One of the major changes taking place in adolescence is the process of self-discovery. Young people are figuring out exactly who they are. Adolescent identity development is a central feature of life in 11-18 year olds. We believe that all young people should have the opportunity to explore their self-identity and be able to express themselves through their clothing.
Peer groups also become increasingly influential in shaping how 11-18 year olds feel about themselves during the adolescent years. Because acceptance by their peer group becomes so important, young people may modify their speech, dress, behaviour and choices to become more similar to their peers. This increased similarity provides a sense of security and acceptance. Those from families in need that cannot afford the ‘right’ clothes run the risk of not fitting in; experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation; and a subsequent increase in the likelihood of developing poor mental health.
Furthermore, the adolescent years are formative ones when decisions made by you and about you can have a real impact on your future. When clothing and fashion are used to indicate and communicate social worth and status, those who are unable to afford appropriate clothes may be denied opportunities because of their appearance. For example, recent research demonstrated that teachers’ judgements of their pupils were influenced by their students clothing. Such unconscious bias can have far-reaching consequences that affect those young people for the rest of their lives.
Finally, whilst there are existing initiatives to clothe young children and adults, Material Difference feels there is a definite gap when it comes to the clothing poverty of young people.