What is “Fashion” and How to Research it? Polybius for Punk Fashion Sociology


  • Anna-Mari Almila University of the Arts London
  • David Inglis University of Helsinki




Fashion, Globalization, Epistemology, Ontology, History


Fashion changes societies, and is also itself shaped by multiple socio-cultural processes, including processes of globalization. At the same time, fashion scholarship is not only speaking about and seeking to understand fashion, but is also actively formulating ideas, assumptions and understandings as to what fashion can be, and where in history and in which geographical locations fashion can be found.
This paper addresses the increasingly complex question of the nature of fashion in a globalized and increasingly interconnected world. Arguing for a radical, “punk,” attitude toward fashion scholarship, and a concomitant rethinking of fashion, we suggest an approach that goes beyond academic and political fashions, drawing upon historical scolarship and examples. For while it is strikingly obvious that fashion is a global and globalized phenomenon, its specific character, and indeed its geographical locations and origins, remain contested. Drawing inspiration from the ancient Greek historian Polybius, and his ideas of an "ecumenical analytical" approach to studying world-wide phenomena, we reflect upon the history and current state of fashion studies in what we consider an ecumenical moment, which demands novel insights, but also holds many new opportunities for the field.


Almila, Anna-Mari. “Cultural Sociology of Fashion: On the Sartorial, Symbolic and Social.” In The Sage Handbook of Cultural Sociology, edited by David Inglis and Anna-Mari Almila, 510–26. London: Sage, 2016.

Almila, Anna-Mari. “The Dressed Body, Material and Technology: Rethinking the Hijab through Sartorial Sociology.” International Journal of Fashion Studies, vol. 5, n. 2 (2018): 309–28.

Almila, Anna-Mari and David Inglis. “What is ‘Fashion’ Really? The Promise of an Ecumenical Analytic for Fashion Studies and Beyond in a Globalized World.” In Epistemology and Transformation of Knowledge in Global Age, edited by Zlatan Delić, 63-83. London: Intech, 2017.

Aspers, Patrik. Orderly Fashion: A Sociology of Markets. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010.

Aspers, Patrik. “Markets as Fashion Spaces.” In Handbook of Fashion Studies, edited by Sandy Black, Amy de la Haye, Joanne Entwistle, Agnes Rocamora, R.A. Root and Helen Thomas, 224–35. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Aspers, Patrik and Frédéric Godart. “Sociology of Fashion: Order and Change.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 39 (2013): 171–92.

Baldry, Harold C. The Unity of Mankind in Greek Thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1965.

Baudrillard, Jean. Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1998.

Beer, David. Punk Sociology. London: Palgrave, 2014.

Beer, David. “Punk Sociology.” Sociological Imagination (2016), http://sociologicalimagination.org/archives/14684.

Bell, Quentin. On Human Finery. London: Hogarth Press, 1948.

Breward, Christopher. The Culture of Fashion. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995.

Cannon, Aubrey. “The Cultural and Historical Contexts of Fashion.” In Consuming Fashion, edited by Anne Brydon and Sandra Niessen, 23–38. Oxford: Berg, 1998.

Carrigan, Mark. “Review of Punk Sociology” (April 7, 2014), https://markcarrigan.net/2014/04/07/review-of-punk-sociology/.

Carter, Michael. Fashion Classics from Carlyle to Barthes. London: Berg, 2003.

Cordova, Rebekah. DIY Punk as Education: From Mis-education to Educative Healing. Charlotte, NC: IAP, 2016.

Crane, Diana and Laura Bovone. “Approaches to Material Culture: The Sociology of Fashion and Clothing.” Poetics, vol. 34, n. 6 (2006): 319–33.

Davis, Fred. Fashion, Culture and Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Diodorus. Diodorus of Sicily, in Twelve Volumes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

Dubuisson, Michel. “La Vision Polybienne de Rome.” In Purposes of History: Studies in Greek Historiography from the 4th to the 2nd Centuries, edited by Herman Verdin, Guido Schepens and Els de Keyser, 233-45. Leuven: Dack and Dessel, 1990.

Empathyscience. “Who’s Not Punking Their Sociology?” (March 23, 2015), https://empathyscience.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/whos-not-punking-their-sociology/.

Entwistle, Joanne. The Fashioned Body: Fashion, Dress & Modern Social Theory. London: Polity, 2015.

Entwistle, Joanne and Agnés Rocamora. “The Field of Fashion Materialized: A Study of London Fashion Week.” Sociology, vol. 40, n. 4 (2006): 735–51.

Evans, Caroline and Minna Thornton. Women & Fashion: A New Look. London: Quartet, 1989.

