Boys’ Clothing – A Form of Identification

Much has been made in the media of the subcultures within youth groups today. During the 1970s punk era in the UK boys wore outrageous Mohican hairstyles, giant coxcombs in leery colours, blazers with a multitude of badges and safety pins, tight jeans often in tartan and as much clashing of patterns and colours as could be accomplished by the wearer. It was a statement and followed the trends set by disgruntled musicians who wanted more control over their music and the right to be artistically free. Ironically this anti-authority movement that castigated those who conformed drew many followers who adopted the ‘uniform’ and attitude it was anathema to their beliefs. Individuality was the mantra and soon everyone was being ‘individual’ and looking frighteningly similar. C’est la vie!

It’s easy to identify with which groups an individual associates through their style of dress. Different categories have their sub domains but as a generalisation it is easy to typify rock fans, hip-hop fans, skate boarders, surfers, football fans, skinheads, Chavs, eco-warriors, hippies, jocks, Emos, Goths and more. Along with the clothing the individuals wear, hairstyles, accessories and make-up can also provide hints. Sometimes school rules prevent boys from growing their hair or dying it or shaving their heads so they can’t always pull off the complete look and they compensate for that by making sure the clothing at least is right. Piercings and make-up might not be permitted by the authority figure in their lives either so again it is through clothing that self-expression can be best achieved for outward appearance. Through trying to be different and asserting their individuality they become followers who belong to a particular category of subculture – even if they are unsure of all the connotations associated with the perception of that group.

The fashion name Burberry was delighted with the increased sales that came with the popularity of their range of clothing and distinctive plaid design that young people adopted some years back but they were devastated that their long cultivated brand image was being damaged by the new customers parading a tasteless overkill of their designs. The behaviour of their new customers, taking plenty of space in fashion magazines as celebrities caught by the paparazzi, caused them to distance themselves from their new customer base as their older (and wealthier) customers no longer wished to be associated with what had been an exclusive brand worn only by the rich and the aristocracy. The new young customers had aspired to the lifestyle presented in the glossy magazines that had been the stronghold of wealthy nobility and the new nouveau riche wanted a piece of it for themselves. Again a statement – I’m as good as you and if I can afford it, I’ll wear it.

Eventually boys will develop their own sense of fashion and mix and match items from different collections and designers to suit the person they feel they want to be when they wear clothing they have selected from the rails in stores and boutiques for them selves. Until that time they are limited to expressing their identities through the well intentioned purchases of their parents and the few favoured items they have managed to get for themselves.