As a young kid, I sported a bowl cut and spent much of my time in a gym playing basketball. My peers had their hair in bows and barrettes and I was sent to school in mostly t-shirts and sneakers. Before long, I wanted what they had. I wanted so bad to be cute.
Instead, my style said “gym rat.”
One summer I went to the mall with my grandma and cried and cried until she bought me a purple shirt with pom-poms on the front. It said “CHEER!” and was the exact opposite of everything I knew and did.
I was never signed up for cheerleading, but still I was appeased.
Identity and Self-Fashioning
What I was experiencing then was a newly developed sense of identity. No longer was I content to be dressed in gym clothes because I had an opinion about how I wanted to be seen in the world (of my 2nd grade classroom). My mall outburst was one of my first actions in shaping that.
I was self-fashioning.
In his book titled Renaissance Self-Fashioning: From More to Shakespeare, Stephen Greenblatt introduces the concept of self-fashioning by writing:
“Fashioning may suggest the achievement of a less tangible shape: a distinctive personality, a characteristic address to the world, a consistent mode of perceiving and behaving.”
Greenblatt wrote that self-fashioning behaviors increased in 16th century England due to changes in intellectual, social, psychological, and aesthetic structures. The upper classes began self-fashioning in a way that ranged from wearing the finest clothing to being well-versed in literature, art, sports, and other interests that reflected their nobility.
In short, the individual became an art form itself.