Identity Expression Through Fashion

They say never judge a book by its cover, but I say never is a strong word. The cover of a book is the first impression it gives to the reader, and for people, clothes are our covers, and they serve as a small window for the world to get a sneak peek at who we are.

On campus, the clothing a person wears indicates where they’re from: Someone wrapped up on a 40-degree day may be from milder climate, whereas a guy in shorts may be trying too hard to show off that he thinks “it’s not even cold, bro, what do you mean? You don’t even know cold.” If you’re lucky, he may even regale you with tales of “back home,” where some incomprehensible level of even more intense cold exists.

Clothes also demonstrate how much someone cares about appearing attractive. Take, for example, me as a child, always donning the same three pairs of identical blue jeans paired with graphic tees from Kohl’s. They were comfy! And I’d never even considered that clothing could make you appear more attractive, nor did I ever even think about the concept of attractiveness. So I wore the most normal and convenient clothes possible.

Consider those students on campus in sweatpants and sweatshirts on Saturday mornings. Of course these people have more sense than a young me, but choosing function over fashion is indicative of the debauchery they probably got into the previous night.  

One of the most important things about clothing, though, is that it creates a sense of belonging. Niche communities, such as a cliché goth community, dress a certain way to signify that they belong to a group. The clothes they choose to wear are a means of participating in said group. A less radical example, though, may be preppy clothing. I attended a preparatory high school, and as far as the eye could see, my classmates were draped head to toe in Vineyard Vines, a traditionally expensive and preppy brand of clothing. It is possible that these kids came out of the womb in multi-colored button downs, but when you’re attending such a school, it’s easy to get caught up in and even identify with the culture—therefore, kids go out and buy Vineyard Vines.

Furthermore, I’m a fan of hip-hop. Although hip-hop is closely tied to the fashion industry, and as such the hip-hop dress code is constantly shifting, the culture generally follows along the ideas of “streetwear,” defined on Wikipedia as a style of street fashion rooted in Californian surf and skate culture. It has grown to encompass elements of hip-hop fashion, Japanese street fashion, and modern haute couture fashion.” On one hand, I attempt to dress in such a way because I think the style looks cool. On the other, and perhaps on a subconscious level, my plain, baggy white crew neck sweater and untied Timbs are an expression of a culture I identify with.

My dad, however, is too old to keep his eye on the fashion streets. In this way, clothing is an expression of age. It would be inappropriate for me to don corduroy slacks and a tweed jacket, just as it would be inappropriate for my professor to rock Yeezys. Neither outfit is inherently wrong or ugly, but because clothes are such a strong expression of self, it looks odd when we see someone dressed inauthentically, as would be the case if my dad tried to dress like me.

So, make sure you pick the right clothes. Not necessarily the nicest or the most hip, but the most authentic. The clothes that are the most “you.” Your outfit is the first thing others see, and you want to make sure your first impression is actually an impression of yourself.  

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor