Freitas, Anthony, Susan Kaiser, Joan Chandler, Carol Hall, Jung-Won Kim, and Tania Hammidi. 1997. “Appearance Management as Border Construction: Least Favorite Clothing, Group Distancing, and Identity… Not!”. Sociological Inquiry 67(3): 323-335.

Even though appearance and identity have been usually discussed as negotiators of who we are, this paper looks at how appearance can construct who we are not – as investigated through least favorite clothing items, or items of clothing avoided.  “How do we use clothes to negotiate tenuous, fragile, and elastic self/other, past/present, and present/future relations?” (323).

Davis (1992): appearance management shares in “the work of ambivalence management as much as does any other self-communicative device at our disposal” (25, here 324) – requiring consistent maintenance and management in advanced capitalist economy.

“This marketplace provides fuel for ongoing appearance management and identity work by offering an eclectic array of commodities from which one can select and begin to aggregate alternative appearance styles (Kaiser, Nagasawa, and Hutton 1991). Simultaneously, individuals try on diverse and intersecting identities for size as they test, express, construct, interpret, and gauge identities in the context of self/other appraisals/relations and cultural discourses” (324).

SI notes appearance management as central to identity construction, offering choice (agency), interaction-based meanings, and interpersonal negotiation.  Also, “fosters an awareness of actions and transactions that enables individuals to vie for preferred identities in the face of stigmatizing or discrediting social labels. Stone (1962) begins to approach notions of identification and disidentification when he notes the situated nature of identities, allowing individuals to be drawn together while also setting them apart from one another” (324).

Butler (1993) – power circulates through discourses, which also includes the materiality of bodies

“Most authors tend to address the conditions affecting the stigmatized more than they address the thought processes of those doing the stigmatizing” (324).

Negotiating identities (or distancing from some identities) requires internal evaluation of self-expression (or lack of desire in these). “Davis (1992, p. 24) characterizes this process as “inner voices” engaged in a dialogue of identity construction and border maintenance: “Whom do I wish to please, and in so doing whom am I likely to offend? What are the consequences of appearing as this kind of person as against that kind? Does the image I think I convey of my self reflect my true innermost self or some specious version thereof? Do I wish to conceal or reveal?” (333-334).


Butler, Judith. 1993. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge.

Davis, Fred. 1992. Fashion. Culture, and Identity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Kaiser, Susan B.. Richard H. Nagasawa, and Sandra S. Hutton. 1991. “Fashion, Postmodernity and Personal Appearance: A Symbolic Interactionist Formulation.” Symbolic Interaction 14: 165-85.

Stone. Gregory P. 1962. “Appearance and the Self.” Pp. 86-1 18 in Human Behavior and Social Processes, edited by Arnold Rose.  Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.


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