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Consumption and Material Reality

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By Applying one theoretical approach from the module, explain how the relationship between consumption and material reality affects the process of identity making.

"What and how we consume may serve to say who we are or who we would like to be; it may be used to produce and maintain particular lifestyles". As noted by Storey, J (1999 p. xi)

Society today incorporates vast amounts of distinctiveness. Fashion, culture and personality contribute to the different aspects of creating one's identity. Standardized ideas of a type of person affects the way one is perceived, which could be subject to the clothes worn by the individual for e.g., young black males with baggy jeans and shirts, hats backwards and noticeable jewellery, which is often referred to as "bling bling", can be seen as thugs or it can also be assumed that these males have nothing better to do than roam the streets trying to look cool in their baggy clothing. This essay interprets the connection between consumption and material reality and the way in which it affects the process of identity making.

According to Stuart Ewen:

" Style has become a critical factor in definitions of the is a way of stating who one is: politically, sexually, in terms of status and class. Style is a device of conformity, or of opposition. Style conveys mood. Style is a device by which we judge-and are judged by-others". Cited in Tomlinson, A (1990 p. 43)

Style has a strong effect on the way we comprehend society. Stuart Ewen's statement can be simplified to meaning that we as citizens as a whole tend to stereotype others from the way they look on the outside. "It is not always in which the clothes we wear articulate for ourselves and others who we are or would like to be." (Storey, J 1999 p.138) For example, if the prime minister threw away his suit and tie and started dressing in tracksuits, a lot of people would not take him as seriously as they would if he was wearing his suit. It's as if the suit gives him a higher status and class.

Its also down to assumptions, we could assume that young black males from Los Angeles are less wealthy and under mannered and of a very low class, than young white males from the city, and why? Owing to the fact that the individuals identity is coming from a ghetto background within a small society and a less developed suburban area, they are automatically judged as a lower class. Style is primarily a circumstance of surface and mystification. You as a person, as a stranger are unknown to your viewers and can only therefore be read on the outside. Tomlinson, A (1990 p. 46) writes that "Style has become part of the vernacular of self- expression and perception."

Many people use style as a way of expressing themselves or as a way they would like to be perceived for example, for an interview it is believed that in order to make a good impression smart dress is required (dress to impress), or for a female going out to a party in a long dress that shows very little amounts of skin, could be considered as elegant, so the female would be perceived differently than she would on any other day. All in all it depends on the type of look you're going for and the type of impact you want to have on others. Also noted by Tomlinson, A (1990 p. 51) "As frozen images- in ads or style magazines- become the models from which people design their living spaces or themselves, extreme alienation sets in".

This form of material reality is affecting the way identity takes shape. Advertisements and magazines exist to inform, but also manipulate their viewers, and this often works due to the individual's insecurities and eagerness to have an alternative identity. "The constant availability of alternative styles to 'adapt to'



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