually explicit and controversial singer after 2009. This controversy surrounded the fears her new image would have in influencing her young followers. At the time Cyrus did not take her responsibility to her young fans seriously, but in a case like this I believe the music and fashion industry’s need to walk with their cheque books. They certainly have no control over individual celebrities but they do have control over which celebrities endorse their products.

Advances in technology and the advent of social media means that teenagers are being bombarded as never before with advertisements. The fashion industry targets adolescents not only because they have more disposable income than ever before but also because they will be a large source of their future market. Call me old fashioned (excuse the pun), but I believe celebrities and those in the fashion, music and entertainment industries have a moral responsibility to have a positive influence on teenagers and youth. It also appears to me that from an economic viewpoint it is a contradiction in terms to generate a negative influence and expect those teenagers will be a future source of revenue for their industry. Unless adolescents become healthy functioning adults they will find it difficult in the future to contribute at any level to their own future let alone to future economies.

Danielsson, S. (2007-08). The Impact of Celebrities on Adolescents’ Clothing Choices, Retrieved from http://www.kon.org/urc/v8/danielsson.html

Newport Academy. (2017). The Impact of Fashion on Teen Body Image and Mental Health, Retrieved from https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/fashion-teen-body-image/

Park, J. (2017). Fashion Advertising, Consumerism & Social Media Influencers-A Lethal Combo Targeting Teens, Retrieved from http://girltalkhq.com/fashion-advertising-consumerism-social-media-influencers-a-lethal-combo-targeting-teens/
Thompson, S.H. & Hammond, K. Eat Weight Disord (2003) 8: 231. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03325019

Raising Children Network. (2017). Media influence on teenagers

Teen Health and the Media. (2017). Retrieved from http://depts.washington.edu/thmedia/view.cgi?section=bodyimage&page=fastfacts


#Tribute to #Parents in the #Digital age

family-2485714_1280When I raised my own children 20 to 40 years ago it was a struggle even then to raise healthy, well adjusted young people who would survive the pitfalls of youth and grow up to contribute to society in a meaningful way. I know quite a few people from my generation who were really good parents and did a great job raising their children, only to find that at least one child ended up on the wrong path in life. That’s a heartbreak only a parent could know. The common factor in all of those instances was the company they started keeping in their teens or early adult life, particularly the partner they chose. This is something you have no control over once your children start making their own choices.

I think many of the parents and grandparents out there would agree with me when I say, being a parent or grandparent is a really tough gig. You can employ the best parenting strategies in the world but things don’t always turn out as you would expect. My philosophy these days on parenting is do your best, stay off your high horse as far as your rating as a parent goes and always expect the unexpected, that way it is easier to get back on the horse when there is a fall.

Being a parent in the Digital Age is an even tougher gig than it has been previously. I believe parents today deserve all the encouragement and support they can get. The world has changed so much in recent times that every time you think you’ve caught up it all goes and changes again. One of the biggest challenges facing parents today is the rapidly changing face of technology and social media. Parents are always playing catch up while their children are born into it.

In my day as a parent, we only had to deal with the arguments over who’s turn it was to use the wall phone. At least we could monitor who they were talking to because they couldn’t just grab the phone and disappear to the depths of their bedroom, not to be seen again for hours. We had no internet, computers, mobile phones, tablets or gaming consoles to deal with. These days parents have to deal with how much screen time their children are facing, what sites their visiting, if they are at risk of predators, on line bullying and a host of other problems that come with the new technology.

Young people these days even have their own texting language that many older people are at a loss to understand. My 14 year old granddaughter who lives with me, sent me a text the other day asking me what was for dinner. I replied with 2 choices. Then I received a text back simply stating Idm. I was in the process of asking her what that meant when I received a second text saying, I don’t mind. She must have realised after she sent the Idm text that she wasn’t talking to one of her friends and I probably wouldn’t know what she meant.

The second biggest challenge I believe parents are facing today is a loss of community. In the past most people at least knew all the neighbours in their street, people socialised more because that was a form of entertainment and young people were more involved in sport and cultural activities. World affairs and increases in crime rates have also impacted and contributed to a loss of community as people become more fearful. However despite all the negatives, I know many young parents who do a great job against the odds and try to revive a sense of community around their young families.

This post is as a tribute to young parents for a job well done. As a community we all need to get behind the parents of today and support them. We all have to pitch in and do our bit to make their job easier. The new technologies are a wonderful thing and make our lives so much easier but they will never replace the connection and support that community can bring. I must admit as a mature person I was reluctant to embrace the new technologies and only started using Facebook this year. But now I am using it to help re-generate a sense of community and hopefully support our young parents.