The multiple and unseen purposes of clothing


The articles are similar in that they focus on dress, appearance, and identity. They approach the concepts differently, but what I noticed was that they shifted the status quo. They recognized that the focus is all too often on people and dress and less on motives for dressing a certain way.

People tell stories, but so does clothing. In Moroccan Dutch Boys and the Authentication of Clothing Styles by Hester Dibbits, it’s clear that the clothing that Dutch-Moroccan boys spend above average amounts of money on is the key to status in a streetwear-based youth culture. A Parallel in the US is the streetwear/skate brand, Supreme. This story of authentication of status via fashion is a story that most people don’t contemplate when they think about fashion. Therefore, it shifts the status quo about how people view clothing and its purposes. Clothing also tells a different story. For example, the antieke goed in the Their Own Heritage: Women Wearing Traditional Costumes in the Village of Marken article by Herman Roodenburg, clothing serves a purpose to promote status. Churchgoing girls wear this unique dress and must maintain an outward appearance to preserve their family’s reputation. The clothing serves another purpose, however. It provides a social fabric to the context. The reception of the goed is based on inheritance. This allows the clothing itself to occupy a cultural nook uninhabitable by any other component. It is uniquely Dutch, and while there might be close cultural parallels, it is singular nonetheless.

This unique Dutch flavor also shifts the status quo about clothing. It elevates the way the consumer and the layman thinks about the purpose of clothing, material, and other aspects. These articles elevated clothing and appearance in an original way, and I enjoyed reading them.

In reference to a previous point about narrative and perspective, these academic journals were a bit dense, but very interesting. I had no trouble reading them because I found the subject matter to be incredibly interesting. I am always interested in streetwear, fashion, and design, so this was not a challenge for me. They might be difficult to read compared to an informal first-person narrative, but they were still accessible.


7 thoughts on “The multiple and unseen purposes of clothing

  1. How does Buruma’s observations and stories inform your (re) reading of these articles? What kinds of cultural statements are these people making with their choices? What are they saying about themselves as individuals? or as members of a group? or as Dutch? (and what does “Dutch” mean, then?).

    On the questions your peers asked about the hijab, that’s an interesting one. My understanding is that it can have many different meanings, some of them religious, some of the cultural. And those can change over time–there were women in France, say, who were devout Muslims but who did not wear the hijab for religious reasons but rather for reasons of cultural identity. The reasons may also be individual. So, how do we know? and what do we do with the myriad of misreadings? (e.g., the assumptions many white people make about black teenagers wearing hoodies?) That’s part of the negotiation of public space, right?


  2. Nice contrast here you’re drawing between the two cases–one participating in international mass market in clothing styles, where those boys may be signaling those larger, trans-national (globalist?) connections vs. the women of Marken who are articulating extremely local meanings probably only understood locally (or misunderstood by tourists). I’m wondering more specifically what you thought of the two scholars’ methods? Which seemed more productive or interesting? what would you add or change if you were to conduct such a study or apply it to, say, US skater culture/fashion?


    1. I thought the critical analysis of the scholars to be very insightful. To examine the clothing trends using immigration and linguistic patterns was very informative, and displayed how different cultures saw clothing and other concepts through different lenses. The differentiation was easier to make, and the Dutch point of view became easier to understand.

      The Dibbits article was more interesting to me. mostly because of how thorough it was with respect to different waves of immigration. I would have liked to read more of the Dibbits journal if given the chance.

      If given the chance to do so, I would focus on social media and its effects on U.S. streetwear and skate wear. A lot of the fashion ideas people collect comes from the internet, and so by examining the impact of social media, one can understand the American consumer on a more intimate level.


  3. I agree with your statement that clothing in the Netherlands affects status quo and how clothing conveys a social status. I understand this concept really well because it is similar in Korea. In Korea, young adults dress a certain way and the style there is unique and I am usually immediately recognized as a foreigner even though I am also Korean. However, what is different in Korea is that we still wear the traditional dress the hanbok and it is common in some areas of Korea to see people wearing hanbok. This is unlike in the Netherlands where a select few the elderly where their traditional dress. I wonder why that is and why in the Netherlands and why the traditional dress is no longer worn in the Netherlands?


    1. Its interesting that you feel that were you’re from. It must be a strange feeling to feel foreign in a place where you instinctively should be at home. I think what you’re getting at is most likely related to social change and where it was strongest. There also may be economic reasons for this shift away from tradition dress in the Netherlands and the continuation in Korea.


  4. I am curious to what you think about the Market population that decided to go ‘in burger.’ Do you think that they no longer hold the same identity as those who continue to wear the traditional clothing? If you argue no, then what do you think about Muslim women who decide not to wear a hijab? Do you think that they don’t identify as strongly to their culture as the women who do? Personally, I think that while clothing can tell stories and histories there is a limitation to how much clothing can tell us about a person’s identity. What do you think?

    Also, you mention that the academic articles were a bit dense. So, I’m interested in what you have to say about Karskens observational, photographic essay about prostitution in Amsterdam. Do you think that Karsken’s article can yield the same amount of information that an academic paper can? Also what do you think about the accessibility of Karsken’s piece to the general public? Do you think more people can relate to images than to text?


    1. I do believe that by not continuing the clothing tradition, they have left behind some part of that cultural identity to form a new one. This does not make them less Dutch, but it makes them a different Dutch.

      With regard to the hijab, that is more religious, but I don’t think that wearing or not wearing the hijab is indicative of cultural ties. I agree with your comment about the limitations of clothing and identity, but subtle cues like the discontinuation of seemingly insignificant cultural practices can actually signal larger social schisms that reveal larger issues.

      I liked Karsken’s essay. I enjoy having images accompanying text. However, there are limitations to this method. Short form pieces lack depth of analysis and structure that long form articles, like ones in the New Yorker, have. For me its hard not to enjoy this style, but it does not reveal as much or more than an academic piece like the Dibbits piece. I think people think they relate more to images, but it is all about content, and how that content is conveyed. How it is conveyed via text could have more of an impact than a poorly chosen image. This is very dependent upon context.


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