What is that message? Well, it really depends on the day. Take me, right now, for instance. As I write this I’m sitting in bed, wearing some Harry Potter Pj’s, now these pjs can convey a few different messages.
- I’m a Harry Potter fan (And I want to broadcast it)
- I’m getting ready for bed (Hence the pj’s)
- The real reason, they’re comfy and I haven’t bothered to actually change into clothes today
McLuhan (1964) says a “message” is something that introduces a change of scale, pace or pattern in human affairs. At first this sounds very ambiguous, yes the newest iPhone can change the lives of those who use it, but how does what I’m wearing have anything to do with it? Well, not only does clothing change the ‘pattern[s]’ we as people take (it influences our fashion choices, where and how we shop, who we shop with etc.), but it influences how others perceive us, and can potentially change them as well, therefore affecting their interactions with the world.
How you view me (and my clothes) depends on your perspective, not only how well you know me as a person, but the experiences that have shaped you, your gender, age, ethnicity and a range of other things that encompass you (Fiske and Jenkins, 2010).
Let’s give another example.
This is me, dressed to go to the local Vintage Fair, this was pretty short notice (we’d only decided to attend the day prior) but luckily I had enough to pull together a passable outfit.
Now, looking at me from the perspective of others at that Fair, I fit in, I match the expectation’s of one in that situation (Even if only a handful of the participants did actually dress up). But to the everyday person on the street I could be a number of things; a Cosplayer, someone doing a Photo shoot or someone who just really appreciates 50s fashion. You could see me as cool, inspiring or… kind of odd, depending on your perception of the aforementioned ideas.
Again, we have two very different ‘versions’ of me. In the first I was at the Grounds of Alexandria during their Elton John exhibit, wearing a t-shirt from the concert and some ‘edgy’ makeup (if I do say so myself). In the second I’m dressed casually in my favourite jeans and a simple top in deference to the hot weather.
Both outfits present different ‘sides’ of myself, and will be perceived differently by each person who sees them. The photos were taken by the same person (my sister) in very different environments – this too is important, as the environment one is in can affect their perception.
What I’m trying to say here is that yes, your clothes are a message. Weather you consciously decide to be ‘cute’, or ‘edgy’ or ‘casual’ or you’ve just thrown on the cleanest things you own, they affect how the wider world perceives you. To some people this seemed like a shock, that the amount of effort you do (or don’t) put into your appearance can really have that much of a difference. But for me this is something I’m keenly aware of.
“If men find out we can rearrange the bones of our face, we’re finished.”Sailor J
My relatives often ask me, why do you wear makeup? Do you feel insecure? Do you want boys to think you look pretty?
No. I wear makeup because I know it makes me look good. Yes, I look perfectly fine without makeup, but I can’t resist the temptation of perfectly blended eye-shadow or a bold lipstick. I don’t wear makeup for others, I wear it for myself. Now, this tangent is relevant to the topic at hand. Speaking in general terms, it is the media who influence how people perceive those who wear makeup, be it in a positive or negative light. As have people’s own life experiences. It’s my Nanna who asks if I want to wear makeup to appeal to others, but my friends (who have similar experiences to my own) who compliment the amount of glitter I’ve managed to put on my eyes.
References: Fiske, J. and Jenkins, H., 2010. Introduction To Communication Studies. 3rd ed. London [England]: Routledge, pp.157-169. McLuhan, M., 1964. UNDERSTANDING MEDIA : THE EXTENSIONS OF MAN. NEW YORK: NEW AMERICAN LIBRARY, pp.1-18.
Hey Streff! Really great blog post, definitely makes you think about how things as normal as clothes can communicate so many different messages. I know I personally have particular styles that I like to go for but I have never thought to think about what message i could be communicating to others without eating knowing.
I guess my only suggestion would be to possibly think about what other mediums our messages are conveyed through, and moreso, on what scale are they? e.g. a simple hairstyle or something more obvious like a social media post.
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omg i just saw the typo in you’re name in my other comment hahah so sorry about that!!
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