Individuality means the individual characteristic of a particular person which makes him different from others. Each person is a special human being and it is this uniqueness which sets us apart from others.
Individuality is self expression. It is the quality that distinguishes one person from another. It is a characteristic of being unique. Some other terms which are an expression of individuality are daring, unusual, bold, original, distinct and to be yourself.
It also means to say ‘no’ when you don’t seem to agree. Reject certain styles in fashion when you cannot connect with them or they are not your types.
Conformity on the other hand is opposite of individuality. It means behaviour adapted to pre existing norms. Conformity means agreeing with or obeying some given standards or norms, set by family, organisation and place of work. Sometimes society and peers also set some norms for example some clothing norms like what type of dress is to be worn on marriages or parties or on any other occasion. Adhering to these norms or doing what society expects you to do is conformity. Too much conformity may lead to a loss of personal individuality.
These two social tendencies—Individuality and Conformity—reflect in all fashion behaviour and very visibly in clothing. Both are essential in establishing fashion and with the absence of either one fashion will not exist, its sway will end abruptly. Simmel says that it is a peculiar characteristic of fashion that it renders possible a social obedience, which at the same time is a form of individual differentiation.
Now that we have a basic understanding of individuality and conformity, we will take a glance at their negatives and positives.
In this article, we will focus more on individuality. So, let’s look at some positive consequences of individuality:
Self expression: An individual who wishes to be different from others will express in different way through clothing as clothing represents a form of communication which can be controlled. They wish to stand out in a crowd and may express their personal style by wearing something different, perhaps funky accessories or engage in some kind of radical piercing, like encasing both eyebrows in tight rows of small rings.
Expressing creativity: Creativity can be expressed in the way one dresses up. What we want to wear can be planned in a great detail so that certain aspects of our personality can be expressed. It could be expressed by choosing styles of clothes and colours which may add certain individual flair to their dressing and make them different from others, thereby satisfying their need of creativity through adornment.
Originality and adaptability: A person who is a true individualist by nature will have original ideas and will also be able to adapt to diverse situations. He can make a decision that is independent of group action. They are satisfying their need for adornment while rejecting peer pressure and conformity. They may feel disencumbered to some extent from confining norms, this would make it easier to adapt to diverse situations. According to Riesman an individualist is ‘inner directed.’ The ability to resist true pressure requires a high degree of psychological security and extreme faith in one’s personal conviction.
It is amazing that an individualist being aware of social norms of clothing is not affected by them. He is unique and keeps up with fads.
Individuality fosters creativity and encourages thinking. Rather than going with the crowd and fitting in, individuals think for themselves and form their own opinions on things.
These were some positive consequences of individuality, however, this is not it. There may be some social disadvantages associated with individuality:
Not accepted by others: There is always a possibility that a true individualist may not be accepted by others. Creekmore conducted a study in 1980 on high school setting. It was found that conformity with norms of one or more groups was more conducive to pear acceptance than individuality.
Several field studies have indicated that strangers respond more favourably to people who are conventionally dressed as opposed to ‘differently’ dressed.
Chaos: If everyone refuses to conform there would be chaos. There is some sort of order maintained in a society where standards of dress are normative. In a social setting where high degree of freedom in standards of dress are allowed there can be decay in important values. Some girls try to get attention by wearing revealing clothes like micro miniskirts or transparent clothes which may be indicative of decline in values.
So, we have now seen both sides of the coin wrt individuality. We will now proceed to conformity in the next article and then discuss- “Individuality versus conformity”.