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Analyzing Identity Through Impression Management: Professional Men’s Clothing Choices As A Symbol

1290 words - 6 pages

It has been said that first impressions can never occur twice. This is true in all regards, and most individuals cope with this through varying degrees of impression management. After a first impression occurs however, the management of that relationship based on further impressions is vital for long term symbiotic relationships to continue between the two or more people involved. In a professional setting, impression management is essential to establish a status quo between coworkers in their respective environments. The most apparent form of this is through the use of symbols, in this case clothing, to establish and reinforce how co-workers think and behave towards each other inside and outside a professional setting. In particular, men have been known to dominate professional settings therefore are noted for their clothing choices. Mark Twain once quipped, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.” This draws a parallel with the common saying, ‘dress for the job you want, not the one you have’. Through the following literature, this essay poses the research question: how do professional men manage their identities via their clothing choices? This essay will discuss what professional identity is, and how people manage their presented self in organizations. Then apply what is said about identity and impression management and apply it to constraints males have within a professional context, and ask how clothing creates opportunities for identity management.
Identification is known as an active process by which individuals link themselves to elements in the social scene. Our identities are vitally important for because they aid people into making sense of their individual experience, organizing thought, achieving decisions, and anchoring themselves (Cheney, 1983, pg.342). Identity is a common topic studied in communication because it correlates with all other types of social sciences. Identity is separated into many different levels of understanding which include: organizational identity, social identity, cultural identity, individual identity, and professional identity (Sveningsson & Alvesson, 2003, pg. 1163). Understanding identity fully requires the belief that one can exist in two or more identities at once, with the most important level of identification being the one that fits the given the situation. Goffman (1959) facilitates the idea that an individual’s identities in relation to ‘everyday life’. He teaches that behavior in the immediate presence of others changes depending on who they are with. Connecting these two ideas individual experience and multiple identities establishes a good foundation to delve further into what research tells us about a person’s self-perception (identity) and their behavior around others (impression management), and why they are important.
The literature on professional identity suggests that it can be seen through many lenses. As a running example, Steve Jobs, the former...

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