You are what you wearThis is a debate topic that I have for school. It is of course not to be taken literally rather be taken metaphorically, ie. A man wearing a suit is obvioulsy more classy and a...

You are what you wear

This is a debate topic that I have for school. It is of course not to be taken literally rather be taken metaphorically, ie. A man wearing a suit is obvioulsy more classy and a better man than a person wearing tattered clothes and a dirty appearance.

I am on the negative side. Any thoughts or opinions on how to interperet this topic as well as some arguments? And by no means am I asking you to formulate my debate for me lol.

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

You may not actually be what you wear, but you certainly will be judged by what you wear. It is inescapable. We all judge others by their general appearance, and much of their general appearance is determined by their clothes. All it takes is a glance for us to form an opinion of a stranger. It is not unjust to evaluate others by their clothing. It can be a very interesting pastime. Other people, either consciously or unconsciously, are offering us clues to their characters and personalities. 

Perhaps a unique way to engage in a debate on the subject, taking the negative side, would be to appear in a costume that intentionally misrepresents the speaker, the purpose being to demonstrate that most of the audience will tend to misjudge that person. The speaker might even ask the members of the audience to offer their impressions of him or her, based on what he or she is wearing. An extreme costume might be a Nazi uniform, or a policeman's uniform, or a clown's costume.

It sounds like a very interesting debate. 

Sources:
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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The best way to judge another person is by asking yourself, "Do I like him?" or "Do I like her?" It is interesting and instructive to visualize two people you know and ask yourself which of them you like better. You can also ask yourself similar questions about people you dislike, including "What do I dislike about him?" and "What do I dislike about her?" This is a good way to learn about your own values. If you like a person who has a sense of humor, then you probably have a sense of humor and value humor. If you dislike a person who has bad table manners or uses bad language, this shows that you value good table manners and politeness. We can learn about everybody by referring to our feelings, and we can learn about ourselves by respecting our feelings about everybody. We don't have to do anything about other people's behavior, and we certainly don't have to tell them what we think about them. People are easily offended. So are we.

A man bears the weight of his own body without feeling it, yet he feels that of every other which he tries to move. In the same way, he does not notice his own shortcomings and vices, but only those of others. Instead of this, everyone has in others a mirror wherein he clearly sees his own vices, faults, bad manners, and offensive traits of all kinds. But in most cases, he is like the dog who barks at his own image because he does not know that he is looking at himself, but thinks he sees another dog. Whoever finds fault with others is working at his own reformation. And so those who have the inclination and are secretly in the habit of subjecting to a searching and sharp criticism other people’s conduct in general, their commissions and omissions, are thus working at their own improvement and perfection. For  they will possess enough justice or pride and vanity to avoid doing what they so often severely censure. The opposite holds good for those who are tolerant; thus hanc veniam petimusque damusque vicissim ("We beg this freedom for ourselves and likewise grant it to others," Horace, Ars poetica, II). The Gospel moralizes prettily on the mote in the eye of one’s neighbour and on the beam in one’s own; but the nature of the eye consists in looking outwards and not at itself. Therefore to note and censure faults in others is a very suitable way of becoming conscious of our own. We need a mirror to improve ourselves.

                                            Schopenhauer, Counsels and Maxims

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

                                            Carl Gustav Jung

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This sentence scares me: "A man wearing a suit is obviously more classy and a better man than a person wearing tattered clothes and a dirty appearance."  While I think I know what you meant, what you said was a total stereotype and completely inaccurate, at least in many cases.  (Think of all the Wall Street "suits" and nicely dressed politicians, for example, who have been swindlers and cheats versus a sweaty construction worker or electrician who works overtime to get a job completed.) Who we are is not necessarily what we wear, as my fellow editors have so ably pointed out in this discussion.  We do make hasty judgments, and we are encouraged to do so by nearly every force in society (advertising, media).  How about concentrating on the fact that we are not what we wear, but the media in all forms tells us we are. 

