clothing as an identity

Topics: Money, Lie, Clothing Pages: 5 (1181 words) Published: June 16, 2014


The Creation of Identity Through Clothing

Lurie(1983) states that “ for thousand of years human beings have communicated with one another first in the language of dress”. This derives the notion that one showcases themselves to others in the manner to which they self style. On lookers draw conclusion about ones social status, profession, personality, sub-culture and mood. Lurie compares language to clothing. It’s a language yet not spoken, she alludes that “if clothing is a language it must have a vocabulary and grammar like other languages”(Lurie,1983)

This essay will explore the idea of clothing as an identity, a non-communicative tool in which one adopts to self-construct a perception that is farthest from the truth. Lurie’s text serves as a superimposed ideology to which this essay will examine and illustrate how the Sapeurs and the Izikothane choose to separated themselves from social conformism and create identities that are self fulfilling and juxtaposed with their surrounding or reality norms.

Lies and Disguises

“ Perhaps the most difficult of sartorial communication is the fact that any language that is able to convey information can also be used convey misinformation”(Lurie,1983) . Lurie’s text suggests that as humans we can lie with our clothing just as we would in our different dialects. What we are versus what we wear to communicate who we are or feel may be the same as communication in words. “A sartorial lie can be white like Cinderella’s ball gown, it may be grey, and it could be downright black as in the case of a spy in a stolen military uniform”(Lurie,1983).

Djo Balard- a Congolese dandy- (1989)(Gondola) said, “If you are well dressed, all doors are open to you…Africans who live here [in Europe] pay attention to what they wear. If they don’t have anything to wear, they prefer not return home for vacation. Djo Balard confessed these truths to Afrique Elite [a French magazine] in 1989, to which one can absorb the notion that as people we create our own identities through clothing and have the clothing pronounce us.

The Sapeurs are an African sub-culture originally from the Congo, with an insatiable appetite for designer wear, who had sought refuge in fashionable Europe (Paris). Djo Balard lived in Paris as an immigrant of modest means, famous for his elaborate style, that was replete with the most expensive designer suits (Gondola,2010). La Sape [Sociètè des Ambianceurs et des Personners Éléntes] an exclusive club to which the Sapeurs [sape stems dress in French](Gondola,2010) rise from, the basis of which is from the exclusivity of their griffe (designer labels). The elegant gentlemen of the Congo are members of La Sape who have their own code of honor, codes of professional conduct and strict notions of morality. It’s a discipline, a lifestyle, a life choice adopted by the refugee gentlemen –an identity that Congolese became. While living in poor squatters of Paris, they chose to invest in the latest fashions, versus concentrating on creating, accumulating wealth for a better life (Gondola, 2010). The Congolese originators, created new identities to fit in with the European incumbents in order to blur the lines with their griffe. Having left their mother land in search of “greener pastors”, the young men were able to have magical clothing that created a sense of power and control in a world that was riddled with very little certainty (Lurie,1983). Through the blurred lines of class, social status the Sapeurs, were able to acquire status. Herein lies the power of deception. With the latest designer threads the power of the lie, lies in the dress. When the Sapeurs return to their homelands, the perception of wealth, aristocracy is bestowed upon them, and thus the power of deception is achieved. Some may not return for years because they have not acquired enough designer clothing, and believe they cannot be seen. Djo Balard said, “ There were people who haven’t gone back...
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