Self-expression must pass into communication for its fulfillment. Pearl S. Buck.
The dictionary definition of self-expression is, to express one’s own personality, feelings, or ideas, as through speech or art. As we can understand from the quote above, it’s the communication in the expression that is the vital part. Ideas felt, but not expressed are merely unfulfilled ideas.
Whilst travelling overseas many years ago, I became fascinated with the process of jewellery making. I used to watch the silversmiths at work, marvelling at their ability to make something out of nothing with just a vision in their heads of how it would look when completed.
But the real eye opener was the ways different countries used different jewellery styles to express their cultural identities. The why was even more fascinating than the how?
Why do we wear jewellery? Surely, it’s not just because we have fingers and toes and they look a bit bare? Historically jewellery was worn to symbolise tradition, religion, wealth, sentiment, commitment or even art. That’s interesting, but what does it mean now, what are we saying when we wear jewellery today?
Here in the West we use jewellery to express our identities just as in the East. We just do it a little differently. We use jewellery as a form of self-expression, much like the clothes that we wear, or the music we listen to. Jewellery makes a statement about us as much as anything else we do, wear or have.
Our attitude to jewellery is actually tribal, but we’re too sophisticated for that term, so we call our tribes niche markets. But what is a “yummy mummy” an “IT Girl”, a “fashion student”, or a “working mum”? They’re all effectively tribes. They have their own websites, cultures, accepted practices ways of dressing and accessorising themselves. Our society is fragmented, so belonging to a social group gives us certainty, a sense of belonging and enhances our identity.
Sure the membership may shift and change as people go through different phases in their lives, but sometimes we don’t even notice we’ve moved on, hence the current glut of makeover programmes. We’re all knowingly, or unknowingly affected by the formal and informal groups we belong to.
We expect people to look a certain way. Our brains are constantly scanning the information they receive for patterns. If the brain can label incoming information, it then makes for easier scanning. Eg All hoodie wearers are delinquents, or solicitors wear suits. How would you feel if you were introduced to your new bank manager, who was dressed in jeans? Knowing this, we all dress for certain occasions in an appropriate way – Anyone who’s ever turned up at a party dressed wrongly will testify that this is really not a comfortable way to spend an evening!
The pressure on women and men to juggle roles in today’s society is enormous, we literally gravitate into our identities and then we select our clothes and jewellery accordingly. As our society has diversified and individualised, jewellery has become an important method of manifesting Self- expression and confidence.
New Niches have emerged to cater for more sophisticated consumers, one such niche is high fashion. In much the same way as the fashion designers such as D&G, Gucci & Donna Karen revolutionised the previously staid watch world, elbowing aside old favourites in favour of fashion branded watches, so the same phenomenon has been quietly occurring in the jewellery world
Today, the jewellery market has verticalised itself. The newly emerging middle class is the segmenting itself firmly between the designer makers, the luxury upper class, and the high street. With in-house designers and marketing know how, this savvy breed of suppliers are providing women and men with high fashion branded collections, much as the fashion watch retailers did before them.
These collections are either aimed at a specific market, such as career women. Moods, such as elegance or glamour, or movements such as funk or punk. These companies are selling themselves and their values as much as the jewellery they supply and women are listening to these marketing messages, witness the success of the right hand ring campaign.
So today, jewellery at any level can be and is used to portray an image, how we feel, or where we belong. It’s part of the statement we make. It’s no coincidence that the mega fashion trend at the moment in our increasingly diversified, individualist society, is statement jewellery.