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Men at work: using dress to communicate identities

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to investigate young professional men's perceptions and use of dress in relationship to their work identities. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Data were collected from 49 young men using a snowball sampling technique. Responses were analyzed using techniques outlined by Van Manen. Findings ‐ Salience of work identity was not connected to participants' perceptions and use of dress. However, feeling complete in one's work identity was connected. Participants who perceived themselves as incomplete in their work identities used and planned to purchase items symbolic of their professions. Participants also expected to achieve specific outcomes as a result of their dress. Research limitations/implications ‐ Research findings support tenets of symbolic self-completion theory. Practical implications ‐ Men's apparel retailers could promote their apparel as a symbol of qualities young men are interested in expressing and as a means to achieve desired work-related outcomes. Originality/value ‐ The majority of research on relationships between dress and identity have focused on women. The paper illustrates that, as men are demonstrating renewed interest in their appearance, research that examines how men relate to and use dress in a workplace context has potential to contribute to extant literature and provide practical implications for merchandising apparel.
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Keywords: Clothing; Dress; Fashion; Identity; Men; Perception; Professionals; Sex and gender issues; Work; Work identity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-09-20

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