25 April 2012
Constructing Identity Through Clothing
Identity is the most crucial part of being human. It reflects who the person is and how they are identify in life. Everyone has a unique identity and they are known by their identity. Identity could be defined by who the person is based on their race, gender, status, age, and etc. The most common way to identify a person is the clothing that they wear because it is the first impression that the human eye catches. Identity construction is easily done when it involves clothing because the clothing the person wears tells a lot about them. Clothing expresses a person’s identity in many different aspects and could show a person affiliation, status, and habits.Big White Tee shirt, baggy pants, and Cortez Nikes, we recognize the clothing that the person is wearing is related to something bad. The attire that is expressed is sometime used to represent a gang, but it became link to the fashion world as a trend.”Clothing has been closely linked to violent and sometimes deadly situations. Kids may be at risk because of their clothing choices” (Hethorn, “Gang Identity or Self-Expression?”). It is dangerous to express identity in a certain way if the identity you are trying to pose is not who you are suppose to be. Clothing that represent something this big such as, violence, is a huge identity crisis because it leads to trouble. Gang identity is very easy to spot and we recognize people with gang attire to be in gangs. The first impression of this clothing gives fear to people instead of a friendly gesture.
Depending on where you are, the gang attire could mean different things. The identity shifts from the “ghettos” to the new trend in the fashion world. “To wear a red “rag” in one neighborhood may be a clear symbol of gang affiliation, but in a different area, the same item holds no meaning except as a head covering” (Hethorn, “Gang Identity or Self-Expression?”). Wearing gang related attire in a gang affiliated neighborhood means you are identifying yourself as trouble, wearing gang related attire in a safe community is just fashion. Two different spaces, but the same clothing means different things. “The boundaries between gang style and street style are blurred, the more so as gang identifiers are quickly absorbed into fashion” (Hethorn, “Gang Identity or Self-Expression?”). This means that clothing gives an impression of who we are, even though the identity of the clothing could be ruthless and dangerous. The identity of a gangster could also signify a location or affiliation of a group.
Clothing affects more than affiliation, but also the social class as well. “In preindustrial times such as the Colonial Period, clothing was synonymous with a person’s position in the social structure. It not only revealed your social position and gender, but your occupation [each one had its own costume], religious affiliation, and regional origin, as well.”(Gilmore, “Fashion Trends: A Reflection of Our Political Culture” ) From colonial past, clothing already had a big impact on identity. It was used as a way to express their wealth and their accomplishment. The clothing that the rich could afford made it nearly impossible for the poor to acquire. That is what made clothing identity in the colonial period very accurate in determining a person’s wealth. Compared to modern day, clothing is much easier to get, but the fashion world of the upper-class is still impossible for a middle class salary. "The display of status through one's clothes and other means of adornment appears to be a universal phenomenon” (Kaisert, 49). The plainness of clothing reflects the identity of being simple and cheap, the special design of clothing that people values are more complex and expensive.
Even though modern day clothing is not as strong as an influence on social class as the colonial period, we still have brands like Banana Republic, Gucci, and other expensive brand names that reflects the persons social class. Space is also involved in changing the identity of the person with their clothing. It depends on who you are appearing to when you decide to pose your identity. Wearing expensive clothing in a public space expresses power and richness and wearing the same piece of expensive clothing that you own to family event just makes it look like you are only trying to be someone who you are not. Identity is easily given off my clothing and the impression gained is the identity given by the public.
The clothes we wear reflect our habits because of the appearance it uses as an impression toward other people. Changing our clothes more than three times a day means a lot because it shows the habit of caring too much about self-image. “You may throw on an outfit without much thought in the morning, but your choice is strongly affected by your mood” ("Happiness: It's Not In The Jeans."). That means if the person starts out their morning wearing unmatched clothing or something that does not fit the day; it means they just don’t care about today. There are clothes that women categorize as happy-clothes, and clothes that they wear on a normal basis. “The study found that 'happy' clothes -- ones that made women feel good -- were well-cut, figure enhancing, and made from bright and beautiful fabrics”( "Happiness: It's Not In The Jeans." ). Clothing that reflects our mood has some detail on our identity showing some sign of incompleteness.
Clothing identity also affects the daily habits of people who are over obsessed with their image. “There is nothing new or radical about people in western culture constructing an identity via consumer items.” (Sandell, “Shopping For a Change”).Going shopping for clothing and accessories is similar to shopping for an identity. Referring to project web’s book ,”The Surrogate” , people in the time era also had the same idea where identity could be bought. The only difference between the book and reality is that the book offers a better way to buy your identity in a better technological difference by purchasing surrogates. People who have the habit of going shopping a lot have a lot of trouble with their identity. They are constructing their identity and it is always changing because they are unsure of who or what they want to be.
Clothing is very important when it comes to a person’s identity. It is the first thing a person spots because it is part of a person’s exterior. There is countless amount of clothing in the world; they could be cultural, religious, fashion, or anything that is used to cover a person. Different types of clothing gives people different types of impressions. “Clothing is also heavy with significance and symbolism. Sure, we might need clothing to protect us, but as humans, we love to add meaning to things that have no meaning, and so the costume – and the identity wrapped within it, is born” ( Morrigan, “Clothing, Costume, Identity, and Lack of Thereof” ). Adding meaning to ourselves with clothing make us unique, just like how everyone has a distinct difference. Identity is easily constructed and altered with clothing because you could practically be anyone based on the way you dress. Clothing reflects a person identity because it shows many details about the person who is wearing it.
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