Monday, April 5, 2010


Fashion is “a phenomenon” which displays most clearly the “contradictory human desires to “fit in” and “stand out”” 1) The fact is that human beings construct their identities through clothing 2) and “fashion their identities out of the repertories of roles to which they are exposed” 3) In other words each and every one has to “fabricate an identity” and series of “personas” in order “to perform one’s roles in socially expected manner” 4). Due to the fact that non of the “cells” of society “matrix” is “tailor-made” but rather “taken-of-the-rack” every individual has to adjust oneself, has to “fit in” and therefore, has to utilizes ones “chameleon” ability 5).

Initially, the term “chameleon effect” and its counterpart “chameleonism” were coined based on assumption that chameleons are animals that exclusively change their colours to blend in with their current environment in order to escape their enemies 6).

The term “chameleon effect”, is presented and described in a positive light emphasizing “the naturalness and unconsciousness” of this “non-goal-dependent” mimicry mechanism utilized by humans to increase “likability” and “ease of interaction” 7).

The term “chameleonism”, on the other hand, is not scientific and is used to portray some kind of deviant obsessive practice of constantly faking one’s personality so as to “respond to challenge or danger” and in an attempt “to blend inconspicuously into the group” to be able to manipulate others for the sake of own advantage 8).

Nevertheless, the recent discoveries in biology demonstrate that previous assumption about the nature of a chameleon’s colour change is not entirely true and that these reptiles predominantly apply colouration change as a way of communication, then as indication of the mood-shifts, and as reaction to weather change, and only in rare cases it gets utilized as a pure defense mechanism. Therefore, surprisingly, human beings have much more in common with these animals as it is widely believed. Our “social bodies” change their “colours” or “skins” as a way of representation of oneself to the rest, as a way of communication with the rest through designed image.

1) Entwistle, J. 2000, The fashioned body. Fashion, dress and modern social theory, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK, p. 116

2) Woodward, S. 2007, Why women wear what they wear, Berg, Oxford, UK, p. 9, 20

3) & 5) Scheibe, K. E. 1979, Mirrors, masks, lies and secrets. The limits of human predictability, Praeger Publishers, NY, USA, p.73

4) Rubinstein, R. P. 1995, Dress-codes: meanings and messages in American Culture, Westview Press, Colorado, USA, p. 44, 47

6) & 7) Chartrand, T. L., Barg, J. A. 1999, ‘The chameleon effect: the perception-behavior link and social interaction’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 76, no. 6, pp. 896, 893, 899, 901

8) Rosen, B. C. 2001, Masks and Mirrors: Generation X and the chameleon personality, Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., viewed 25 January 2010, here, p. 7, 9

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