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Dress and American Youth

America today is an imitative society. To some extent it always has been, with people imitating those in a social class or group to which they themselves would like to belong. With the proliferation of media images through film, television, magazines, and the like, America has become even more imitative of certain cultural icons. The youth of America is perhaps the most imitative class of all because they are at an age when they feel a strong need to belong. Gang styles have become accepted across class lines by young people because they are imitating rock singers, television actors, and others they admire, and in the process of adopting different clothing styles, much of the original meaning is either muted or lost, transformed into a lower level of rebellion than is intended by the gang members themselves. One problem this creates, though, is that the clothing itself carries a statement easily misinterpreted both by society at large, which may judge young people by their dress alone, and by true gang members, who see gang styles as having definite meaning and who treat those wearing such styles accordingly. Yet we cannot simply say that we should not judge people by their dress because how people dress does convey something about their attitudes. What we should point out is that we need to be careful what dress we adopt because we know that such symbols do have meaning.

It is clear that individuals choose clothing as a way of showing their social position. Some societies aware of this fact pass laws restricting the wearing of certain clothing among certain classes of persons, in effect protecting the symbolic nature of the dress for those with a "right" to wear it. Over the centuries the importance of dress developed so that people who could not afford certain finery still spent their money to appear to be more socially acceptable than they were, a phenomenon we still experience today. In such a case, the "soft status g...

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Dress and American Youth. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:42, May 20, 2019, from