Over the recent summer break I had the opportunity to travel to South Korea for the first time. I spent the majority of my visit in the capital, Seoul, exploring the streets with a camera in hand. My eyes are always that bit sharper when hunting for potential photographs and so I observed the daily life of South Koreans with keen eyes. This eager watching led to a number of realisations, one of them being that there were about six standard nose types that the majority of the citizens in the city possessed. It is widely known that South Korea is Asia’s plastic surgery capital, and they make no effort to conceal their ability to reconstruct; if anything, they proudly flaunt it. In fact, their overtness at displaying their ability to wield a plastic surgery knife was a bit of a culture shock for me. The question that perplexed me was “Why would they all want to acquire the same features?” I believe I found my answer while considering the seemingly inherent desire most humans have for a sort of uniformity.

Uniformity is easily identifiable in all aspects of human life, from Big Mac burgers to government housing; it provides us with consistency and sometimes, an additional element of credibility. The wanting of sameness is not excluded from the world of style. Trends, by their very nature are formed when a single type of fashion is adopted by a majority of people. Similarly, uniformity leads to body sizes generally being classified into three categories: S, M and L. The prevalence of the misleadingly titled “free size” fashion, sold by brands such as American Apparel and Brandy Melville exacerbates the fashion industry’s focus on uniformity. From a business point of view, uniformity has clear advantages. A simple example is that if customers believe that uniformity is synonymous with attractiveness, costs are already saved since manufacturers produce fewer variations.

“From a business point of view, uniformity has clear advantages”

Smart advertising has a significant impact on pushing for the appeal of uniformity, but science has proven that humans innately tend to gravitate towards sameness. Various studies have shown that facial symmetry is more attractive to most than facial asymmetry. Though the jury is still out as to whether this is down to human nature or the modern world’s nurture, people are undeniably attracted to order. However, what has undoubtedly changed is what is considered beautiful. Beauty standards, like David Beckham’s hairstyles, have evolved dramatically over the years. Watching the models on the catwalk during Paris Fashion Week, the general trend indicates that being stick thin is the only look to be admitted onto the runway. However,  in Renaissance France, this body type would have only been fitting for a peasant! In those days, the fatter was the more in fashion. This is one extreme example but it effectively shows the radical shift that beauty standards have had.

“If there is no true uniformity then why are we allowing ourselves to feel pressured into having to conform to something that arguably is non-existent?”

Which is why I wish more people would embrace originality not uniformity. By this, I mean I wish that everybody would simply learn to love the features they were born with. One thing that became clear whilst writing this article is that there is no such thing as a true constant. Take the earlier example of plastic surgery in South Korea: there were still six and not one, single type of nose identifiable. Uniformity is an arbitrary standard because contrarily, this “standard” undoubtedly differs from person to person. If there is no true uniformity then why are we allowing ourselves to feel pressured into having to conform to a measure that arguably is non-existent? Instead, I encourage each of us to embrace ourselves and to learn to feel confident about our differences, because let’s be honest, how appealing would it really be if everyone looked completely uniform?

Claire Seah

Photo Credit:Deeped Niclas & Amanda Strandh via Flickr

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