Fashionable Appearance In Construction Central Cultural Studies Essay

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Fashion and appearance have always been central to the construction of social identity. Kratz and Reimer (1988) define fashion as a cultural phenomenon involving communication and meaning which is broader than the clothes people wear. It tends to include hairstyles, make-up, accessories and colour at times; it can also include bicycles, skateboards or even pets. This essay will look at how fashion and appearance has been central to the Rastafarian Identity and the way in which globalization has played its part to effect companies to promote themselves to a global audience.

Fashion solely depends on the person carrying it, which tends to portray people's reflection of themselves, leading us to the term 'Identity'. Weeks (1990:88) defines identity as the sense of belonging of an individual to a group based on what is common among their group and what differentiates him/her from others. We can say that at a fundamental level, it provides us with both a personal location and a stable core to craft our individuality. It is based on our relationship and complex involvement with others in the so called modern world. For example, when I fumble through my wardrobe in the morning, I am not merely faced with the choice of what to wear but with the choice of images: the difference between a smart suit with a shirt and shoes, or denim jeans with a t-shirt and trainers is not just about one fabric and style, but one of identity. Weeks (1990) again informs us that most individuals live a life of contradictory identities leading us to fight allegiance as: men or women; black or white; straight or gay; British or African, and so on. This list seems to be never ending to an extent and so does our belonging. All in all, it is the value that we share or wish to share with each other that creates our identity.

Prior to the 1970s, images of the unsanitary-looking, marijuana-smoking "Natty Dread" with unkempt dreadlocks, often controlling crime-infested streets of Kingston, New York City, or London were the most common perceptions of Rastafarian culture. Hollywood has even embedded this stereotype in the American psyche. Such stereotypes still persist today among some people in the Caribbean, the United States, and Great Britain. Since the early 1970s, however, Rastafari has been recognized not only as one of the most popular Afro-Caribbean religions of the late twentieth century, gaining even more popularity than Voodoo, but also as one of the leading cultural trends in the world; as such, it demands attention from those who study the religions of people who live at the economic and political margins of Western society. A June 1997 estimate puts the number of practicing Rastafarians worldwide at one million, with more than twice that number of sympathizers and many million more reggae fans. Given its humble beginnings and the unfriendly climate in which Rastafarianism was born, none of its founders could have dreamed of such international exposure and acceptance. In spite of Rastafari's religious character and the attempt to make it a reform Christian movement, it is neither a Christian nor an African traditional religion; it is a tertium quid, a different kind or religious species among New World or nontraditional religions, one that is distinctly Caribbean. According to Leonard Barrett (1977), at least five significant events brought the Rastafarian movement into national and international prominence during the 1950s and early 1960s: the EWF's increased activity in Jamaica in 1953; the Rastafarians' 1958 convention; Rasta-leader national emergencies in 1959 and 1960; the University of the West Indies' interest in the movement in 1960; and Jamaican delegations to African countries in 1961 an 1962.  In 1978, Nettleford claimed: "The music has gone beyond fulfilling the universal need for entertainment to attract acute interest in its deep significance for Jamaican and Caribbean cultural search for form and purpose".

The way we look, style our body and hair tends to communicate a message which is most often a symbol for the deeper values. Dreadlocks are basically matted coils of hair and are usually intentionally formed; because of the variety of different hair textures, various methods are used to encourage the formation of locks such as backcombing. If combs, brushes, and scissors aren't used on the hair, the hair will tangle together as it grows, eventually resulting in the twisted, matted ropes of hair known as dreadlocks. They have been a symbol which today represents the Jamaican people. A culture which hold its origination from different parts of the world. The dreads are taken from the Indian Sadhu's, who were brought to Africa for cheap labor in the sugar, coffee and cocoa farms. It is even a culture where smoking of marijuana is considered sacred and not illegal because as Weber (1992) put it that they believe in everything but natural.

However, with globalisation the world continuously seems to shrink due to technological development; physical distances become less and less important and geographer David Harvey (1989) terms this shrinkage as "time/space compression". With the advent of globalisation, multinational companies now have a global audience to represent themselves. Various metropolises are brought into new societies; they tend to become indigenized in one way or another: which can be said true for music and housing styles as much as it is true for science and terrorism, spectacles and constitutions. Furthermore the first point on their agenda is to promote the migration of third-world peoples to developed nations, creating ethnically mixed communities. The second point is to promote the ethic known as multiculturalism, which requires people from different traditions to live side-by-side in mutual respect, with openness to learning from each other. They need to be sure about their promotion and advertisement with the varied cultures they represent themselves to. A sign meaning something in one culture may be seen opposite in another. As website informs us that media knows only knows how to create a single 'culture'.

Companies such as Virgin Atlantic and Philips have used the sign of the dreadlock to represent their presence in Jamaica. IMG 1.0 is the Virgin Atlantic Advert which they came up with when

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they started flying to the Caribbean. The red colour used as the background can be related to the red in the color of the Rasta flag which represents freedom and the colour of the Virgin Atlantic's official color. The silhouette of the person shown in this image also relates to the city they are flying to, which is represented by the adverts tag line "Now flying to the Caribbean ". The way the dreads have been shown flying in the air trying to which again tend to symbolise freedom. Even the hair flying around could tend to show direct flight from different parts of the world to Jamaica and as the route finder on their website shows they do not have a direct flight to the Caribbean from Australia, so we do not see the strands of dread on the bottom front of the face. On the whole, this image goes on to show that Virgin Atlantic as a company is providing its global audiences the freedom to fly directly to the Caribbean from different parts of the world. The feedback for this campaign was highly appreciated by the global audience. According to the online website 'Campaign', this advert won a Silver Award in the PRESS ADVERTISING AWARDS 1999: The Audience Selection Award - Best Holidays and Travel Advertisement.

The Philips image/advertisement released in Brazil, on the other hand, shows a white bearded man wearing sunglasses with dreadlocks and a Philips headphone, the latter of which tends to portray reggae. This is how globalisation plays its part. The only relationship that could be found in this advert campaign being released in Brazil is that the Brazilian people love listening to Samba, which gets its influence from a mixture of American-Indian, Portuguese, and Africa. The flowing dreads in this image tend to portray a sense of freedom. Edmonds(2003) tells us that Rastafarians grew their hair to stand against a thought and symbolize their free living.

The McDonalds advert on the left which was released in Canada shows a man with dreadlocks and a Rasta Hat walking, and a hand from behind trying to grab the Rasta hat as it is a burger. This advert has a tag line "The craving can hit you anytime". The image is quiet debatable as a relation between a Rastafari and Canada doesn't seem to exist. While on the other hand if we look at the Canadian Culture they believe a lot in smoking marijuana and according to one of the UN report 2007, 16% of the population of Canada was Pot Smokers making it the country with the highest population of marijuana smoker among the industrialized countries of the world. It can be related to the Rastafari in the manner they smoke marijuana and think of it as a natural herb and the method in which a craving is created for smoking more and more when someone gets addicted to it. Looking back at the tag line the word craving here could represent the relation of this advert to the Rastafari culture as to when you start eating you will want more and more and the craving for eating can come to you at an moment. mc.jpg

In the end it is for sure that fashion and appearance are central to the building of social identity, similar to the way in which dreadlocks and smoking of marijuana has become central to the Rastafarian identity and how they are being used by companies to represent their presence in that part of the world to their global audience. the question that arises here is, ones upon a time fashion labels picked up ideas from different cultures to come up with their designs to create an identity, but in this world of globalization when people tend to understand signs, isn't it becoming a little difficult for them to explain themselves and their creations to their global audience as different sign carry different meanings in this culture flamboyant world.

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