Fashion and Identity
The relationship between man, fashion and identity has always been intriguing. Man is in a constant search of identify, something that will make him unique and identifiable. A unique tool to enhance a person’s identity is fashion. Fashion industry is driven by creativity and as such results in many designs.
The debate in this issue is which of the two has a bigger influence on the other. There are differing opinions on this subject each with sufficient proof on the power and the influences that each has on the other. Werner (n.d.) argues that the search for personal identity is the primary preoccupation of the contemporary generation.
The drive towards identifying who a person is comes about due to fear and uncertainty of the person’s purpose in life. Thus identifying a specific persona becomes the key to personal development and growth in life. Werner continues to argue that the contemporary generation is deceived to think that personal identity is determined by the physical attributes in a person.
Many people take too much care of their physical looks and would go to great lengths to enhance their outward appearance in the effort to enhance their identity. In this regard, people are concerned with their levels of education and would proceed to acquire educational qualifications.
This is intended to improve a person knowledge and intelligence, therefore helping to form their persona identity. Other than education, people take great care how they dress. Dressing is taken as a mode of identifying who a person is. People who see themselves as official tend to dress officially all the times. People dressing style is also a way of trying to enhance ones identity.
A man may dress sharply to stand out in a crowd. Women, perceive themselves as beautiful put on make up several and adornment to enhance this perceived identify. Adornments and beautification are a means of enhancing a persons unique attributes and make them look different in a crowd. Werner (n.d.) questions this method of forming and identifying a person and says that it is quit deceptive.
A person identity cannot be formed by physical attributes and out wards appearance. Other important factors help to form a person identity. Such things are concerned with a person inner attributes such as the soul and are spiritual. Werner (n.d.) concludes that a person spiritual belief influences person’s attitudes towards life and generally, who a person eventually becomes.
MAS (2006) infer that it is impossible to hide a person identity as people are constantly giving out signs of who they are. These arguments purports that a person identity is somewhat inherent.
A person’s identity can be identified from the simple things that people do. Such things as email addresses reveal a lot about a person’s identify. Studying such physical attributes as fingerprints, facial expression, names and DNA configuration can reveal a lot about a person.
These things have in them cues that can be used to unravel a person identity. Thus, it becomes impossible to hide the real person. Any attempt to do so is deceptive. A person’s identity is associated with a good reputation. This means that identity is the foundation of reputation. A good reputation enhances a personal success in life (Werner, n.d.; MAS, 2006).
It guarantees a person better jobs, ease in career advancement, improved social status and allows the individual other privileges. MAS (2006) explains that attempt to hide a persons true self are disastrous and results in a person gaining a bad reputation the society and the disadvantages that comes with it.
From the arguments above it is important to note the formation of a personal identity is crucial. People general direction is driven by their personal identity.
The out ward look is just a reflection of an individuals identity, but not what forms it. How people look on the outwards is a reflection of their beliefs and customs. The spiritual faculties form a person’s beliefs and customs. These beliefs are unique to each person and thus help to form involuntarily the main character traits that make a unique identity in a person.
These characteristics are expressed in more physical ways such as dressing code and general mannerisms. These characteristics are what make people identifiable in a society and give us a persona different from other individuals. This is [personal identity.
The relationship between fashion and personal identity is peculiar. In this debate, the biggest question is which of the two has the greatest influence over the other or whether the two are mutually dependent. Fashion and human personality theorist all agree that each cannot exist without the other.
This is because fashion is way of dressing only expressible through people and the same is true for people: it is difficult to see people without looking at fashion. Thus, it becomes an interesting debate as to whether it is fashion that reinforces a person identity or vice versa. Fashion theorists are also aware that both fashion and personal identity are subject to evolution and thus keep changing with time.
As such, there is always a great confusion as to which of the two is the agent of the said change. The confusion arises from the fact that each fashion as well as personal identity seem to have an inherent ability to stand o its own. However, debaters of this motion do not realize that the debate always focuses on the mutual dependency between these two phenomena.
