It occurred to me today that facts have become fashion statements. We wear facts the way we wear a jacket or a pair of shoes. They may be uncomfortable, they may not even be really good, but when people see us wearing them, facts or uncomfortable shoes, we’re making a statement about who we want people to think we are.
Fashionable facts may be made of really cheap materials in a sweatshop in Asia or a back room at a news network. They usually aren’t that durable, but while it’s fashionable, you wear it proudly. You strut, you show it off, you nod appreciatively to people with similar fashion, and maybe smile sadly at those who don’t have your amazing fashion sense.
If you’re walking down the street with that new brand printed all over your Tyvek suit and some idiot who doesn’t understand the value of your brand laughs, you’re going to probably get angry. You’re going to defend your cheap suit because it’s not a cheap suit to you, it’s a whole statement of who you are, what you believe, and how the world fundamentally works.
It doesn’t matter to you that the seams are a little strained on that fashion statement, be it a suit or a news story. It doesn’t matter that you’re probably going to toss in the bins as soon as a new fashion takes hold. It doesn’t matter that when you get a little embarrassed and delete the '5 years ago' suggestion from Facebook and with a photo of that statement you were making before.
Keep in mind, you don’t own fashion, fashion owns you.
There are wonderful designs out there; well-constructed clothing and seriously vetted facts. The problem is when we confuse the Tyvek printed suit for the Savile Row bespoke suit, when we confuse the pundit’s babbling for peer reviewed science.
We live in a time where our wardrobe of facts is so diverse and colorful that we don’t have to think about the craftsmanship or thought that went into the fact. We can google a premise and find a fact to support it mid-argument, mid-sip at the bar. Our facts, like fashion, are now based on context and need, not on the material strength of the fact, not on the detail analysis of the whether the fact came from a respectable craftsman or a sweatshop.
It would be nice if in this age of fashionable facts if we had a way to know the legitimacy of the fact, but to be honest, that brand-printed Tyvek suit is an amazingly legitimate thing to wear in the right place at the right time; facts, like fashion, need to be considered for the time and place you’re going to wear them.
Just don’t be a slave to fashion.