This project examines the relationship college students have with their clothing in the context of individual and group identity formation and expression. Through conducting and analyzing interviews with 15 students at The College, I explore not only how students understand clothing in relation to their own individual identity, but also how that operates in conjunction with the social world. Through this research, it is evident that college students’ relationships with clothing can be understood through a social constructionist and symbolic interactionist lens. This framework integrates the social and the personal and clothing is a unique way through which college students navigate this territory. In regards to individual identity, clothing served as an important means through which college students explored and expressed facets of their own identity including gender identity, socioeconomic status, and racial identity. This research highlights the fact that clothing is a more important, but complicated tool for students from a marginalized background for whom social norms can and will not be adhered to. For group identity, this research affirms the importance of clothing for forming group belonging in a formal setting, like sports teams and Greek societies. It furthers this idea of group identity, however, by highlighting how clothing can be a way in which college students feel belonging and affirmation within their personal friendships. Through these findings, the importance of clothing for all aspects of identity expression is emphasized. 3

Type of Work

Thesis - Limited Access

Department or Program



Hamilton College


Bachelor of Arts

Date of Graduation


Faculty Advisor

Stephen Ellingson, Jaime Kucinskas

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.