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Generally speaking, taste is an abstract and subtle word. What is taste? The word “taste” literally means people`s degustation on everything include food, art, life and so on (Aronson, 1946). However, such a degustation is not finished by tongue, but by heart and mind. For example, when observing a tree without leafs in autumn, someone may feel the bleak and chilly sense instead of only one bare tree. People`s tastes are different. Someone have good tastes while the others have bad tastes. The different attitudes and feelings on life, art and culture embody the grade of individual taste. This essay will analyze the taste from the perspective of fashion. What good tastes mean and how to evaluate taste will be discussed in this essay. In addition, how some tastes are constructed as socially legitimate will discussed. Education plays an important role in the process of constructing social legitimate tastes in fashion. This essay will discuss the effect of good tastes in fashion.
What does it mean to have good taste?
As mentioned above, taste is people`s feeling on the external things. Its abstract meaning is the quality, interest, culture and sentiment. For example, when drinking tea, someone swallow it quickly. He even does not know the flavor of the tea, lets alone the taste. However, some others may be seated in their study room with sunshine and beautiful plants and taste the tea with the beautiful classic music (Frank, 1923). He could taste the life from the tea. This is the abstract taste. Taste has different grade. With good taste, people`s lives are graceful and exquisite, full of aspirations and pleasure (Burke, 1987). With bad taste, people`s lives are full of depression and nonsense. What`s more, they usually consider themselves always right, which really make fun of themselves.
Taste is the understanding and appreciating ability of people. To have a good taste means one has a comprehensive and correct understanding about things around him. Sometimes people mistake famous brand for good taste. For example, someone with luxurious coats, expensive watch and cars usually regards himself with good tastes. However, if he does not know well about these commodities or use these items improperly, he does not have good tastes in fact. Without a comprehensive and correct understanding of things, all these expensive things just show one`s ignorance.
Some other ones regard good taste as one extremely abstract thing. They usually attribute all the unaccountable things to taste. Sometimes they believe taste is something which only could be experienced by heart and mind, while cannot be put into word clearly. However, tastes are not extremely abstract in fact. It could be described clearly daily behavior. It is based on the understanding of concrete things. If one knows well about some famous brand, his purchase of commodity in that brand is the pursuit of good taste. For example, businessmen`s purchase of business suit is the pursuit of taste, because they know the background knowledge of the suit and know the suit is fit for their statuses.
In fact, different tastes classified the whole society to some extent. The tastes determined the difference social position and class of people. people`s social position could change, which is caused by the change of one`s tastes. People could improve their social classes by improve their tastes. The author believes only money and authority cannot change one`s social class, even they could make people feel false pride. Improving tastes is the necessary procedure of improving social position (Kaufmann,2002). Why do people usually believe wealthy people have good tastes? The reason is wealthy people have more chances to learn and understand things around them than the poor. Therefore, they usually have better tastes than the poor. That`s why many nobles are called as gentlemen in history. However, the wealth really does not mean good tastes. The effect of wealth is helping people learn more in order to have good tastes.
How some tastes are constructed as socially legitimate in fashion?
What is the criterions of people`s social class? In modern times, it is hard to answer this question, with the improvement of people`s living condition and social concept. Nowadays the criterions are usually not your occupation, house, manner or money. It is recognized that a series of tiny traits of one`s behaviors reflects which class he is in. And such a tiny traits of one`s behaviors could be summarized in a word ‘taste’. Some tastes are called as good tastes by most people, while some tastes are called as bad tastes. The good tastes are usually regarded as socially legitimate. How are these tastes set as socially legitimate in fashion? The answer is education, which means cultivating and training.
Taste is a kind of culture to some extent. Compared with police and economy, the relationship between culture and education is closer. The basic mission of education is to inherit culture. In the process of history, peoples form and accumulate their own custom, which embodies the value, ethics, behavior model and habits of the people. These value ethics or behavior model could be describe as fashion of that time. The custom permeates in the daily life in every aspect, which restricts the social development with a strong invisible force. Education, as the inheriting carrier of culture, plays an important role in the construction of main stream taste of fashion. How does education construct the main stream tastes of fashion of one society? There are some main approaches as following.
