Franz Boas on Fashion Deviation
Franz Boas believes that, any action that differs from those performed by us habitually strikes us immediately as ridiculous or objectionable (Jacobus, 606). This is true, particularly when it comes to deviations from the implied dress code of society. Boas uses examples such as: formal dress worn in casual places, and out of style clothes from past centuries worn today. When we see this, we automatically think the person wearing these things is outlandish.
Culture in San Antonio, Texas is very diverse and there are many different opinions of what is acceptable to wear and what is unacceptable. In some communities, people are dressed in exceedingly baggy pants and t-shirts. In other areas the dress is more traditional: nice pants, shirts and classy dresses. In each region, if someone strays from these guidelines, they are immediately thought to be abnormal.
Dress isnt an indication of sanity, but people often treat it like it is. They label those who dress differently as weird and treat them crudely, unjustifiably. In most cases, when someone strays from the normal code of dress, the person is simply trying to express him/herself. They feel the need to be independent and individual, so they do something different from what everyone else conforms to. They like and accept who they are, and they show it through their clothing. They arent trying to make a scene, or cause a stir, they do it for themselves.
In some cases, however, the non-conformists are trying to arouse reactions from those around them. They are seeking attention, and by wearing unusual clothing they usually get it. Your eye is naturally drawn to something out of the ordinary. If in a sea of people dressed in black there is a man wearing bright orange, who is your attention focused upon? The orange guy, of course! These days, there are more and more orange guys out there. People want to be noticed, so they do something like wear eccentric clothing to get recognition. It has almost become fashionable to be unfashionably dressed.
Reactions to unique dress vary from person to person, depending upon what he is used to. For someone who grew up in the past, in a pleasant town where all the boys dress in nice slacks and collared shirts, seeing a young boy walk across the street wearing baggy jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt is uncanny. They automatically stereotype that boy as being unkempt and disobedient because they have always been taught that the traditional way to dress is the right way to dress. Those living in a big city, where there are all different kinds of people, are used to seeing people dressed in dissimilar ways. There would hardly be a reaction to the sight of the same unkempt boy in such a society.
Boas showed that each culture is distinct, and culture is based upon tradition. Today, changes in our culture are rapid, endless, and sometimes traumatic (Jacobus, 600). Cultures are becoming unstable, and peoples views are becoming more unconventional. People are drifting from their traditional culture and are feeling more freedom. One of the ways they take advantage of this newfound freedom, is by deviating from the normal code of dress. Deviations from the norm are often strongly resented, and judgment is placed upon people simply because of what they are wearing.
Although some people view those who are individualistic to be bizarre, the opinion of the general public is becoming more receptive. People are becoming more accepting and willing to look past appearances and see the person inside.
Social Issues Essays