Photographer Hans Eijkelboom has spent more than 20 years cataloging the ways that globalized culture manifests through apparel. Since the early 1990s, Eijkelboom has surreptitiously photographed pedestrians in urban settings, for no longer than two hours in each location. The resulting image grids reveal not only the way styles fluctuate over time (remember flannels?) but also the broader assimilation of street fashion into a kind of homogenized transnational monoculture. In short, the unhindered flow of global commerce has left us all wearing the same thing.
(© Hans Eijkelboom/Phaidon)
“How can you be so naïve to go to a shop, to buy clothes that sum up your personality, and not realize that, at the same time, 10,000 men and women around the world do and think the same things?” Eijkelboom asks of himselfand, by extension, the viewer. “We’re told we’re individuals, and we buy these things, and we are a product of the culture that we live in.”
A book of Eijkelboom’s grids, People of the Twenty-First Century (Phaidon, 2014), constitutes a typology, not only of what we wear, but of public posture and affect in the years around the turn of the millennium. The irony in the performance of individuality is revealed through repetition. It turns out, the drive to conform—subconsciously miming our peers—may be more deeply ingrained than we want to recognize.