Firstly, education selects tastes through selecting cultivating objectives, such as values and cultures. The objective of education is cultivating human resources which are needed by the society. In order to producing human resources needed by society, educators should select proper world value and moral outlook which are fit for the development of society as contents of education. Therefore, it could be said that the source of good tastes is from the social value and moral outlook of the society. In addition, physical training is another carrier of taste and culture. The selection of way of exercising is also the selection of culture. Different countries and peoples have different traditional sports, which also embodies the mainstream value or tastes of the society. Lastly, in the education of art and beauty, not only aethestic standard but also the knowledge and technique of art, is the process of selection of cultures and tastes (Howard,1956, Karl,1934, Lawrence, 1917). Therefore, it seems the objective of education is to teach the technique and knowledge social needed, but the essence of education is the selection of culture and tastes. In the process of education, the main stream tastes are constructed and set as socially legitimate.
Secondly, education selects tastes through selecting courses and teaching materials. After selecting proper culture and tastes, education transforms the abstract culture and tastes into concrete courses and teaching materials, which is the carrier of culture and tastes. The designing and selecting of courses should be based on the main stream culture or tastes. That means the courses and teaching materials should have temporal spirit, reflecting the trend of main stream culture. Firstly, in history, the courses and teaching materials are always changing with culture of that day. In middle ages, the main courses of college include grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, geometry, music, theology, law and so on. In all these courses, theology took the most important role, which reflects the social main stream culture and the developing level of western cultural development of that time. With the development of science and technique, the importance of science had been acknowledged in the form of technology revolution. After 19th century, the course of science and technique replace the key role of theology in education. In 1950s, the monopoly of science and technique was broken, because people found the balance between the humanities and science was very important. And then, more and more courses of humanities were designed. Secondly, in different countries of the same age, the different emphasis embodies the value variance of different culture. It is very obvious in the courses of humanities. These courses usually embody thick values and mainstream tastes of their societies. For example, in Germany, philosophy takes the most important role in universities for German respect to rationality. Practical courses are welcomed in American universities for America focuses no techniques. And humanities are popular in some old universities of Britain for the respect for humanism and classicisms in England.
Thirdly, teachers play a key role in the education of main stream tastes and culture. In the process of constructing main stream tastes and cultures, the role of teachers is embodied in three aspects. First of all, teacher is the participant of selecting main stream tastes and culture. Teachers have great liberty in the selection of contents and method of education. When the teacher is the proposer of mainstream culture and value, the function of selecting and cultivating main stream tastes of education could be realized. Secondly, teacher is the carrier of the established culture and tastes. The moral ideas, knowledge structure, life style and teaching style of teacher directly influence the effectiveness of education. Only when teacher master and approve the main stream cultures or tastes, the main stream tastes could be constructed. Therefore, to some extent, the selection of teacher is the selection of main stream tastes.
Fourthly, the atmosphere of campus could help selecting tastes. Compared with common social environment, the atmosphere of campus has many unique characters. The atmosphere of campus is the condensate of the knowledge and values of teachers and students of many generations. It reflects the requirements of social development and campus culture and value. It is both the method and consequence of culture selection. And its influence is usually invisible but huge. Concretely, the establishment of school spirit, style of study, and regulations is the process of selecting main stream values. The atmosphere plays an invisible role and remedies the defects of education in class.
In a word, education plays an important role in the construction of some tastes of fashion as socially legitimate through the selection of mainstream culture, courses, teachers and campus atmosphere.
The effect of some tastes as socially legitimate in fashion
This section will discuss the effect of social mainstream tastes from the perspective of fashion.
As we all know, without good taste, people cannot be fashionable. If one pretend to have good taste, he is just making fun of himself. What is fashion? Disney, Madonna, Jackson, Hip Hop, Harry Potter, all these popular things are fashion. Each of us hopes to accept the attention and admiration of others, live a high-quality life, have graceful behaviors and become the focus of people`s eyes. Fashion could help people reach these goals. How do we join in these fashions? The answer is good taste. If someone wants to follow or guide the trend of fashion, he has to own the better feeling of beauty— good taste. Nowadays, people have many ways to know what is fashionable. However, to be fashionable is not so easy as to know fashionable things. Many details could destroy the pretending fashion of one without good taste. Once upon a time, there was a couple who suddenly became wealthy. They were not satisfied that others regarded them vulgar. One day, they took part in a culture salon and dressed bejeweled clothes to show their wealth, which is not fit for the graceful art atmosphere. Therefore, fashion does not mean the rich matters, but means the fit things. Vulgar people cannot buy fashion even he is very rich. Fashion is the product of good taste, not money (Blumer,1969).
