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Erin Kisiel
Instructor: Malcolm Campbell
UWRIT 1103
November 10thDecember 1st, 2016
Outer Appearance: Are We Using it as an Effective Form of Communication
You walk into a bar and see a man wearing dark and ripped clothes. His arms are covered
in tattoos and he has multiple piercings. What do you think of this person? Do you think he is a
punk who smokes weed or vapes? Or do you think he is a professional business man, who runs a
Fortune 500 company? Whether or not the man consciously chooses too, he is using his outer
appearance to communicate with the people around him. If you saw this man in a business suit,
you would probably come to a different conclusion; you might believe him to be a manager of a
company. People will receive different messages from this man depending on their own
experiences, which have altered their perception of him. Someone might see his appearance and
be reminded of an old friend, while someone else may remember the time they were robbed. Our
outer appearance: our piercings, our accessories, our hairstyles, and our clothing, etc., are
constantly sending a message to others. Everyone in everyone every culture is involved in some
form of dress, the clothes they wear, they jewelry they are adorned with, and that dress sends a
message. Dress Outer appearance is a form of communication, used by every gender, race, and
religion. Are we using outer appearance as an effective form of communication or are we
creating unjustified biases?
Per Olivia N. Angerosa, a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, clothing is
used as a nonverbal tool tool that we use to convey messages to others. additional to your outer

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appearance, e. Each aspect of your wardrobe has a meaning associated with it. (Angerosa). The
meaning is unique to each individual, and you send out different messages without trying to. The
meaning of the clothing can come from religion. For example, there are some clothing rules
stated in the bible, asking each gender to be humble in their dress, or a person interprets your
message depending on their own experiences. According to Todorovic Tijana,, Tomaz Toporisic,
and Alenka Pavko Cuden, professors of Sociology, through clothing, a person makes a first step
in non-verbal communication to the world. We express our personality, opinions, and
background to others before even saying a word (Tijana, Toporisic, Cuden). Your outer
appearance is the true first impression of you that people recieve. Libby Pelham, a business
analyst at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, points out that our clothing has the
ability to communicate many different things, such as gender, age, political views and class
(Pelham). Typically, you would assume someone with pigtails would be a little girl or that
someone wearing a Make America Great Again shirt would be a Republican.
Olivia N. Angerosa also discusses person perception, which is the theory how of people
perceive each other. This theory applies to outer appearance being used as a form of
communication, because each individual has their own experiences that alter their interpretations
(Angerosa). Kendra Cherry, a psychosocial rehabilitation specialist, defines person perception as
the different mental processes that we use to form impressions of other people, meaning the
different impressions we get off other peoples appearance based off our past experiences and
our unique ideas. Person perception allows us to make quick judgments by looking at peoples
appearances and collecting the messages. There are many factors that influence the message you
receive from others, such as situation you are involved in, the characteristics of the person and
your own experiences and personal traits. Our impressions are also based off our own ideas on

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social norms that we expect from people, you would expect a police officer to be professional
and invested in the safety of the community, that is the role we associate with them. Cherry also
states that people focus on obvious traits rather than background information. For example, if
you see someone in an expensive business suit with a neon green hair, people are going to focus
on the hair rather than anything else the person has to show. People will only collect information
on the green hair, receiving nothing from the suit. Fitting in the category of person perception is
social categorization, where we mentally categorize people into different groups based on
characteristics they share. If you see a group of men all wearing camouflage, you could assume
that they are all hunters. In this process, you are still receiving information from their outer
appearance and assuming the meaning. This can be a conscious or unconscious act performed
daily. While person perception and social categorization allow people to make snap judgments,
these judgements are not always right. When you make a snap judgement about avoiding the
man in dark clothes at night, it can save your life; but if you assume a little old lady is nice, and
then she steals your wallet, your judgement was not beneficial (Cherry).
A common form of communication through dress is the act of wearing a uniform. You
see a picture of a man in a crown and red cloak, we assume he is a king. We see a woman in blue
with handcuffs on her waist, and we assume she is a police officer. Nathan Joseph, an Associate
Professor of Sociology at Lehman College, reports that uniforms are more demanding than other
forms of dress; while they also remove a persons individuality. While wearingwearing a
uniform expresses your role in the community, a rejection of uniform can express your
dissatisfaction from the group you are participating in. Since the uniform has a powerful
meaning behind it, a uniform expresses your strength in the community, not wearing it or
disregarding the rules of the uniforms shows people how you feel about the position. Uniforms