Finnane, Antonia. Changing Clothes in China. London: Hurst & Company, 2007.

Flügel, John C. The Psychology of Clothes. New York: AMS Press, 1976.

Fustel de Coulanges, N.St.D. “Polybe ou La Grece Conquise Par les Romains.” In Questions Historiques, 140-80. Paris: Hachette, 1893.

Gofton, Les. “Punk Sociology, by David Beer.” Times Higher Education (May 1, 2014), https://www.timeshighereducation.com/books/punk-sociology-by-david-beer/2012917.article.

Goulet-Cazé, Marie-Odile. A Guide to Greek Thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000.

Heater, Derek. World Citizenship and Government. London: Macmillan, 1996.

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Routledge, 1995.

Inglis, David. “What is Worth Defending in Sociology Today? Presentism, Historical Vision and the Uses of Sociology.” Cultural Sociology, vol. 8, n. 1 (2014): 99–118.

Inglis, David and Roland Robertson. “The Ecumenical Analytic: ‘Globalization’, Reflexivity and the Revolution in Greek Historiography.” European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 8, n. 2 (2005): 9–122.

König, René. The Restless Image: A Sociology of Fashion. London: Allen and Unwin, 1973.

Lipovetsky, Gilles. The Empire of Fashion: Dressing Modern Democracy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Lupton, Deborah. “A Review of Punk Sociology” (January 28, 2014), https://simplysociology.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/a-review-of-punk-sociology/.

Morgan, Colleen. “Punk, DIY, and Anarchy in Archaeological Thought and Practice.” Arqueologia Publica, vol. 5 (2015): 123.-46.

Mortley, Raoul. The Idea of Universal History from Hellenistic Philosophy to Early Christian Historiography. Lewiston: Mellen, 1996.

Nakagawa, Keiichirō and Henry Rosovsky. “The Case of the Dying Kimono: The Influence of Changing Fashions on the Development of the Japanese Woollen Industry.” Business History Review, vol. 37 (1967): 59–80.

O’Brien, Dave. “Book Review: Punk Sociology by David Beer” (March 27, 2014), https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/lsereviewofbooks/2014/03/27/book-review-punk-sociology-by-david-beer/.

O’Neill, Alistair. “Exhibition Review: Vivienne Westwood: 34 Years in Fashion.” Fashion Theory, vol. 10, n. 3 (2006): 381–86.

Polybius. The Rise of the Roman Empire. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979.

Revell, Louise. Roman Imperialism and Local Identities. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Richardson, Lorna-Jane. “I’ll Give You ‘Punk Archaeology’, Sunshine.” World Archaeology, vol. 49, n. 3 (2017): 306–17.

Robertson, Roland and David Inglis. “The Global Animus: In the Tracks of World Consciousness.” Globalizations, vol. 1, n. 1 (2004), 38–49.

Rofel, Lisa and Sylvia J. Yanagisako. Fabricating Transnational Capitalism. Duke University Press, 2019.

Romm, James S. The Edges of the Earth in Ancient Thought. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992.

Simmel, Georg. “Fashion.” International Quarterly, vol. 10 (1904): 130-55.

Sloterdijk, Peter. Critique of Cynical Reason. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988.

Sombart, Werner. “Economy and Fashion: A Theoretical Contribution on the Formation of Modern Consumer Demand.” In The Rise of Fashion, edited by Daniel L. Purdy. Minneapolis: Minneapolis University Press, 2004.

Spencer, Herbert. “Manners and Fashion.” In Essays, 1–51. London: Williams and Norgate, 1891.

Steele, Valerie. “Anti-Fashion: The 1970s.” Fashion Theory, vol. 1, n. 3 (1997): 279–95.

Tarde, Gabriel. The Laws of Imitation. New York: Henry Holt and co, 1903.

Thompson, Robert Farris. Aesthetic of the Cool. New York: Periscope Publishing, 2011.

Tönnies, Ferdinand. Custom: An Essay on Social Codes. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961.

Turner, Bryan S. “The Possibility of Primitiveness: Towards a Sociology of Body Marks in Cool Societies.” Body & Society, vol. 5, n. 2-3 (1999): 39–50.

Veblen, Thorstein. The Theory of the Leisure Class. London: Macmillan, 1899.

Walker, Rebecca, ed. Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness. Berkeley: Soft Skull Press, 2012.

Wilson, Elizabeth. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity. London: Virago, 1985.




How to Cite

Almila, A.-M., & Inglis, D. (2020). What is “Fashion” and How to Research it? Polybius for Punk Fashion Sociology. ZoneModa Journal, 10(1S), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.2611-0563/10547