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Style and the consumer

The question Who am I? is one which is as likely to be answered in

terms of consumption patterns as it is in terms of an occupational role by
many people in western capitalism. (Bocock, 1993:109)
Is it possible to express personal identity through consumer goods,
such as clothing, when they have been designed and provided with an image
by others?
By Jaina Shah
I will be discussing to what lengths personal identity is expressed through
occupational role and consumption patterns; how it is portrayed through
personal preferences and how might that affect the original image presented
through clothing. In addition to this I will be looking further into identity being
revealed in various cultures and how clothing has been designed with an
image by society.
We all derive identity from what is around us and what is given to us. We are
all born as one simple soul trapped inside the body given to us by DNA and
biological processes over which we have no control. We then begin to build
ourselves a personality, which we create from qualities that we latch on to.
Identity follows requiring personal choice whether it is the clothes we wear or
the occupation we have.
Identity and fashion are closely linked. Fashion expresses and shapes our
identity as well us portraying our social and economical class, helping us to
understand who we really are, however according to Coco Chanel Fashion is
not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street.
Fashion has to do with the ideas, the way we live, what is happening Fashion
is what is around us, whether it be the colours, shapes, or texture, Fashion is
built to portray identity which is called style. If your style is still there even
when the clothes are stripped then your identity is still very much alive.
Appearance style is a metaphor for identity; it is a complex metaphor that
includes physical features (for example, skin, bodily shape, hair texture) as
well as clothing and grooming practices. Your physical features cannot be
changed however can be modified, you cannot change the colour of your skin
or the texture of your hair but you can modify them with tattoos, colour,
piercings. By modifying your body to the way that suits you, you automatically
create an identity for yourself without the need of style, however it is the
clothing that places you in categories.
Our occupation also has an impact on who we are in this world. Many people
will express themselves by their role, I am a doctor. I am a dancer which
offers a status with their identity. Whether they are dressed in their attire of the
occupation or not, simply by stating the role automatically creates class for
themselves. These clothes represent a persons clothes in society rather than
who they really are. During the younger years we were constantly asked what
do you want to be when you grow up to which we answered with the thing
that excites us the most, and growing up we tend to answer first with our
occupational role and then the personal facts about our life. Christiansen
(1999, 2000, 2004) was the first scholar to make an explicit connection
between occupation and individuals personal and social identity (Shanon
Phelan & Elizabeth Anne Kinsella- 2009) when we build our identities through

occupations, we provide ourselves with the contexts necessary for creating

meaningful lives, and life meaning helps us to be well (1999, p. 547).
Christiansen (1999). There are four ways to perceive occupation and identity.
One, that Identity that is forms and is formed by others, two, that our identity
relates to what we do, three, that identity provides a main focus in our
everyday lives and four, that it helps us promote well-being and satisfaction in
Many people are often advertised by what they do, for example, Obama
Barack is not portrayed as a loving father and husband who loves the NBA, as
much as he is portrayed being president of the United States of America.
Society portrays him by his occupational role and that influences what he
wears. It would be seen as unprofessional for him to be seen in a full tracksuit
because of the status of his role and position to his society. However being
president only expresses his identity to a minimal level, as he is not allowed to
fully express himself, which holds him back. This could be interpreted in two
ways. One, that his occupational role is who he is and is what identifies him to
society, meaning that his role has built up an identity for him and secondly that
your role automatically gives you an identity to which society portrays you to
be hence being unable to express his true identity and who he is within
himself. Stating your occupational role does not always define who you are
but does have a big part to play in what you are.
The significance of certain clothing has changed over time. Punk fashion was
originally an expression of nonconformity. It often expresses aggression and
rebellion. Punks cut up clothes from charity and thrift shops refashioning
outfits. Trousers were torn and ripped, and wore heavy Doc Martens footwear.
Safety pins and chains were used instead of stitching to hold fabric together.
Face and body piercings were places in uncommon areas as was quite
unusual to society even after 1960s where freedom began. (Pauline Weston
Thomas Fashion Era) Black leather jackets with silver spikes, cut out
clothing and Docs were symbolic to punks however Fashion has managed to
change the perspective of this and is now considered a mainstream line of
clothing. what was once unusual then, is now common today. Leather jackets
today are much of a preference and do not symbolise the image of a punk as
it used to before. However the spiked hair is still being noticed as punk.
However some can argue if the whole outfit was paired together there would
be a clear image of punk being portrayed.
I believe that clothing can portray identity regardless of what image has been
provided. With the fashion market constantly growing and producing a variety
of goods it is almost impossible for items of clothing not to go together. With
fashion trends constantly changing and new garments being produced
everyday finding your own identity is not difficult as it once was before.
Nowadays you are able to change styles, dress down or up with one item of
clothing. For example, the pencil skirt designed by Christian Dior were
commonly known as an office wear item that would be worn when within the
workforce, (The Makers Atelier) however it can now be worn with almost
anything. You can style this item of clothing to make it your complete own.
With a shirt, blazer and heels it would be more of an office wear but with a

crop top and trainers it would be more a teenagers attire. You can dress it
down by adding a floral pattern to the skirt and a t-shirt with some barely there
sandals or dress it up with a plain block colour outfit, some heels and a clutch.
It also is common in girls uniforms with the pencil skirt coming at the knees,
socks or tights, flat shoes and a tie. This item of clothing has transformed for
many ages and with the different colours, shapes, fabrics and stitching it is
almost impossible not to dress it how you like it. This goes for almost any
clothing such as jeans, heels, vests etc.