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teachertaylor | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

I think that this is a good topic to explore the tension between our perceptions of ourselves (and how we think we should be seen) versus how others see us.  Several posters rightfully say that people should not be judged by how they look, but we judge people on how they look everyday.  I think that we make choices about our personal appearance based on how we negotiate these two areas.  For example, I dress in skirts and slacks and blouses when I go to school, and I'm always in heels.  But, like theten, I am also tattooed, and I choose to not cover any of them.  I have a large dragon tattooed on my arm that is representative of the years that I spent living and working in Hong Kong, and I tell this to students who choose to ask.  For me, this is my area of negotiating perceptions.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

One direction you could possibly go to set up your arguement on the negative side would be to find unlikely candidates who instituted major change, or invented something, or were very well respected in their fields/professions etc. who didn't necessarily "dress" the part.  (Of course, I have no examples for you off the top of my head.)  Then, contrast that with individuals who certainly dressed for something, but have made little-to-no positive impact on society (ie: Paris Hilton).  Perhaps look at this from a "fashion" perspective.

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MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

I agree, in that as much as we may not want to be identified with our clothing, it continues to define us each day. As a teacher, I feel that my attire promotes a certain image, and I choose my work clothes carefully. Since I am young (and very short- I'm often mistaken for a student), I want to be sure that my wardrobe sets me apart from my students. I think physical appearance is important in establishing dynamics in the classroom, however shallow that may sound.

I am also rather heavily tattooed, although all of my pieces are easily covered by clothing. My school does not have stipulations about teachers covering up tattoos at work, but I would never show them in class. Instead, I choose to wear outfits that fully conceal them. However, I have colleagues who do not, and it certainly informs my impression of them. There are also other female teachers who wear tank tops and jeans, which is absolutely out of the question to me. I couldn't even begin to imagine standing in front of 40 teenagers wearing the same clothes as they are. Outside of work is a different story; I wear what makes me feel good. But since I have worked years to gain professional status, I want to reflect that image at work.

I agree with poster #2 about the global and possible moral implications of our clothing choices. When I see students struggling to keep up with trends, or spending outrageous amounts of money on name-brand clothes, it does worry me. "Was I like that?" always pops up in my mind....and I can't entirely convince myself I wasn't. As much as we'd like to promote the idea that appearance doesn't matter, it simply does.

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martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

I think what one wears is really a way of saying who one is or how one wants to be thought of.  At the school I work at, I wear a tie and a nice pair of slacks to school each day.  There are other teachers who wear shorts and Hawaiian shirts to school all the time. As an educator, I want to be treated as a professional, so I dress professionally.  For students today, there is a lot of pressure to conform and be part of the crowd which in many ways dictates what the wear and how they act.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I agree with the previous poster.  I have known people who were very wealthy but chose to wear overalls or clothing that didn't scream, "I'm rich."  So, you can't always judge a book by its cover in that way.  However, on the other side of the coin, it is true that for certain occasions (job interviews, business lunches, weddings, etc.) people who want to be taken seriously must dress the part.  Suits, pants, skirts,and shirtspressed; no wrinkles, holes or stains.  Shoes which are polished and without scuff marks tell a different story than worn out versions. Hose and gloves used to be required for young women to be appropriately dressed (even in the summer, and especially in the south), but thankfully that requirement is losing its "mandatory" status.

In the armed forces and other careers where uniforms are required, neat and clean are expected.  In some cases, a lack of neatness and conformity is rebuked and can effect inspection and often result in punishment of some kind (tougher uniform re-inspection next time, loss of free time, additional duties assigned, etc.)

People have preconceived notions about those who wear sagging pants or allow their undergarments to show freely, along with displaying tattoos, etc.  Typically people who dress in this manner (while nothing is really wrong with it in casual situations) are considered unconventional and perhaps not taken as seriously for jobs or social events which require a higher level of decorum.  Like it or not, in some situations, people are judged by their clothing. 

