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Clothing & Community: How Presentation Influences the People You Meet

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover. 

Clothing hangs on a rack with plants on the sides.
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels


We’ve heard it all before; you can’t- shouldn’t- make any perceptions about another person by clothing or possessions. Material things don’t make up a person’s character. Yet, even though we know this, we still perceive people all the time based on what we can see. It’s easy to say that stereotypes are bad and awful and they only contribute negative things to a community. But what if judging a person’s style, clothing, and sense of presentation wasn’t as “bad” as we make it out to be?

Photographer and founder of FRUITS magazine Shoichi Aoki bases his work in Harajuku, Japan. This area of Tokyo is world-renown for unique street style subcultures and is often where upcoming clothing trends are born. Often a Harajuku regular will push their aesthetic, whether it be playful and childlike or bold and punk, to its limits. The extreme nature of their styles naturally pushes them out of the rather clean-cut normalcy of the rest of Japan. Because of this, there lies a larger sense of camaraderie and belonging for those in a Harajuku subculture. 


You can’t judge a book by its cover, but shouldn’t the cover reflect the contents inside?

There’s really no way to prevent perceiving and making assumptions about people. As humans, that’s how we process information. We connect new information with old in order to understand what it is in essence, form, and use. It can also help us understand a person’s lifestyle and background. A person who wears a plain t-shirt and jeans may be minimalistic in their style, relatively organized, and prefer a practical mindset. On the other hand, a person with a fur coat and leather gloves may find pleasure in shopping and material goods, is expressive in personality, and enjoys indulgent pleasures. 


Our presentation of ourselves tells a lot about who we are as a person. As consumers, we buy based on what adds value to our lives. What we like, what we hate, what we find important… the way we dress all comes full circle to how we are as a person and who we meet throughout our lives. In some areas of the world, such as Harajuku, it even gives people community.

friends at a coffee shop
Photo by Brooke Cagle from Unsplash

One phrase that has stuck with me for quite some time is from my old history teacher. “Humans are afraid of the unknown,” he always said. And it’s true: humans are a creature of habit. It gives us consistency and comfortability. Even those on the extreme end of spontaneity find comfort in the routine rush as well. In translation to clothing, it applies well I’d think. If you were to see another person with a similar sense of style you’d feel inclined to understand them more than someone whose clothing you have no connection to. In turn, this allows two people, let’s say who both wear vintage sportswear, a commonality between them. If they were to explore that relationship there is a likely chance they’ll find more in common considering that they find that same value in aesthetic. 


There are many dependent factors in whether a relationship is continuous or only lasts an instant. In fact, too many factors to even be comprehensible. But there is a likelier chance of having a more substantial connection to someone you meet if you both present yourselves in a similar way. Judging a person by their cover in this sense gives more value than you’d be led to believe. 


Michelle Phuong was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is currently attending the University of Utah to pursue a degree in graphic design. Painting and photography are her two favorite art mediums. Other things that she loves are thrift store shopping, pasta, and learning how to become in tune with her spirituality. Her experiences traveling to different countries has helped her expand her knowledge on how culture influences beauty and fashion.
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor