Whether we like it or not, the clothes we wear can send powerful signals about our self-image, personality, attitudes and social status, and are one of clearest displays of our cultural references. Sometimes this is intentional: Our choice of clothing can influence others’ perception of us: consider how differently you would choose to dress for a job interview or for a party or a formal event. If you see someone in sportswear do you imagine them to be a fit and healthy person? When you see someone wearing bright colours or bold fashions do you think of them as confident?

Clothing is strongly influenced by the country or community in which we live: it’s cultural heritage, customs, attitudes towards gender, hierarchical systems and climate. It is also one of the clearest indicators of the progress of globalisation, with mass-market fast-fashion now readily available across the world, and the internet providing a global shop-window for clothing retail. What impact does this have on your choice of clothing? Do you dress according to your nation’s cultural traditions or the customs of your society, or do you have a more individual style? Is it a mixture of all three, and if so do you dress differently when you interact with your different social groups? Does your behaviour change when you change your clothes?

Take a look at the following articles and consider whether you think that the information they provide about everyday clothing in your country is accurate, or is the reality more diverse. Consider the type of clothes you wear, what your friends wear, and what is worn by the other people in your social networks. Thinking of the people that you know well, do you think that their clothing choices in some way reflect their cultural influences and their personality? Make some notes about what you think your clothing choices say about you in the “Surface Culture” section of your worksheet.

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