II. Fashion reinforces personal identity
Ffion (2011) explains that the post second world war heralded liberalization and democratization of societies all over the world. One of the biggest marks of liberalization is the rise of a consumerism culture. Contemporary societies have acquired an insatiable habit of indiscriminately consuming and as such, producers have resulted to mass production.
The same is true for the fashion industry. People have acquired a taste for fashionable clothing and are consuming fashion products at an alarming rate. A look through fashion malls will reveal an existing insatiable appetite for fashion clothing as well accessories by people of all works of life.
Clothing since time immemorial has been the key towards unraveling a person identity (Ffion, 2011). Other than the obvious reason to cover nakedness and protects a person from extreme wearer conditions, Clothes are a means through which man communicates a powerful message about himself.
People use clothes as a means to enhance the message they want to portray to the society and hope that wearing these elicit the right response from others (Essay.org, 2011).
As such, people have to dress in the right way according to the character they want to enhance. Clothes emphasize the positions and roles that people play in the society. (Essay.org, 2011) compares fashion to art, which “sculptures and gives to its architect any form of creation the architects desires.”
As such, fashion reacts to the desires of the architects and thus gives back creative designs that are relevant to person’s character and roles in the society. Further more, fashion enhances the different gender roles that different gender plays in the society.
It gives clothes that define a woman as feminine, in response to the feminine character of a woman and masculine clothes that a man demands. As such clothes becomes a clear distinction between men and women. Thus, fashion is responding to gender identities.
Ffion (2011) argues that people use clothes “to celebrate personal identities.” People wear cloths that express a strong personal beliefs and character. Ffion (2011) gives an example where women celebrate their personal identity through clothes and explains they may wear floral and brightly colored cloths to appreciate their love for nature and their cultural backgrounds.
This illustrates that the reason why Marie-Ange Guilleminot made clothing items with remains of the material from the Hiroshima bombsite to express “her grief and sorrow and show solidarity with the family of the victims.”
Different communities have different dressing style unique to them. The Hindu community has their sarongs, while the Scot male proudly wears the kilt as a way of identifying one self as a scot.
The Muslim woman will wear the Hijab to portray a religious identity while a Nigerian will were a brightly colored outfit that portrays the African identity. These dressing style are a strong reflection of a person’s cultural identity and are deliberately worn by people to express their personal identity through cultural norms
Other than communicating whom we are, clothes have a very big influence on our personality. (Essay.org, 2011) explains that Business executive’s wears suit to while musicians and sports people will be more casual.
They want to enhance their personal traits that is concurrent with their profession. Grant (2007) agrees with this argues and adds that an “individual negotiates through the dress.” Fashion thus forms part of an individuals language. Clothing is a language that a person uses to relay to the outside world desirable message about who they are.
Ffion (2011) explains that Marina Abramovic tried to controversially prove that clothe cannot be removed from a person identity. Mariah stood naked in a street and watched people’s reaction to her nudity. Of course, people were astonished that a person could dare remove her identity and stand in public naked.
This portrays that cloths are part of us and they help strengthen a person positive reputation. Lack of clothes is thus taken as lack of positive dignity. As explained earlier persons identity is associated with a positive reputation that puts the person at an advantaged position in the society.
Removing cloths from oneself is thus assumed to be removing a person positive identity, which leaves one without an identity that results to a negative reputation (MAS, 2006). It thus can be conclude that removing of clothe is stripping oneself of personal identity as such leaving one naked (without an identity).
Winter (2004) also supports that clothes portrays who we are by highlight the works of Van Dyke Lewis, a fashion God father and scholar who has spent a significant part of his life studying fashion.
Winter explains that despite the fact that clothes identify which ethnic group people come from they also identify from which part of the world a person comes from as well as the people’s individual roles in the society.
Lewis, Winter (2004) explains, has spent his entire life studying the black African fashion. This race has a particular way of clothing themselves that enhances their racial background.
During one of his fashion research in London, Lewis has paid particular attention to all the black people in the crowd and was rightly able to identify from which part of the world each came from simply by observing their dress code. This is because each of these person carried with them a certain trait about them that betrayed from which city, town or neighborhood each came from.
