Who we say we are and how we strive to look are but part of the negotiation of identity and appearance. While previous research has focused on the construction of who we are, in this paper we examine the negotiation of who we are not. We explore the vantage point and examine statements of identity not, questioning whether they allude to the mere antithesis of identity or to more complex identity ambivalences. Drawing from nearly 300 interviews, we question the primacy of master statuses and attempt to undo the binaries they support by illuminating salient cross-cutting themes and by introducing descriptors to accompany the categories (age/temporality, gender/sexuality, ethnicity/intersecting cultural identities). In asking about least favorite clothes or about groups one avoids dressing like, we query not so much: What do clothes mean (or not mean)? Rather, we ask: How do we use clothes to negotiate tenuous, fragile, and elastic self/other, past/ present, and present/future relations?
Like a barbed wire fence; Strung tight; Strung tense; Prickling with pretense; A borderline. Every income, every age, every fashion-plated rage, every measure, every gauge, creates a borderline.