Eighties blockbuster and cult classic Back to the Future envisioned that we’d be running around - sorry, hover boarding around, in 2015 already – in ultra-futuristic, self-lacing sneaks. Sadly, Nike only designed these sneakers last year.
And they were still nothing close to those dreamed up by director Robert Zemeckis. Besides, they were also solely designed to celebrate the film.
So what does the future really hold for us in term of attire?
The Australian notes that in 2050 we might be growing our own leather pants. Not on cows, mind you, but with your own personal bio-fabricator: a machine that grows fabrics from microbial cultures. Mind. Blown.
But wait, you say. The future has always been represented to us – especially in film and TV – as a world filled with spandex, silver and metallic one-piece suits that is worn with uniformity. So will we all be dressing the same in 20 years?
The rise of consumerism and availability of fast-fashion has cultivated both a culture of individualism and conformity at the same time.
By giving the individual access to fashion one is able to choose how one edits that selection, hence sparking creativity and uniqueness.
On the other hand, the probability of walking past someone on the street wearing the exact same outfit as you has also just sky-rocketed.
But before we invented fashion as we know and love it today, we had clothing designed and made specifically for its utility – to keep humans warm on cold nights and to protect the body from the elements and the environment. It was not about the aesthetic of it all. It was not about individual expression or identity.
So what do the experts say we’ll be wearing in 20 years?
Dilys Williams, designer and the director for sustainable fashion at the London College of Fashion had a few thoughts for the Guardian, saying that our relationship to fashion has changed so much over the last 25 years.
Clothing used to be pricier, and it was cherished rather than today’s culture of disposability. A R120 white t-shirt might just be seen as an item to be worn for a month or two and then discarded instead of something to keep and wear for the foreseeable future.
And she says that with advancements in tech, clothing will become more functional and even more consumer-friendly.
“Technology is already being used to create clothing that fits better and is smarter; it is able to transmit a degree of information back to you. This is partly driven by customer demand and the desire to know where clothing comes from – so we'll see tags on garments that tell you where every part of it was made, and some of this, I suspect, will be legislation-driven, too, for similar reasons, particularly as resources become scarcer and it becomes increasingly important to recognise water and carbon footprints,” she notes.
Digital Trends notes that sports are very much responsible for this wave of tech clothing that make us sweat less, cool and down, improve resistance and make us streamline in water - like a fish.
But it’s going to evolve much further than sportswear as “Google’s Project Jacquard will essentially turn your clothes into an extension of your smart devices”.
The Next Speaker reports that advancement in clothing material has made us much more comfortable – think, weather-resistant, elastic and breathable clothing – rather than creative.
But what does this step towards practicality, connectedness, functionality and clarity mean for individualism?
In the same article expert Mark Earls notes that we shouldn’t fear a future of uniformity.
“No, like so many things, the way we dress tends be a social choice, shaped by the behaviour of those around us. You might imagine that this might lead to conformity and uniformity but – because of two things: first, the range of choices available (more and more of us will live in uber-urban settlements, and cities always offer novelty); second, the amazing ability of copying to introduce error and thus novelty back into the population.”
Other experts note that even though the idea of a uniform might be realised, our desire to customise said outfit will grow to enhance, sparking distinction between individuals.
Yet, allow me to blow your mind.
Wareable is predicting a transhuman state of sorts where in 20 years we’ll forego our now concept of individualism, saying “a certain percent of the human population will leave and evolve to beyond what the human limitations are.”
That means we might be able to experience what others are experiencing, even sharing feelings and thoughts; so individualism might become a thing of the past.
Seems like an episode of Black Mirror I know, but stay with me.
In other words, present you might not yet understand future you’s grasp and conceptualisation of individuality. It won’t be the same as it’s now, and this understanding will differ from person to person as it all depends on how we personally assimilate our new, future sense of individualism.
What we cloak our bodies with might mean something completely different to us as a people then, as the death of the ‘individual’ seems to be a looming possibility.