Why do Uniforms Intrigue Us ?
The article named “ The Cultural Politics of the Uniform “, by Jennifer Craik, begins asking the question: “ why are uniforms so intriguing ? “ what are the reasons which turn a uniform in such an interesting subject ? This question works as a trigger for a short introduction to some aspects of the uniform. In my opinion the author gives three possible answersto this question:
1) It seems that uniforms have certain canonical elements ( brass buttons, epaulettes, headwear, etc ) that permanently make their way into contemporary fashion and culture. Uniforms have found a way to become essential by changing the way we see the visual language and spatial conventions of photography.
They are all about control, not only of the social self but also theinner self. Uniforms seem to transmit many kinds of messages, some of these are obvious but others less so. In general, what makes them so intriguing are those subliminal messages. A combination of “ not “ statements and transgressive messages.
2) According to Jennifer Craik, enforcement seems to be key to the social life of the uniform, it includes both rewards and punishment fortransgression. On one side we tend to think that uniforms are all about conformity and discipline, but on the other hand, they could be interpreted as transgression, shame and punishment. This ambivalent nature could also be understood as an answer to the question above.
3) Another element of intrigue is the personal experiences with uniforms. For example, anecdotes about uniforms which includes images ofshame, rebellion and humiliation. So we understand that uniforms play a key role on our techniques of becoming more individual beings through the techniques of the body. There is a clear difference between the obvious or not so obvious meanings of the uniform and the experience of uniforms.
In many cases, memories about uniforms may be of crucial importance in formative moments of selfhood. Anexample of this could be rebellion or subversion, the breaking out of normative codes.
The uniform then, is not as obvious as commonly thought. It had, and has a great influence in people’s lives, for good or worst, and these two ambivalent influences seem to be the subject of this article.
I think also that the constant game between the intended symbolism and the informal codes of wearing anddenoting uniforms is another subject of interest, and therefore another possible answer to the opening question of this article.
At the end of this first introductory chapter the author asks the question: “do bodies wear uniforms or do uniforms wear bodies ? “. My personal views on this is that in many ways uniforms have played a very important role in the developing of selfhood and humanbehavior. That is to say uniforms transmit a variety of subliminal and non- subliminal messages, and our interpretation of these messages shaped our human nature for good or worst. So the question forces us to think about wether wearing a uniform constitutes a central body of techniques that have been crucial in the human behavior, and if these so called techniques have took control of ourselves.`
Techniques of the Uniformed Body
This second part of the article begins talking about the approach of Marcel Mauss ( 1973, 1985 ) who believes that the techniques of the body are a combination of sociological, psychological, and biological attributes that combine all together to produce the social body persona and self. He says that this techniques are learned by the act of imitationand then internalization. Uniform is the best example of body techniques, according to Mauss, they are acquired by the imitation of the people we admire or those who wear uniforms.
Uniforms seem to be extremely effective when it comes to the appropriation of rules and their internalization in the human behavior.
A good example is given in the article: a tie. A tie symbolizes neatness and public...
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