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It is impossible today to view any media, from newspapers to television shows, without being inundated with stories and advertisements from the fashion industry that stress the importance of rebellion against the status quo. Images of the latest fashion, some largely impractical and never worn by the general public, are presented as mini-revolutions of style and sophistication, unlike anything that has ever been seen before, even if there is a good reason for such an absence.

This leads to reviews, hype, and media attention to clothing that the majority of people care little to see or hear about, even though like a trainwreck they cannot look away. The careful line between encouraging rebellion and fostering consumerism remains blurred by the media, as they attempt to sell conformity in rebellion, while newspapers and magazines seek to increase their readership through the allure of the fashion industry. Few industries are as adept at selling rebellion as the fashion industry, which relies on change as a fundamental necessity.

Fashion also challenges boundaries and champions individuality, and this can be seen in recent advertisements from Tag body spray, Reebok sneakers, and American Eagle Outfitters clothing, as they use the technique of selling rebellion in fashion to appeal to young males in magazines and news outlets which are duly inspired by the fervor it generates. In the essay, “The Selling of Rebellion” by John Leo, he demonstrates how the marketing world has attempted to sell the ideas of breaking loose of boundaries through consumerism.

This consequently trickles down into every aspect of the media, which often borrows trends from advertisers when deemed successful. “Breaking the rules” has become desirable, after decades of advertisers suggesting those that break the rules transcend the boundaries of the common world. This tactic is especially useful on young consumers. In his essay, Leo points out how Madison Avenue targets the youthful desire for freedom and individuality, and coopts its rhetoric for purposes that are uniquely conformist (Leo).

This marketing strategy manages to sell the illusion of freedom, while encouraging “transgression” on the part of consumers. To Leo, transgression allows people to break the boundaries while staying within the greater circle of conformity, to rebel and while conforming. A transgression here and there is acceptable, while only transgression can become as oppressive as the strictest rules, though. However, this philosophy of transgression has become the foundation for a new generation of media outlets, as they blur the line between consumerism and genuine news or special interest stories.

Usually, the company or fashion designer that receives the most attention or manages to generate the most amount of success and popularity is the one that magazines and newspapers choose to cover, regardless of any appropriateness of its place within the confines of their publication. This leads to magazines like Rolling Stone covering fashions for young people, where it is predominantly supposed to cover music, movies, and the general entertainment industry.

While it is difficult to say that such a publication is corrupt for covering things that would increase readership, it does truly come down to money as their main motivating factor. And, nothing in fashion seems to sell as well as rebellion, as seen in things such as Tag Body Spray. Tag is a body spray for men, geared mainly towards younger men. While perfume sprays have traditionally been directed towards women, Tag has attempted to break this rule and create a new one: body spray is a positive trend for male fashion.

Tag advertisements usually feature young men surrounded by beautiful women that cannot help but be attracted to men who wear it. The slogan for Tag is: “Consider Yourself Warned” (Tag). In one particular magazine advertisement, the selling of rebellion becomes apparent as a young man stands in the middle of the ad dressed in ripped jeans, a ripped shirt, with a missing sneaker and wearing handcuffs. Bikini-clad beauty pageant contestants in sashes surround him, smiling and pulling at his shirt.

The thing that makes the ad the selling of rebellion is that it is in a police station, with an officer in the foreground closely inspecting the bottle of Tag. This suggests that those men that use Tag are not only in danger of creating riots among beautiful women, but also in danger of being arrested. Tag wearers are rule breakers. The fact that the slogan is a warning makes it seem as if Tag is dangerous and meant only for those strong and courageous enough to handle it. Inserted within the pages of a reputable magazine or played on television, the titillating advertisement not only uses rebellion but sex to sell its product.

Within the general media, while not overtly allowed to cover things such as sex, by covering fashion related issues, media outlets can cover the same types of subjects that titillate without having to blatantly cover sexual issues. This is why stories may appear over the appropriateness of sexy commercials, done so in a sensational way that is really only trying to capitalize on the sexually charged ads. This phenomenon is most common in the fashion industry, which relies on scantily clad women to sell its wares.

However, almost as much as sex, the spirit of individuality and rebellion permeates the entire fashion industry and coverage of it, which can often be political or social in nature, as in an ad for Reebok. In one advertisement by Reebok, the traditionally rebellious hip-hop culture appears to be the target, as the people featured in the ad are part of that culture. In a large, two-page ad the simple white sneaker is featured on the top far right, with the slogan below it reading: “i am what i am. cartel style” (Reebok). On the left page stands a young man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, wearing flashy jewelry and holding a bullhorn.

Behind him are many different people of all ages and races, and they all stand in front of housing projects. There is also a giant boombox in the foreground, and on the page are the words: “voice of the people” (Reebok). The young man’s shoes are the same as on the other page, and are prominently featured, while the shoes of those behind him are muted and barely visible. In the advertisement, all the people wear serious expressions and the suggestion is that they are rebelling against something, and the man with the Reebok sneakers is the leader.

The idea of a cartel immediately calls to mind a faction that unifies in a common goal, and the dissatisfaction of the collective suggests that they are serious. The sneaker itself takes on a whole new meaning, being less something that protects feet and more of something that fashionable revolutionaries wear. While the serious news media covers stories of gangs and the disintegration of the inner city, the fashion industry seeks to profit off the rough image by creating an illusion that really does not exist.

In some cases, media outlets cover such issues offer little more than advertising for the fashion industry. While all fashion attempts to separate itself, usually by sophistication or innovation, some clothing lines seek to define themselves through their simple, easy-going style. American Eagle Outfitters featured a two-page advertisement in Rolling Stone magazine that sought to appeal to the sense of adventure and rebellion. The ad consists of a young man dressed in casual clothes–a printed t-shirt over a long-sleeve baseball undershirt and shorts that are frayed at the bottom.

The man is lying on his back with a big smile and is being held up by many different hands, implying that he is body surfing over a crowd. The slogan that spans the two pages reads: “LIVE YOUR LIFE” (American Eagle Outfitters). This ad seems to fly in the face of high fashion, suggesting those that dress for comfort and pleasure enjoy life more than those who are slaves to fashion. The symbolism of the young man being elevated above the crowd also suggests that his carefree attitude makes him superior to the masses.

The immense effect of advertising rebellion touches every industry, every product, and can sometimes create a permanent image of a manufacturer, especially when perpetuated by superfluous media coverage. While individuality is beneficial, turning it into a commodity can be confusing and misleading for many, though many news outlets make room for such things. Rebelling against practicality can also be negative, and as long as consumers use common sense when deciding purchases, advertisements that sell rebellion will remain a suggestion and not a mandate.

However, with the continued support and condoning the fashion industry and their selling techniques receive from the media, corruption or not, the media will most likely continue the practice long into the future as long as everyone makes money from it. Works Cited: American Eagle Outfitters. Advertisement. Rolling Stone. 18 May 2006: 8-9. Leo, John. “The Selling of Rebellion. ” Exploring Language, 10th Ed. Longman: 2003. Tag Body Spray. Advertisement. Rolling Stone. 18 May 2006: 228. Reebok. Advertisement. Rolling Stone. 18 May 2006: 14-15.

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