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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted on

While I don't believe that one's attire defines one's character, I do believe that the way a person dresses for a given occasion indicates how seriously he takes the event. For example, wearing a suit to a corporate job interview is a no-brainer. If you want to be considered seriously as a candidate for the position, then you demonstrate that by dressing appropriately.

On the other hand, sometimes dressing down for an occasion is an ironic way to indicate one's lack of investment in the event. An example I have seen is senior boys who wear tuxedos with all the bells and whistles, but boxer shorts instead of tuxedo pants, for the prom. Ironically, it takes tremendous self-confidence to pull off such a stunt.

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lprono | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I would try to give this topic a new angle by asking people whether they knew where their clothes were made and under which economic and social conditions. The clothes that we wear are increasingly being produced in Third World countries or Eastern European nations where workers are underpaid, their rights are routinely denied and unions are illegal. The introduction to Naomi Klein's No Logo gives an interesting account of the seedier reality often hidden behind the "euphoric marketing rhetoric of the global village". Economic globalization should encourage us to view the topic not merely as the opposition between superficial outlook and inward moral qualities, but also in terms of the "labor practices, chemical spills, animal cruelty and unethical marketing" used to produce what we wear.

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acompanioninthetardis | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted on

I am also on the negative side. However, its true that clothes can make an impression, like you said a man with a fancy suit certainly looks professional and has a better presentation of himself then a man with a torn up shirt. Even though this is true, many people can not afford certain clothes. clothes create auras. Hence they are bound financially from being able to give that first impression, but just because they are wearing bad clothes dose'nt mean they are a bad person. And just because they are wearing good clothes does not mean they are a good person. To be honest, there are many things people in "good clothes" have done that's plenty worse then what people in "bad clothes" have done. 

A rich man can wear a torn up shirt, and can be treated like a beggar, whereas a beggar wearing nice clothes can be treated like a rich person. I think the problem is how we look at other people and how we judge them based on appearance rather then what qualities the person has. Also the occasion and area where you see the person depends heavily on your judgement as well. I just feel that if we controlled this judgement (since its almost impossible not to judge someone even if you try your hardest not to judge them, there will almost always be an opinion in the back of your head) and gave everyone equal chances (because lets face it a guy coming to the interview with a stain on his shirt [even if its his best shirt] will not be given the same rights as a guy with a clean cut look), then we may be able to find greater talent, if not we'll at least be able to treat people equally. ...just my share of thought though.

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billdelaney's profile pic

William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

(since its almost impossible not to judge someone even if you try your hardest not to judge them, 

I don't see what's wrong with judging other people, or why we should "try our hardest" not to judge them. On the contrary, I think we should train ourselves to judge other people throughout our lives. This involves our becoming sensitive to our own feelings and impressions--and trusting our own feelings and impressions. Some people can be very dangerous, in one way or another. We can form friendships with people who turn out to be our enemies. We can even marry the wrong person. There are all kinds of people in the world. It is extremely interesting to learn to recognize the different types. I am aware that Jesus said, "Judge not that ye be not judged," but he judged people himself. In fact, he called everybody "a generation of vipers." 

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mastersanjeet | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

This sentence scares me: "A man wearing a suit is obviously more classy and a better man than a person wearing tattered clothes and a dirty appearance."  While I think I know what you meant, what you said was a total stereotype and completely inaccurate, at least in many cases.  (Think of all the Wall Street "suits" and nicely dressed politicians, for example, who have been swindlers and cheats versus a sweaty construction worker or electrician who works overtime to get a job completed.) Who we are is not necessarily what we wear, as my fellow editors have so ably pointed out in this discussion.  We do make hasty judgments, and we are encouraged to do so by nearly every force in society (advertising, media).  How about concentrating on the fact that we are not what we wear, but the media in all forms tells us we are. 

That was what the topic implied, but I am on the negative side, so I am formulating arguments against that sentence.

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