March 7, 2014
Blog # 4
What Not to Wear
What Not to Wear is an American makeover reality television show. This show involves wardrobe makeovers for people deemed by friends and family to be dressing inappropriately. This show can relate to Goffman’s “On Face Work” about people’s line, role, and face through their transformation from a unique appearance into a more socially acceptable view.
A contestant is nominated by others in their life that believes someone needs to dress more age appropriately. The first day the hosts, Clinton and Stacy, sort through the contestant’s closet and poke fun at their sense of fashion. Clinton and Stacy played a role which Bradley discussed in class as an image or what a person wants to convey. The contestant would then be asked to describe what she liked about her outfits or why she thought it looked good. This is referring to the line as Goffman describes a “pattern of verbal and non-verbal acts by which he expressed his view of the situation through his evaluation of the participants, especially himself” (Goffman 5). Contestants explain dressing outside the norm allows them to express their emotions through their appearance. Stacy and Clinton then would critique the person’s outfits and tell them what is and what not an appropriate look is for the person’s age. Then, the hosts would throw out the entire wardrobe in the garbage in order to let them start with a fresh look. This step lays out the guidelines of the contestant’s new appearance and what they should shop for. The person picked is allowed a credit card with five thousand dollars to buy new clothing that is more appropriate.
The second day the person will go out shopping by herself. Stacy and Clinton have hidden cameras to watch to see if the person follows the new rules on what is age appropriate. Generally, the contestants are unable to retreat from their old habits causing Clinton and Stacy to join the next day and help the person pick out clothes. They are constantly reminded if they do not follow the rules of being able to change their wardrobe everything will be returned to the stores. The women then get their hair cut and make up done by two artists to transform the person’s appearance. Lastly on a final day the person shows off the new look. Stacy and Clinton comment on how the new clothing flatters her body and improves the appearance. These make-over shows exist to help out people that do not know how important line and face connect to each other. I think face, line, and role are more accepted by society than corrective process Goffman talks about. The media and shows like this attempt to mainstream what is appropriate and what is not. Just because someone dresses in a unique fashion does not make it wrong. I believe people should be able to express themselves through what they wear. However, there is a time and place where specific outfits or styles are more appropriate than others.
I watched a specific episode about a hair stylist, Noel, whose appearance involves big belts, camo pants, ripped tights, shirts that are too tight, crazy lime green or hot pink shorts, and tattoo stars drawn on her face with lip pencil. As one could imagine, Noel dresses very inappropriate for her age at twenty two. Noel’s line is a very outgoing and her style is obnoxious. Her face she is presenting is to be young and carefree. Goffman describes the term face as “the positive social value a person effectively claims for himself by the line others assume he has taken during a particular contact” (Goffman 5). She wants to stand out and be different having no one else dress like here. Stacy and Clinton think she dresses utterly obnoxious for a twenty two year old hair stylist. Clinton thinks she is addictive to attention. I think she realizes how the face or image and line connect people’s views with those of social norms. I think this is a problem for Noel because she has a lot of energy and wants to make a statement. However, the attention she draws through her unique sense of fashion may send mixed signals to hair clients causing them to question her ability to do a good job. I personally would not want to go to a stylist who dresses obnoxious with the fear that she may project that appearance on me. Noel felt her crazy sense of fashion showed her uniqueness. However, other people associated her face with drug users. She didn’t have intentions of giving a bad impression but just wanted people to recognize her. In her mind, she knew she didn’t do drugs and this is her line according to Goffman. Unfortunately, people judge others based on their appearance. Noel seems like she was a genuine person, but mainstream society would not give her a chance because of the way she dressed.
Noel’s image allowed her to project her face and emotions through her sense of fashion. She was able to portray her uniqueness to society through role. She clearly stood out amongst others when in public. Her communication defined by line presented mixed signals to others around her. She may have thought she was communicating her unique and outgoing personality through her dress where others thought may have thought negative expressions. In the end, Noel was able to change her face, line, and role with a new sense of fashion. Her new wardrobe let her feel warm and settle. People no longer judged her. She even admitted she felt more mature with the new wardrobe. Noel was still the same unique person as before. However, her new image gave people the impression that she fit in with the norm.