Monday, November 10, 2008

Readings: Barbon

In some places, it is fixt and certain; as all over Asia, and in Spain; but in France, England, and other places, the Dress alters; Fashion or the alteration of Dress, is a great Promoter of Trade, because it occasions the Expence of Cloaths, before the Old ones are worn out: It is the Spirit and Life of Trade; It makes a Circulation, and gives a Value by Turns, to all sorts of Commodities; keeps the great Body of Trade in Motion; it is an Invention to Dress a Man, as if he lived in a perpetual Spring; he never sees the Autum of his Cloaths: The following of the Fashion, Is a Respect paid to the Prince and his Court, by approving his Choice in the shape of Dress. It lyes under an ill Name amongst many Grave and Sober People, but without any Just Cause; for those that Exclaim against the Vanity of the New Fashion, and at the same time, commend that Decency of the Old one, forget that every Old Fashion was once New, and then the same Argument might have been used against it. And if an Indian, or Stranger, that nvever saw any person Cloathed before, were to be Judge of the Controversy, and were to Determin upon seeing at the same time a well Drest-Courtier in the New Fashion, and another in the Old, which is accounted Decent; and a third in the Robes of an Officer, which by common Esteem, had a Reverence: It will be Two to One, against any One of the Grave Fashions; for it's only Use and Custom by which Habits become Grave and Decent, and not any particular Conveniency in the shape; for if Conveniency were the Rule of Commendation, Whether the Spanish garb made strait to the Body, or the loose Habit of the Turks, were to be Chosen? And therefore since all Habits are equally handsome, and hard to know which is most Convenient: The Promoting of New Fashions, ought to be Encouraged, because it provides a Livelihood for a great Part of Mankind.
Nicholas Barbon, "A Discourse of Trade" (1690)

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