Fashion, culture, and identity


Both people and culture have always been leaving mark on clothes they wear. The two are leaving the strongest impact on somebody’s style and are presenting a person’s identity in the best way.

What is fashion?

Fashion, a general term for a currently popular style or practice, especially in clothing, foot wear, or accessories (see Fashion references to anything that is the current trend in look and dress up of a person. The more technical term, costume, has become so linked in the public eye with the term “fashion” that the more general term “costume” has in popular use mostly been relegated to special senses like fancy dress or masquerade wear, while the term “fashion” means clothing generally, and the study of it. For a broad cross-cultural look at clothing and its place in society, refer to the entries for clothing, costume, and fabrics. The remainder of this article deals with clothing fashions in the Western world. [1]

What is culture?

In the twentieth century, “culture” emerged as a concept central to anthropology, encompassing all human phenomena that are not purely results of human genetics. Specifically, the term “culture” in American anthropology had two meanings: (1) the evolved human capacity to classify and represent experiences with symbols, and to act imaginatively and creatively; and (2) the distinct ways that people living in different parts of the world classified and represented their experiences, and acted creatively. Following World War II, the term became important, albeit with different meanings, in other disciplines such as cultural studies, organizational psychology and management studies.[2]

What is identity?

Identity is an umbrella term used throughout the social sciences to describe a person’s conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations (such as national identity and cultural identity). The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology. The term is also used with respect to place identity. A psychological identity relates to self-image (a person’s mental model of him or herself), self-esteem, and individuality. An important part of identity in psychology is gender identity, as this dictates to a significant degree how an individual views him or herself both as a person and in relation to other people, ideas and nature. In cognitive psychology, the term “identity” refers to the capacity for self-reflection and the awareness of self (Leary & Tangney 2003, p. 3). [3]

For hundreds of years people have put some message in the type of clothing they wore. Long ago people started wanting to stand out from the “crowd” and be different from other people by means of changing their clothing. Some examples of these “standing out” became very popular and were followed by more people. This was the moment when fashion appeared.
The type of clothing completely depends on the person who is wearing it; therefore it becomes a reflection of his perception of himself, which leads us to the term – personal identity. [4]

What do our clothes say about who we are or who we think we are? How does the way we dress communicate messages about our identity? Is the desire to be “in fashion” universal, or is it unique to Western culture? How do fashions change? These are just a few of the intriguing questions Fred Davis sets out to answer in this provocative look at what we do with our clothesÑand what they can do to us. Much of what we assume to be individual preference, Davis shows, really reflects deeper social and cultural forces. Ours is an ambivalent social world, characterized by tensions over gender roles, social status, and the expression of sexuality. Predicting what people will wear becomes a risky gamble when the link between private self and public persona can be so unstable. [5]


It was said long time ago that clothes do not make a man but it can also be disputed if we think harder. The clothes we wear can show to which culture we belong, how rich or poor we are or what kind of music we listen to. However, at the same time the choice of clothes can present a person’s original, individual style painting a picture about their unique self and showing us who they as the first impression. We shouldn’t pass judgement based on somebody’s clothes but enjoy the creativity and individuallity of somebody’s clothing choice.


[5] ‘Fashion, Culture, And Identity’ by Davis, Fred

Cite this article:
Ivanovic J (2011-10-12 06:38:48). Fashion, culture, and identity. Australian Science. Retrieved: Apr 24, 2014, from


AUTHOR: Josip Ivanovic