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separate the wearer from the common pool of people. A uniform shows your higher up position
and allows you to show that you areyour superior to the rest, therefore separating you (Joseph).
Many uniforms also come with the stereotypes. Due to recent events, many people may assume
someone in the blue uniform would be someone corrupt and untrustworthy, but seeing someone
in a lab coat would results in a trustworthy feeling towards the individual.
Accessories also have a lot to communicate about a person. Accessories, such as rings
and necklaces, can express your personality or what subcultures that you are part of. If you are
seen wearing a neon pink bow decorated with a skull and cross bones, you are telling the world
that you belong to the emo subculture. When you see somewhere wearing a flowery, thick
headband, scarves, and big jewelry, you would think that they are part of the Bohemian sub
culture based of the accessories they choose to wear. People often use jewelry and other
accessories to show off their individuality and their personality. An elaborate ear cuff can you set
you apart from the crowd and facial piercings have the same effect. When you walk into a room,
not many people are going to have a nose ring like you do. Accessories are also used to express
support for a cause, such as football players wearing pink during the month of October to show
their support of Breast Cancer Awareness. Accessories can even communicate health problems,
such as a hemophiliac wearing a bracelet that identifies them as someone who does not stop
bleeding; in this case the communication done through the accessories can save a life.
I interviewed three students at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Georgia
Longworth, a freshman at the university, wears multiple rings every day, and all her rings are
communicating to her peers. She wears her grandmothers engagement ring and her great
grandmothers wedding ring and she told me it shows her love for her family. She wears a ring
made out of a spoon, given to her by her mother, to express her individuality, since the ring is so

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different from typical accessories. Another ring that is adorned on her finger was a gift from her
boyfriend, and she wears it to express her love and commitment to him. Another student, Sabine
Salih, wears a necklace that spells out her name, given to her by her aunt. Sabrine told me that
while her necklace shows her appreciation for her aunt, it also shows off her unique style. Maya
Garner, also a freshman at the university, states my communication or perception per say would
show other individuals how I stand out from the average individual as the crazy, goofy person I
am. You can often find Maya wear large hoop earrings as well as large scarves. Maya expresses
that she does not like to follow trends, but she chooses to communicate and send a message that
other individuals can choose what they wear, regardless of the social norm, because its about
differences that formulate our society and country. In each student, we see that there are using
their accessories to set themselves apart from others and to show their commitment to someone
important to them.
NativeNative American culture has very strong meanings attached to their dress and
physical appearance, mainly connected with religion and your stature in the community. Tarun
Goel, a doctor experienced with a variety of cultures, states that some tribes use eagle feathers as
an indication that the wearer is a warrior. The eagle feathers communicate to others that you are
a brave warrior and a leader. Often times, people not part of Native American tribes misuse the
feathers while trying to dress up as a Native American, and by doing this, they are
disrespecting the important meaning of the feathers. Regallian is a special dress like garment
saved for special important occasions, and this can only be worn by priests:, common men are
forbidden to even touch it. Many of the accessories can communicate a journey through a
change, physical or social (Goel). According to K.E. Carr, a professor at the University of
Michigan, even an Indians hairstyle can communicate what group they belong to. Each tribe has

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its different hairstyles, mainly dependent on the environment they live in. Turquoise is sacred
among the Navajo, according to Kate Crowley, a blogger for Phoenix New Times, the stone
honors their traditions and it often passed down through female lineage. Turquoise is used to
express familial connections and the tribe they are part of (Crowley). Communication is very
extremely present in Native American culture; each item has a significant meaningmeaning
connected to their culture and their way of life. Their apparel can tell others their position in the
community and any of their accomplishments in their life (Carr). Many people will see clothing
or accessories that communicate that the person is a Native American and assume this that
person lives on a reservation and that they are an alcoholic.
We see another example of strong communication through clothing in many religions.
Michele Saracino, a professor of Religious studies at Manhattan College, points out the
importance of our appearance because of the effects it can have on how we are viewed. She gives
us many examples of what your appearance can say, such as a runny nose can show that you
have poor hygiene or a clumsy gait can show developmental delays in children (Saracino). Dirty
and short finger nails show a hard worker, while long manicured nails could show someone who
is high class. Depending on our personal experiences, we can interpret different things about
these people, negative or positive. By looking at a mans dirty nails, one person can assume he is
a hard worker, while another can assume he is simply a dirty and poor man. From looking at
manicured nails, people can assume that the owner of the nails as someone who is spoiled and
rich, or someone who is very creative. Even a small thing such as our nails tells people who we
are. Besides our personalities, Saracino points out that outer appearance can also reveal our
economic statuesstatus. You wouldnt think someone with a Gucci bag is having trouble paying
rent, but you probably wouldnt believe that of someone wearing a ripped and dirty shirtwearing

