Probably unknown to those who put on mini-skirts, the length of their skirts is a useful economic indicator reflective of the status of the markets, at least as far as some economists are concerned.  These “innovative” economists who have been way off, have attempted to make sense of fashion styles such as mini-skirts in the realms of econometrics forecasting. The result of their research is what is now known as the Hemline index.

 

George Taylor, an American economist, “discovered” the Hemline Index in the 1920s as a useful tool to predict the market (stock market) based on women’s skirts and dresses. The theory holds that stock prices move in the same direction as the hemlines of women’s dresses. For example, short skirts (1920s and 1960s) are symbolic of bullish markets and long skirts (1930s and 1940s) are symbolic of bearish markets.

 

He argued that in good economic times women shortened their skirts to show off their silk stockings but when times were bad they lengthened them to hide, implying that they couldn’t afford stockings. So when the economy boomed skirts were short and when it lagged skirts were longer.

One of the fundamental principles of economics is that the price of a good is related to its relative scarcity. If scantily clad women are scarce, then their price is high (where here the “price” is the amount a man must spend in order to demonstrate his affluence to a relatively attractive woman). When scantily clad women increase in abundance, however, their price is bound to fall as men no longer need to compete with each other over the relatively scarce good. In fact, as hemlines go up, conspicuous consumption of status goods might fall for precisely this reason.

What has become relatively scarce over the past few years is affluent men. Can this be driving fashion trends that suggest shorter hemlines this season? Maybe that is the real effect that George Taylor observed all those years ago.

The problem with Hemline theory, in specific reference to Uganda, is that some simply put on miniskirts after watching Beyonce on TV donning such an attire. In other words, the putting of min-skirts in this case is not correlated to the internal state of the economy, but is rather a result of cultural imperialism permeated by the media.

Another critic contends that Taylor’s kind of theory is speculative, non-scientific; a kind of theory which fits to be rejected there and then. For instance, if a country is so poor that citizens have no money to make long skirts, then according to this theory such a nude country is doing well economically.

 

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