Part Two- Shopping for Identity
Standing around in Hollister and waiting in line gave me a lot of time to observe what was going on around me. Because I love working with teenagers so much I take a lot of interest in youth culture. What I saw was unbelievable. To me, Hollister was hell, but to many of the adolscents there, it was like Christmas morning- so many wonderful things and the money to buy them. What would drive teenagers to spend hours upon hours shopping at Hollister that Sunday, spending so much on clothes? What pulls so many teens to the malls? Was I really this bad when I was in 7th grade?
Blame society, parents, or consumerism (all which were clearly problems at Hollister), but we need to take a moment and look at the needs of adolescents and where they are being fulfilled. Adolescences is a time of identity forming. Students are trying to figure out who they are; often young teens identify themselves by what they do or which groups they belong to. A response to “who are you” and you may hear, “I’m in 7th grade, I play soccer and am on a club team, I’m the youngest of three kids, I go to youth group, I’m one of the popular kids at school, I like to hang out with my friends and watch Orlando Bloom movies….” Identity is being formed primarily externally because students, especially in middle school, think concretely. It will be a few years before they begin to define themselves by their viewpoints, values or goals in life.
So what need is Hollister fulfilling? Why are so many teens attracted to the mall? Yes, we live in a highly consumeristic culture, but I think many teens are shopping for an identity. Walk into any middle school or high school and you can see different groups by how they dress- the preps (Abercrombie), the skaters (Pac Sun), the goths (Hot Topic), the punk kids (forget the mall and go to a good trift store), the jocks (Champs, AE)… this may be simplifying youth culture a bit but you can’t deny that clothes often define groups of teens, and belonging to a group defines the teen themselves. So you find a 7th grade girl shopping at Hollister while wearing Hollister and talking to her friends about Hollister clothes… and all she is really trying to do is form an identity. She wants to fit in with her group of friends and be seen as popular, attractive, and preppy. If it were just about the clothes, well we all know you can probably find close to the same thing at Kohls for 55% off on any given day, but it won’t say “Hollister” across the front, and you probably don’t want to be defined by a clearance shirt from Kohls.
What do you think? Am I missing something? Or do you believe that adolescents often find identity in the clothes they buy and where they buy them?
Do you see a difference between how adults identify themselves through their clothes and teens? Do you think that adults try to portray an image of who they are while teens try to become someone by the way they dress? Or do you see that teens and adults have the same motivations in what they wear?
More to Come…