Clothing Makes the Man: Impression Management and Prisoner Reentry

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Building on the wealth of prisoner reentry scholarship focusing on the process of transitioning home, this article examines clothing and reentry, and the complex interplay of how clothing has meaning for both the wearer and the viewer during this process. Prisoner reintegration research demonstrates that former prisoners are in need of a multitude of items, yet the purpose of clothing as a function in impression management is rarely considered. This article contends that clothing plays an important role in mediating social interactions for men returning to the community. Drawing on ethnographic data from a two-year interdisciplinary project in Newark, New Jersey, we present empirical evidence that clothing supports substantial notions of identity and performance. Through the notion of liminality, we explore three typologies that reveal how clothing pertains to male performance and social practice: (1) loss of identity, (2) reclamation of identity, and (3) creation of identity. We find that clothing is a tool through which former prisoners are able to reengage with society as someone other than as a former prisoner.




SAGE Publications

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Punishment & Society