The Dress Influence On Self Identity

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Dress from my readings I believe supports the theoretical perspective that identity theory can be referred to as interaction theory due to the way we talk, dress, address one another and our gestures, all lies within the values of the interactionism from the society in which one has spent most of their lifetime or years being a part of.

Firstly, who we are as individuals reflects how we were brought up, what values have been instilled in us and society’s influence in our upbringing. To enumerate, common to the Nigerian culture, one is taught to be very respectful of their elders, talk politely, address senior ones as SIR, MA, UNCLE or AUNTIE, dress in a manner which is not too revealing because in most cases the way you dress is an interpretation of if one is from a good home or not, gestures we make around people must be appropriate and to kneel when greeting an elderly person. From my readings of “The Interactionist Perspective of George Herbert Mead and Harvey Sacks” I would say that meads view mostly identified with my position on how the development of self was a result of interaction. As he stated, “Meaning arises and lies within the field of the relation between the gesture of a given human organism and the subsequent behavior of this organism as indicated to another human organism by that gesture. If that gesture does so indicate another organism the subsequent (or resultant) behavior of the given organism, then it has meaning. In other words, the relationship between a given stimulus – as a gesture – and the later phases of the social act of which it is an early (if not the initial) phase constitutes the field within which meaning originates and exists.” (Mead, 1967, p.75-76)

Secondly, as said earlier, dress is an interpretation or who we are and want to be perceived as, and as the saying goes, “dress how you want to be addressed.” Common to every culture, there is a common way of dressing be it in the traditional attire or every day clothes. Clothing, jewelleries and accessories all fall under dress. Individuals common to a society have already deemed a way in which it is appropriate to dress within a culture and if someone disregards this, he or she may be outcasted or looked down on by people of that common society. Hence, dress and identity go hand in hand and asides from identity, dress also represents how we communicate from an interactionist stand point. From my readings of “Dress and Identity by Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins and Joanne B. Eicher”, this helps in understanding how much our way of dressing is a means of communication that can bring positive or negative opinions from individuals. As stated in the reading, “From the perspective of symbolic interaction theory, individuals acquire identities through social interaction in various social, physical, and biological settings. So conceptualized, identities are communicated by dress as it announces social positions of wearer to both wearer and observers within an interaction situation. Some identities are assigned at birth. These identities include those associated with body variations according to sex, race, or deviations from average that a society may define as handicaps as well as ethnic category of kinship group”. (Roach-Higgins & Eicher, 1992 p.5)

Furthermore, certain dressing can be subjected to immorality especially amongst women and men. Thousands of pieces are made to embrace the woman’s body but when worn in a manner not appropriate, the wrong impression is gotten and sometimes interpreted as a means of sexuality thereby attracting the wrong attention towards oneself. To enumerate, Older women, married women, and mothers, are culturally desexualized, so dressing in a revealing way is viewed with suspicion and judgment. Older women receive the message and believe they should avoid wearing brightly colored or revealing apparel and choose their clothing with the intent of covering up perceived bodily flaws associated with aging. (Gillen & Montemurro,2013 p.168).

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In addition, in an experiment conducted to determine the influence of subjects’ clothing interests on the perceived influence of dress in the enhancement of occupational attributes, it was observed that females’ clothing interest is higher than males’, a t-test was performed between females’ and males’ clothing interests. Results indicate there was a significant gender difference. (Kwon, 1994, p.37).

Dress supporting the theoretical perspective that identity theory can be referred to as an interaction theory is valid because this is a symbolic interaction. In my findings from a reading, three reasons were outlined as to why individuals act this way. Firstly, we act towards people and things based on the meaning we interpret from them. Next, those meanings are the product of social interaction between people and lastly, meaning-making and understanding is an ongoing interpretive process, during which the initial might remain the same, evolve slightly or change radically. (Cole, 1937, p.2).

Moreover, as this is a world which is constantly evolving, the way people interactionism occurs is ever changing. This is means through which other people’s viewpoint or behavior are understood and sometimes your dress speaks for in situation where the individual themselves would not like to speak. One factor which is pivotal to my viewpoint is the concept of people as constructors of their own actions and meanings, with the focus on individual action rather than wider social structures (Barron & Zeegers, 2015).

In addition to this, because self emerges in and is reflective of society, the sociological approach to understanding the self and its parts (identities) means that we must understand the society in which the self is acting, and keep in mind that the self is always acting in a social context in which other selves exist (Stryker, 1980). Moreover, because dress functions as an effective means of communication during social interaction, it influences peoples' establishing identities of themselves and others (DeLong, 1987).

In conclusion, dress does support the theoretical perspective that identity theory can be referred to as interaction theory because from how we speak, to dressing, to gestures all influence our identity as well as interaction.

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The Dress Influence On Self Identity. (2021, August 23). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from
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