Essay (2011) support this further and argues that a clothing is a reflection of unique personal attributes and that personal identity can be interchangeably used with cultural identity. Clothes are part of peoples culture. By choosing to wear certain cloths people have voluntarily chosen to portray their cultural identify and their cultural roots of a person.
Still pertaining to culture, there has evolved a material cultures, a liberal group of individuals who want to dress in ways that do not conform to traditional dressing codes.
These people want freedom to dress the way they want without being restricted to the conventional dressing norms. Clothes are a sense of freedom and a spirit of adventure. They were wear clothes that are outside their cultural boundaries to adventure.
Clothes become a way of breaking cultural norms and experiencing the world beyond (Essay.org, 2011). As such, the fashion industry is evolving and responding to this new class of individuals and gives them creative designs that are suited their free spirited selves. Other clothing adornments are other items of fashion that enhance a persons identity.
People are nowadays adornments to express their dissatisfaction with traditional cultural norms. Tattoos are a way of expressing a distaste with conventional rules and thus a way of seeking freedom. It is a way of bode modification that seek to celebrate a free spirited individual who has managed to break cultural rules (Sanders, 1998).
Suffice to say that fashion is the tool that reinforces who a person is. People use clothes not only to express their personal traits but also to identify themselves with different cultures.
Clothes are not just mere tools for covering nakedness but also protect the persona in the wearer. People deliberately choose clothes that suit their personal characteristics. They are therefore a branding tool, a tool that helps the individuals to appreciate, celebrate and reinforce personal identity.
III. Fashion erodes individual identity
As much as the power of the individual identify I emphases the power of fashion on the person cannot be ignored. Fashion still has its influence on the individual and to a great extent influences that a person becomes. This means that people respond to the latest fashion trends and thus try to align their identify to the dictates of these trends.
Human psychologist argues that human beings have tendency to change behaviors to fit in a certain context (Simply Psychology 2011). People thus change their behavior, attitudes, norms and beliefs fit in certain contexts. Such conformity is driven by the fear of rejection by a social group or the entire society. Conformity may be voluntary or involuntary.
Where it is voluntary, a person makes conscious choice out of fear and thus eventually changes behavior to be accommodated in a given setup. People thus experience an overwhelming sense of the group dynamics over individual identity and are attracted to the group. However, their personal identity is a hindrance towards finding a comfortable place in the group.
As such, they have to drop it and adapt what the social group ascribes to. When conformity occurs involuntarily, a person is either forced to adapt certain behavior as dictated by their roles in the society. In this case, people are forced to behave in certain manner that fits the group dynamic or risk rejection.
A student in a religiously affiliated school may be forced to change dress code to fit in that a particular school. A company may enforce strict dress and general behavior code for all employees to fit into the company policy. In such a company, formal dressing becomes the norm. Suit and ties are the every day apparel.
Therefore, all employees are forced to change their individual identikit in dressing. Involuntary conformity can also happen when a person lacks knowledge and thus seeks it from external (group) sources. In such a case a person is unknowingly influenced by social dynamics and eventually changes behavior as society dictates.
Conformity is prevalent in the world of fashion. This can be attributed to mass production of fashion labels that target mass sales. Marketing of these mass labels are enforcing a fashion sense to the unsuspecting public. Many fashion designs such as Versace, Christian Dior and others open fashion stores in many parts of the world to with the mass market as the target.
Because of the prestige that is associated with these brands people wear them not out of personal identity built because of the strong sense of fashion that comes with wearing them.
Bollier and Racine (2003) explains that “fashion permeates so many aspects of our lives that we fail to appreciate the social ecology that supports it” and as such has an enormous influence not only on the society built on the individual.
The industry it has an inherent power of creativity and thus produces fashionable garment with lightning speed and enforces the new fashion on people. As such, fashion industry thrives, on competition churning out creative design to protect its markets share and its brand.
As a result, several fashion labels have dominated the fashion industry. Many people in efforts to feel fashionable buy and wear these brands not in respect to their personal identity but in respect to fashion.
They want to feel that they belong to a social class that is conscious to fashion trends. Therefore, they will just move in any direction that fashion takes them. If the new trend demands wearing of faded jeans that id the trend they adapt. The same can be said of adornments.
Such kind of conformity has permeated into the American society. A look at the society will reveal that the individually is slowly but significantly loosing personal touch.
The individual in this society is slowly succumbs to the dictates of fashion so much that even the moral and cultural fabric of the society if affected. Americans are slowly adapting to wearing casual wear especially jeans and T-shirts. This conformity is so powerful, that it is slowly finding its way in the corporate sector.
Modern American professional world is adapting to the notion of dress down Friday, an idea that allows workers to tone down their official attire. In response to the notion, the American worker including some of the top CEO’s do wear jeans and T-shirts every Friday to work. (Rasband , 2010).
Rasband (2010) continues to explain that a study reveals that the average American owns more jeans and T-shirt s today than they did several years ago. A casual look at the ordinary American in shopping malls, hospitals airports, churches, sport stadiums, streets, cafes or any other place will revel that there are more people wearing jean and T-shirts than another type of clothing.
This jeans and T-shirts dressing code almost becomes a movement a phenomena Levi Straus has termed as “the most significant apparel trend of the century” (Rasband , 2010). Such conformity has eroded the American sense of personal touch as more American are falling prey to the jeans and T-shirts movement and thus limits the choices that American have on fashion.
Pittman and Townsend (n.d.) explains that such lack of choice in proposal apparel is the result of consumerism and mass production in the fashion industry, and results in loss of personal identity.
Consumerism in fashion is focused on quantity (and unfashionable clothing) rather than quality. It thus leads to a shortage of fashion wear that can enhance people’s individual identity. Rather it leads to e enhancement of social identity.
(Rasband , 2010) explain that the erosion of personal identify by fashion has not been without consequences. The jeans and T-shits movement puts every one o the same level at the work place and in effect, productivity of employees has notably declined.
Casual wears hinders a person productivity in the workplace as the person has retreated into the confront zone and thus lucks the necessary motivation to work. The teaching profession has been greatly affected by such erosions of culture.
American teachers have adopted casual wear and have ended looking more like the students they teach. The effect is a decline in discipline in American schools. (Rasband , 2010) concludes that dressing and in similar fashion makes Americans “look alike and thus begin to feel and act alike.”
The variety that is necessary to make a well-formed society is thus lost. The lack of variety in personal identity means that there is also a limitation in personal beliefs customs and norms. The average American has thus lost the ability to be different and to rise above the societal norms.
It can be sufficiently concluded that fashion and man cannot be separated. They have a mutually dependent relationship. Man has had a significant influence in fashion industry. People have used fashion designs as away of communicating personal identities. They wear clothes that enhance their personal characteristics.
A person will wear dreadlocks to communicate ac message about personal beliefs and attitudes. There is also the evolvement of the free material culture, a group of people that believe I moving beyond conventional dressing codes in emphasis of their free spirit self.
Any attempts thus to remove dress is seen as an attempt to strip a person of their persons al identity. As such personal identity is embedded in a persons dressing style. Removing a dress is tantamount to removing your dress. However, fashion cannot be ignored in the way it influences a person’s character. There have been instances that a fashion erodes a personal identity leaving the person exposed to adhere to group dynamics.
This has been the effect of consumerism culture prevalent in the contemporary society. Consumerism culture leads to mass production. Fashion designers have thus responded to this phenomenon by creating massive designs and adapted exploitative marketing technique to force people to buy predetermined designs. Thus, people drop their unique dressing styles in favor of the mass culture.
This in effect affects the person identity as people star to behave in the same way. As such fashion becomes wastefully and unethical because it erodes not only the identify of a person but also of the entire society. This has lead to an emergence of a class of l fashion theorist with ethical views about sustainable fashion models.
Ethical fashionistas say that there is need to reverse the mass consumerism not only to protect the erosion of person identities but also to protect the environment. This will be done through recycling fashion design and material (Pittman and Townsend, 2003). Rasband (2010) explains that there is a way out the current wasting of personal identity in the society.
People can be very deliberate in their dressing style but not dress in response to mass fashion demands but to what the are personally comfortable with in respect to the situation they are in. the jeans and t-shirts are not entirely wrong but should be only worn at the right time and for the right purpose.
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