2022 Winner: (Don't) Just be Yourself: Fashion, Play, and Identity in the Post-Ironic Age

Project Information
(Don't) Just be Yourself: Fashion, Play, and Identity in the Post-Ironic Age
Abstract: Through examination of various styles of countercultural fashion (Classic Rock, Punk, and Camp), this paper examines the feasibility and benefits of conceptualizing the self as play, rather than in play. “Play” is commonly defined within academia as a distinct removal from the objective reality, and a temporary withdrawal from our “real” selves. Such theories are built on the fundamental assumption that play is of an “imaginary” or “aesthetic” undertaking. However, other authors have exposed the perceived objectivity of our reality to be fundamentally contingent and culturally constructed. In light of this assertion, the imaginary characterization of play loses its force. Based on these concepts, my research argues against the existence of an “authentic” or “essential” self, and demonstrates the liberating possibilities of this notion. As fashion plays a powerful role in identity construction, it provides a fruitful scope for the study. Through analysis of the three subcultural style’s different approaches toward identity, the ontological relationship between play and self is examined. In light of the evidence presented, the essay advocates for a playful, Post-Ironic approach to both fashion and identity, which transcends the “artifice-authenticity binary,” and demonstrates the illusory nature of the play-reality distinction.
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  • Gabriel Ephraim Wall (Porter)