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a Lilly Pulitzer dress would be struggling with rent. Nancy Leigh DeMoss, a Christian radio host
and author, makes the observation that clothing also communicates an individuals values and
their attitude. You can tell just by looking at most people whether they are concerned with
neatness in their lives or not (DeMoss).
Communication is very present in religion. Accessories or certain articles of clothing can
express your religion and communicate to whatever higheryour God being youthat you believe in
that them and you are showing how strong your faith is.you have strong faith. In the Islam
religion, we often see women wearing a HijabHijab, a head covering. Aisha Stacey, a Muslim
convert with a degree in writing, states that the head covering is meant to protect a womens
dignity and honor. While the HijabHijab hijab has its purpose of protecting and guarding, it also
expresses her faith and devotion to Allah. Men also have a dress code in the Islam, such as
covering the part of the body from the naval to the knees. These clothing restrictions also express
their devotion (Stacey). These attributions often create a negative stereotype that the wearer is
anti-American or a terrorist. Recently, there have been several attacks against Muslim women.
The aggressors see their hijabs, assume the worst, and then they attack the wearer. The Times of
India, a news source, reported that a Muslim student was told to remove her hijab, or she would
be set on fire by the speaker, an unidentified man (Muslims Girls Hijab).
We see many significant articles of clothing in the Jewish religion that, like Islam,
express someones faith and devotion to God. Jewish men wear a kippah, a small head covering,
during prayer services. There are also items, such as the tallit, a shawl, that is worn during prayer
services and serves as a reminder of ones duties and obligations (The Clothing of Jewish
Prayer). When you see someone wearing a Jewish or Muslims article of clothing, whatever
stereotypes you have on them will come about.

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Clothing, in the past and present, has communicated gender. Typically, if someone is
wearing a skirt, it tells you that they are female. If you see someone wearing cargo pants and a
baggy T-shirt, we will assume that they are male. While seeing the expectations of clothing
change, both genders are still expected to fit into society and conform to the ideas of masculine
and feminine that cultures have. Again, some of these gendered clothing ideas come from
religion, from a prophet telling women to cover up, or a man to keep short hair. Michael R.
Solomon and John Schopler, scientific researchers, found that men are actually more worried
about how they appear to society than women typically do, they are worried about what they are
communicating. How they telling the world that they are masculine enoughAre they telling the
world that they are masculine enough? MWhile many females feel pressure to dress more
femininely as to fit into societys idea of women, such as being thin and wearing just the right
amount of makeup. We see many significant articles of clothing in the Jewish religion that, like
Islam, express someones faith and devotion to God. Jewish men wear a kippah, a small head
covering, during prayer services. There is also items, such as the tallit, a shawl, is worn during
prayer services and serves as a reminder of ones duties and obligations (The Clothing of Jewish
Prayer). When you see someone wearing a Jewish or Muslims article of clothing, whatever
stereotypes you have on them will come about.
Clothing communicates messages to the people around us, and along with those messages
come the stereotypes that peers formAlong with the assumptions we make based off appearance
come stereotypes. The stereotypes bring in bias from your clothing, which these stereotypes can
be harmful or helpful. We cannot take our judgements based on outer appearance and observe
them as one scenario;, it is a case by case study. Sometimes these biases we form can be

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unjustified, like assuming everyone we see in a HijabHijab hijab is a terrorist, or seeing someone
in dark clothing on a street at night and moving to avoid them.
While it can be argued that its human nature to look at a person and instantly perceive
them a certain way, many people will use this as an excuse to be hateful. I have found myself
doing the same thing. Often, when I see someone who drives a big pickup truck and wears
camocamouflage, I tend to assume the worst of them. I am quick to think that they are closed
minded in their beliefs, and that their only hobby is hunting and fishing. My personal
experiences while being raised in the South have led me to believe these things. I went to a
school with a large red neck population and when I found myself talking to them, I found that I
was not wrong, they were closed minded and avid hunters. While my behavior is harmful, many
people choose to read other peoples appearance as negative and choose to act negativity
negatively toward them. Judgements based on clothing dont always end negatively, they can
even lead to friendships and positive experiences. It is not wrong to make quick judgments based
off appearances but we need to recognize why we come to these conclusions and make sure they
are not harmful to others. Judgements based on clothing dont always end negatively, they can
even lead to friendships.
Every day, what we choose to do or add to our body sends a message to our peers and
community. These messages tend to come with a stereotype or bias , whether or not the subject
fits into the stereotype. We must recognize our actions when basing our judgements off outer
appearance alone, but also not disenfranchise the act of it. While communication through
clothing can cause some unjustified biases, it can also lead to positive events.
In an interview with Gerald Warren, another student at UNCC, he told me that based off
my looks I appear to be a writer or future political figure/ activist. When I wear my glasses,

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thats when I look more professional. Gerald told me he came to those conclusions based off
how I present myself. In my appearance, I always try to look nice, avoiding sweapants and tshirts when I go out. I am often deliberate in my clothing choices because I do not want to
communicate to others that I am a sloppy mess, even though I might be.
Every day, what we choose to do or add to our body sends a message to our peers. These
messages tend to come with a stereotype, whether or not we fit into the stereotype. We must
recognize our actions when basing our judgements off outer appearance alone, but also not
disenfranchise the act of it. While communication through clothing can cause an unjustified bias,
it can also lead to positive events.

