Fitting in when you are different: work-based dress and asperger syndrome: Work-Based Dress and Asperger Syndrome

Linda Shearer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The significance of dress and work, as foundations for the formation, maintenance and enhancement of self-identity is compounded by their relationship in work-based dress. This case study examines the lived experience of a male professional with Asperger Syndrome (AS); a mild and higher functioning form of Autism thought to affect 1 in 250 people, and typified, amongst others, by social impairment, repetitive routines or rituals and non-verbal communication problems.1 In a workplace environment without a formal dress code, there is an implicit expectation relating to appropriate attire, thus creating the potential for ambiguity and confusion. Dress codes are developed through social experiences leading to a shared understanding. As a result of having AS the case subject does not have an intuitive sense of social cues and is able to behave in a ‘normal’ way at work, only through meticulous research and observation of the habits of other, ‘neuro-typical’ people. The resultant suppression of self-identity and individuality in creating this standardised work role image presents a challenge for this individual who, as a result of AS, cannot adapt easily to different forms of dress; or to change in general. The qualitative study uses diary, in-depth interview, vignette and photographic data to illustrate the personal constructs of the subject and to probe aspects of tension and dissonance relating to dress choice in the workplace. The findings provide insight into the conflicts between self identify and perceived work dress requirements, and examine the resultant strategies such as body modification and appropriations of dress, that are harnessed to enable social interaction and acceptance within an organisational context. The study offers an adjunct to dress research by exploring lived experience and personal constructs out with the socially ‘normative’ spectrum.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFashion
Subtitle of host publicationExploring Critical Issues
EditorsBarbara Brownie, Laura Petican, Johannes Reponen
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781848881488
ISBN (Print)9789004403970
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Asperger Syndrome
  • Dress
  • Identity
  • Suit
  • Work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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