Head to head: Suffer for Fashion?


Amidst the onset of winter, Laura Brennan and Ethan Troy-Barnes argue over whether fashion does indeed trump function

Ethan: How can you possibly think there’s even a debate over this? Just look around you – it’s winter! People don’t want to look fabulous, they want to stay WARM! You don’t normally see people walking around worrying about how well all these layers will complement their figure. They worry about how much they can cram on to themselves. They think about how their new raincoat will keep them dry much more than how well it will go with those shoes they bought in London. Why? It’s because at the end of the day, people care about being cosy and comfortable. That is why function is much more important than fashion.

Laura: Believe me, there is one hell of a debate to be won here and you’ll be left drowning without your rain coat. When it comes to the clothing being bought this season, what do you think is the biggest influence? Fashion is attending to the functional needs of the human by providing the essential chunky knitwear, scarves, jumpers, mittens and even snoods – the combined hood/scarf for which the purpose is both intent on style and warmth – so I dare you to walk into your nearest River Island store this week and then tell me that the fashionistas provide nothing to keep you warm this winter. You haven’t a leg warmer to stand on!

Ethan: Oh please, you can’t possibly try to say that the frilly excuses for scarves à la River Island and those identity-confused T-shirt-cum-hoodie things you find in Topman can do anything more than make you look like a joke this winter. How gorgeous will all the fingerless-glove toting fashionistas feel when they arrive drenched and hypothermic at the bus stop, only to receive smug glances from the woolly scarf and duffle-coat wearing pragmatists? They at least had the wisdom not to buy that hot pink sleeveless trench coat, tempting as I’m sure it was.

Laura: A sleeveless trench coat? Not only is it a ridiculous fashion faux pas, but it also establishes that you seriously have no clue what you’re talking about when it comes to clothing of any type. How dare you suggest that anybody who dresses with a sense of fashion will suffer hypothermia this winter, given the array of shearling-lined capes, heavy-lined parkas, knitted jodhpurs, chunky Aran knits, snug scarfs, faux-fur ear muffs, duffle-trim boots. I really could continue, but my point has been made clear. You’ll be wishing you’d joined the warmth of style this winter. Your actual function in this debate is no longer existent and you’re sure to be left with severe chills from this loss.

Ethan: Shearling-lined capes? Somebody learned nothing from The Incredibles. As for all this talk of fashion that also functions, looks like you’re putting the horse before the cart. The reason there are cuddly knits and fuzzy ear muffs in the first place is because one day somebody decided they were sick of their cold ears and shivering torso and broke the trend accordingly. While we’re at it, it’s not just protection from the elements that fashion fails us on. High heels would seem to be major offender too. Many a time, I have witnessed people stumbling and suffering sore feet as a result of mere footwear. Look at straw hats. They may keep the sun out of your eyes but then, when you’re stuck carrying one around Europe for a month, you quickly realise they are much more burden than beauty. The point is, when it comes to what we wear, most of us will take convenience over aesthetics any day. Not only is function more important than fashion, but function defines fashion.

Laura: I’m doubtful one would ever get such joy out of buying a mundane plain jumper, whose use is purely function.  That’s the one winning thing about fashion – the ability to be creative with it. There are no limits.  Fashion really does whip function’s arse every time. If it came down to choice, people would opt for the more interesting one and fashion is it. Whether you agree or disagree, without it we’d be as bland as Tesco Value crisps. Fashion can provide function, but it fulfils a lot more than that. Expressing yourself through what you wear is something everybody does. As for conforming to function? Well, not only would it be a bore, but can you imagine our high streets without fashion? We wouldn’t have a multibillion-euro industry providing retail jobs and wages. I’ve won this debate, so you better pack your glad rags and go.