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Works Cited
Angerosa, Olivia N. Clothing as Communication: How Person Perception and Social Identity
Impact First Impressions Made by Clothing BS Thesis, Rochester Institute of
Technology, 2014
Arvanitidou, Zoi, and Maria Gasouka. "Chapter 14. Social Identity Perspective." Gender at
Work (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Carr, K. E. "Native American Clothing." Native American Clothing History. Karen Carr,

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Portland State University, Sept. 2016. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.


Cherry, Kendra. "What Is Person Perception?" Verywell. About, Inc., 19 Mar. 2016. Web. 01

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Dec. 2016.
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. "What Does Your Clothing Communicate?" Eternal Perspective
Ministries. N.p., 05 Mar. 2004. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
"Fashion Psychology: What Clothes Say about You." Psychologist World. Psychologist World,
n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Fletcher, Ben. "What Your Clothes Might Be Saying About You." Psychology Today. Sussex
Publishers, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Garner, Maya. Personal interview. 29 Nov. 2016
Goel, Tarun. "What Did the Native Americans Wear? The Religious and Cultural
Significance." Bright Hub Education. Brighthubeducation.com, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 09
Nov. 2016.

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Johnson, Kim K.P, and Sharon Lennon. "The Social Psychology of Dress Berg Fashion Library.
Bloomsbury Publishing, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Joseph, Nathan. Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication through Clothing. New York:
Greenwood, 1986. Print.
"Kippah, Tallit and Tefillin: The Clothing of Jewish Prayer." My Jewish Learning. 70/Faces
Media, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Longworth, Georgia. Personal interview. 29 Nov. 2016
"Muslim Girl's Hijab Ripped off in Front of Students in US." The Times of India. Bennett,
Coleman & CO, 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.
Pelham, Libby. "Clothing as a Form of Non Verbal Communication." Body Language Expert.

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N.p., 18 Oct. 2012. Web. 01 Dec. 2016.


Salih, Sabrine. Personal interview. 29 Nov. 2016
Saracino, Michele. Clothing. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012. Print.

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Stacey, Aisha. "Dress Code of Muslim Women." Islam.ru. MuslimsToday.info, 06 May 2013.

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Web. 01 Dec. 2016.

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Todorovic, Tijana, Tomaz Toporisic and Alenka Pavko Cuden Clothes and Costumes as Form
of Nonverbal Communication MS Thesis, University of Ljbuljana and University of
Primorska, 2014
Gerald Warren. Personal interview. 01 Dec. 2016
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Works Cited

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Angerosa, Olivia N. Clothing as Communication: How Person Perception and Social Identity
Impact First Impressions Made by Clothing BS Thesis, Rochester Institute of
Technology, 2014
Arvanitidou, Zoi, and Maria Gasouka. "Chapter 14. Social Identity Perspective." Gender at
Work (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Carr, K.E. "Native American Clothing." History. Karen Carr, Portland State University, 01 Sept.
2016. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. "What Does Your Clothing Communicate?" What Does Your Clothing
Communicate? - Resources - Eternal Perspective Ministries. N.p., 05 Mar. 2004. Web. 09
Nov. 2016.
"Fashion Psychology: How The Clothes You Wear Affect How People Perceive You." Fashion
Psychology: What Clothes Say about You. Psychologist World, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

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Fletcher, Ben. "What Your Clothes Might Be Saying About You." Psychology Today. Sussex

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Publishers, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.


Goel, Tarun. "What Did the Native Americans Wear? The Religious and Cultural
Significance." Bright Hub Education. Brighthubeducation.com, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 09
Nov. 2016.
Johnson, Kim K.P, and Sharon Lennon. "The Social Psychology of Dress. Berg Fashion
Library. Bloomsbury Publishing, n.d. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.
Joseph, Nathan. Uniforms and Nonuniforms: Communication through Clothing. New York:
Greenwood, 1986. Print.
"Kippah, Tallit and Tefillin: The Clothing of Jewish Prayer." My Jewish Learning. 70/Faces
Media, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.
Saracino, Michele. Clothing. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2012. Print.
Stacey, Aisha. "Dress Code of Muslim Women | Islam.ru." Dress Code of Muslim Women |
Islam.ru. MuslimsToday.info, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2016.

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