Why is fashion lagging in poorer countries?

This is real-time reporting, live from the trenches.

I am watching the Eurovision song contest - for the benefit of my international readers, this is an annual pan-European 'kitsch-fest' - the BBC's words - where countries rate each other for the year's best song. For my European readers - what's wrong with me, I know. Blame tradition and peer pressure.

I have an anthropological observation with economic implications to make here, and Eurovision (as well as the recent movie Borat) will act as evidence.

Have you noticed that the poorer the country, the further behind fashion is lagging? I am at a loss to explain it. It's not that fashion is simply different, it is that it seems like a $10,000 lower GDP per capita is associated with fashion lagging five years behind. Latvia's fashion is Austria's fashion 10 years ago.

To call on my primary evidence, you can't mistake a Eurovision song for any other, as the competition seems to attract a very particular kind of entry. Eurovision is sure kitsch, but the most striking thing is that it is somewhat old-fashioned kitsch. Not as old-fashioned as in Kazakhstan, and not as trendy kitsch as in the UK. And I'm talking about both clothes and music here.

It's not that old-fashioned clothes, or old-fashioned music for that matter, are cheaper to make - fashion doesn't work this way. A communist past won't do as an explanation either - this is a global phenomenon. The only thing I can possibly think of is limited exposure to television and international hit shows such as 'Friends'. But why do poorer countries get access to the old international hit shows then? And at any rate, even if this could form part of an explanation in the case of Kazakhstan, it can't account for Romania.

Any thoughts or ideas, please email me at bluematterblog-at-gmail.com; comments, as always, are also open.


  1. Mike Koenecke Says:

    Seems fairly obvious to me: secondhand clothing travels from wealthier countries to poorer countries. Q.E.D.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Did you not see the UK entry? Fashion - i think not.