Fashion and Identity: The Psychology of What We Wear

Whether you keep up with trends or not, fashion has significant implications for the way we experience ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us. Here are a few critical aspects of what’s going on behind the clothing and accessories we choose.

Symbolic Meaning

You can flip to any moment in history and see how fashion trends of the time hold meaning that we can still recognize and understand today. Clothing and accessories have long been tools to separate and distinguish groups of people based on class and status.

Let’s take, for example, the wristwatch. This iconic piece of men’s fashion has stood the test of time. A watch in itself is a statement of pride and intelligence, but the specific type of watch also speaks volumes to the wearer’s character. For example, the luxury brands available with Precision Watches carry an air of sophistication and wealth, while digital, non-metal watches appear more rugged and functional. 

In a society with shared cultural understandings, fashion objects hold symbolic meanings that provide universal insights into the wearer’s attributes. Being aware of the symbolic value of an accessory or piece of clothing can help you present yourself in a way that aligns with your sense of self.

Sense of Self

Contrary to what many believe, menare more self-conscious of their fashion choices than women, especially concerning public self-consciousness. What we wear has immense power to influence how we feel about ourselves. Similarly, we try to exemplify how we feel about ourselves through our clothing choices. 

This cyclical dynamic shows the integral component of dress in forming and expressing our self-identity. It is why, for example, there is great power in wearing uniforms in the military, as uniform dress establishes a common identity among members. 

Similarly, a casual dress code in a professional setting promotes team-building among colleagues by allowing individuals to feel comfortable and express their sense of self through their attire. 

External Validation

Research has shown that, when it comes to expressing a sense of self through clothing and accessories, we put equal importance on how people perceive us as we do on how we perceive ourselves. 

You get up in the morning and put on your best suit, ready to head out into the world. You believe you are clearly and accurately representing yourself as professional, confident, and capable. If colleagues give you feedback through body language and social interaction, that suggests they perceive you as you feel. You receive validation and are encouraged to continue with this behavior and presentation.

But suppose you meet with negative social cues that don’t validate your sense of self. It may cause you to reassess your choice of clothing. Alternatively, it may subconsciously encourage you to mold your behavior to match how others perceive you.  

Using Fashion to Get Ahead

The more you understand the influence that fashion choices can have on your sense of self and how people perceive you, the more you can make decisions that align with who you want to be. 




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I work as a full time hair stylist but love writing about life. I hope to become a full time writer one day and spend all my time sharing my experience with you!

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