Fashion has many meanings in society. It conveys identity, personality, group belonging and more. Clothing can be political and it can be art. One of the things that clothing almost always is is a symbol of social status.
Social status is defined as “a person’s standing or importance in relation to other people within a society.” In other words, it is an indicator of how important one is in a certain group’s hierarchy. As much as we’d dislike it, hierarchies are embedded in our minds. In each group, may it be a small group of friends, a city, a country or any other type of group, there is a social hierarchy. On the top of the hierarchy are the leaders of that group. They are the most developed and the most advanced people of the group, according to the standards and aspirations of that respective group.
Being on top of the hierarchy is usually defined by various traits, but the core characteristics of that top are usually the same. People who are on the top of the hierarchy are the ones who can establish a sense of the group: they define it, they create and implement directions and care for the needs of the members of the group.
Having a high standing in the group comes with many privileges, but also with responsibly and being able to maintain that status is an indicator of a person who can handle these responsibilities and is therefore more powerful.
Clothing has a very interesting way of mixing into these concepts. There are two main aspects of how clothes can indicate status.
Clothing and accessories can indicate status by having a great aesthetic. If someone’s clothes look impeccable and their overall presentation is clean and polished, they convey a sense of being balanced, structured and attentive. In a way, the visual characteristics of a good outfit, namely balance, structure and careful detailing are projected onto the person. Basically, the way they look is perceived by others as the way someone is.
It may seem a trick, but usually people who do understand these things about clothes also pay attention to the other architectural structures of their lives. Yes, you can dress to the nines but be a mess, but that will soon show in your body language and posture and that will ruin the image. Having a bad posture in bad clothes will automatically communicate that you are worn by your clothes, and by not really owning them you will translate as fake.
Another very strong indicator of power in society is the brand a garment is made by. Designer clothes may be better than the average piece of clothing, but they aren’t that much better. What makes them separate from the crowd is the label.
Labels are an indicator of power as they are known to be pricey. This implies that the wearer has enough money to spend on clothes, which means that he has a lot of money and therefore a lot of power. Having a lot of money implies for many power and dominance which implies security. Security is one thing that almost everyone in the world strives for; it’s a very sought-for thing, mostly by people who are themselves not secure.
The problem with brands however is that they don’t necessarily convince many people. They might convince some that the wearer is strong and rich, but a good amount of people are not going to be fooled by the label on a jacket. They will want to see character. And while a label cannot give a man character, the illusion of grandeur can enhance his attitude. If you know you are wearing $10,000 worth of clothes, you might feel like you are really great. However, that is not a very good technique, as you need to be able to maintain that attitude even when you, say can’t afford to wear expensive clothes anymore. Clothing should never be crutch on which you rely; it must only be a tool that can help you.
Fashion and clothing in general has a tremendous impact not only on the way we feel and view ourselves, but also on the connections we establish among each other. They fulfill an important role in interpersonal communication and often act as a quick point of reference when we interact with someone.
Fraquoh and Franchomme
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