According to the famous star of America Sarah Jessica Parker, the taste determines what kind of people you are, including your social position and social image. Good taste exerts great influence on people`s different aspects of life, such as selecting a book, CD, occupation and partner (Eysenck ,1983).
Fashion is subjective and taste is objective. The slogan of Chanel is: fashion is fickle, while style lasts forever. Chanel used her taste to guide fashion. In her lives, she forecasted and mastered the changing trend of fashion twice. Therefore, good taste could produce fashion.
According to Fielding, the graceful taste is always accompanying the outstanding mind. Therefore, good taste origins from internal mind. In Hollywood, famous stars pay special attention on their dressing in public. However, their differences are very obvious. Some stars, like Nicole Kidman, know well what dressing means and which dressing is fit for them. This is the first class. Those usually consult for their stylists obviously do not have their own decisions on what is fit for them. This class is inferior to the first class. Britney Spears belongs to the third class. Even she dresses the same clothes with the second class, the way of collocation usually makes her embarrass. She has a professional team of image designer. However, as we found, she usually was classified as the ones who were dressed worst. Therefore, good taste comes from internal mind, from the understanding of fashion and self.
Genevieve Antoine Dariaux, one of the greatest experts in the field of fashion of France, had explained fashion in her book A Guide to Elegance as following: there are two kinds of fashions. One is genius fashion while the other is transitory fashion. If you could not dress skirt, just drop it. There will be one kind of coat which is not only fashionable but also fit for you. Therefore, you could dress the skirts when they are fit for you. The attitude of Dariaux is just dressing what fit for you, because you should present your individual style instead of clothes. The fashionable clothes is used to help you to present your style. If they do not help, just drop them and find out proper ones.
Therefore, good taste is the base of fashion. Fashion is appearance while taste is the temperament (Bourdieu, 1984). Clothes, watches, bags, shoes and red wines are all worldly possessions. Taste means the genius understanding and test of these matters, which is from bildung of internal mind.
How to have good tastes
As mentioned above, education is very important in the cultivation of good tastes. Therefore, learning is very important if someone wants to improve his tastes and then improve his social class. What should people learn if they want to improve their tastes. The answer is the genius understanding of around things and the way of understanding things. Both the method and consequences of understanding are important. Sometimes the ideas of the majority are not always right. Therefore, people should learn how to understand things dialectically and critically in order to avoid becoming vulgar in the misguiding of the masses. Independent thinking is the necessary way of having good tastes.
In a word, taste means people`s degustation on everything around himself, include food, art, life and so on. Someone have good tastes while the others have bad tastes. The different attitudes and feelings on life, art and culture embody the grade of individual taste. To have a good taste means one has a comprehensive and correct understanding about things around him. Tastes are not extremely abstract in fact. It could be described clearly daily behavior. Different tastes classified the whole society to some extent. The tastes determined the difference social position and class of people. Improving tastes is the necessary procedure of improving social position. Wealth really does not mean good tastes, but it could help one to have good tastes, for wealthy people have more chances to learn and understand things around them than the poor. Education, which means cultivating and training, is the main way of constructing socially legitimate tastes. Education selects tastes through selecting cultivating objectives, courses, teachers and campus atmosphere. Without good taste, people cannot be fashionable. Good taste comes from internal mind, from the understanding of fashion and self. And Good taste could produce and guide fashion. Both the method and consequences of understanding are important to improve tastes. Independent thinking is the necessary way of having good tastes and avoiding becoming vulgar in the misguiding of the masses. In summary, taste is something both abstract and concrete, because it means both the understanding and the ways of understanding of around things. Having a good taste could help people have a good social position and forecast or guide fashion.
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