How Clothing is Used as Identity in Amsterdam

By: Sungwoo(Scott) Cho

Clothing is a vital part of life that we can take for granted. However, in the Netherland’s it is used to convey a sense of identity. In Amsterdam, certain groups of people dress a certain way that defines them. In Dibbit’s article, he talks about how the Morrocan-Dutch youth spend twice as much money a year on clothing than other youth their age in the Netherlands. He states that the Morrocan-Dutch youth prefer expensive Italian brands and that their taste in clothing has come to become an identity for them. It is not just the youth where clothing has come to identify them. In Roodenburg’s article, A group of elderly women of Turkish or Morrocan descent lives in the village of Marken that is 20 kilometers north of Amsterdam. Although they few in number women still proudly wear their traditional folk attire and because of their dress they’re seen as a relic of the past and a tourist attraction at best. This idea that clothing promotes identity is not unique to Amsterdam, but it seems to have a bigger impact on society. Clothing supports the status quo, and the way you are dressed in Amsterdam can change your status. Because of this clothing is much more important to the Dutch and it affects the way consumers spend their money.

In the article by Raboteau, she goes over who is Zwarte Piet and why it is celebrated in the Netherlands. She discusses what the holiday is about and why is it celebrated. She also goes over the racist vibe of the holiday as during the festival people are dressed in black face and give out gifts to each other. She finds this holiday to be incredibly racist and is appalled by the fact that people don’t have a problem with it. I believe that this is a horrible and very racist. I also think that because clothing is associated with status quo, the Dutch don’t actually find a problem with this festival. Because it is just seen as a sort of costume for just that holiday, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem in the minds of the Dutch Citizens, and after the festival, they just go back to their daily lives.


6 thoughts on “How Clothing is Used as Identity in Amsterdam

  1. Yes, you’re getting more specific here about how those boys might be using their clothing styles to distinguish themselves on the street. How do you think the context you learn from Buruma might help you further develop that idea? What might their clothing choices mean in the context of those immigration debates and what it means to be “Dutch”? Is it really melting pot (is the US)? or more of a stew or salad? Or maybe it’s soup and a sandwich! How “melted” are any of these cultures? Who wants them to be? Who doesn’t? and how do they express that visually, publicly?


  2. Looking at today’s readings I can see that the Netherlands is very similar to the US in the fact that is is like a melting pot of cultures and religions that all blend together to create modern Dutch citizens. Also similar is the fact that there is some distain towards immigrants within the people. Because there is so many different immigrants and different religions in the Netherlands identity through clothing is more important there. I think is important to distinguish ones self and in a country like the Netherlands where there are many different cultures clothing can be a method create an Identity. For example, the way the Morrcan-Dutch youth or the people in the Zwarte Piet festival dress conveys a sense of identity. For the Moroccan-Dutch youth the clothing they wear makes them different from other Dutch youth and gives then a different identity to the other Dutch youth. For the people that dress up in Zwarte Piet, dressing up in blackface and celebrating the festival conveys a sense of Dutch identity and pride. Although it is quite racist and seem wrong to dress that way, the Dutch enjoy this festival and don’t find the festival to be as bad. However, there is a push to get rid of the festival I don’t believe they will get rid of the festival, they might change it to be less offensive and more welcoming to all but I feel the principle behind the festival conveys Dutch identity and pride because it is only celebrated in the Netherlands.


  3. Nice way to bring Zwarte Piet under the rubric of the other two studies–this represents a more “shallow” or temporary donning of clothing and not a fundamental componenent of identity? But I wonder what would happen if you applied the methods of Dibbits &/or of Roodenburg to the Zwarte Piet costumers? I wonder what they’d say about their participation? Do you think it could have something to do with their Dutch identity? and could it be working in a way that might be very different from the ways race works inthe US? –or not? after all, there is a big push within the Netherlands to get ride of Piet, coming both from immigrants/descendants & from white Dutch, esp. of a younger generation. What role do you think this contest plays in current Dutch identity?


  4. I agree wholeheartedly with your assertions about the Zwarte Piet festival, but wonder how you think to best remedy this lack of context on behalf of the Dutch? Raboteau mentions that the Netherlands never went through a harrowing Civil rights strife like America. The Dutch never had Emmett Tills or Michael Browns. How can the Dutch learn from their mistakes without going through a harrowing crisis that puts Dutch lives at risk? Furthermore, I wonder if other countries and nationalities not from America see the festival in the same light as the Dutch, or are more aware of the racist connotations than the Dutch are.
    For the clothing reading, I also agree with your statement that clothing is one way of showing one’s place in the status quo. I wonder how much advertising and media play into this status quo through clothing in Amsterdam?


  5. You mention Dibbet’s article and the identity associated with Moroccan Dutch youths that purchase expensive Italian labels. However, you do not mention the baggy streetwear or the traditional religious clothing. I want to know what you think of the variety of identities associated with one group of people. Also, what did you think of the “authentic” aspect of identity to Moroccan Dutch youths? While we as outsiders label them based on their clothing, do you agree that these youths purposely dress the way they do to identity to a certain group?

    In regard to your second paragraph, looking at the Sinterklaas parade and Zwarte Piet through an objective eye without placing any of your own opinions onto the topic, can you see why the Dutch feel so strongly about this character? Try to put yourself in their shoes, they’ve never been taught their controversial history and now people are coming forward claiming this fun loving tradition is racist. Do you blame them for not recognizing the racist connotations behind Zwarte Piet? How do you think society should handle Zwarte Piet and the Sinterklaas parade in the future?


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