Clothing As Communication: Analyzing Key and Peele’s Dueling Hats

Clothing is more than just clothes. It is also a tool that people can use to communicate and interact. Everything we wear can be perceived by others as symbols that they interpret and respond to.

The following video is Comedy Central’s Dueling Hats episode of Key and Peele. It is a good example of how two people use clothing as communication.

The scenes, in general portray, how clothing, in this case, the hats, can be a means of communication.  The hats, and the way the persons use and display them, were used to communicate feelings of pride and brag about their ability to “do more and be better than the other” through the hats they wear.

Verbal communications include greetings and casual positive conversations between seemingly close friends, yet the non-verbal cues say otherwise as the two main characters meet on the streets not by chance but out of a concrete plan of ensuring the other person would see how new, cool, or innovative their hats are, like those are extensions of themselves and their status.

In the first scene depicting the man with a signature cap with stickers and tag (wearer or sender) and the other man with a plain orange cap (clothing observer), the observer responded through non-verbal cues (widening of eyes and raising of brows) of being somehow disgusted to the way the wearer seemingly brags by also sending his non-verbal cues of touching his hat and rolling his eyes toward his cap stickers, brand, and tag.

The duel went on as one person feels that the other should not outdo his “hat idea” as if it is a picture or representation of himself and his ability. Their socialization thus revolved on how they display their hats and behaved competitively.

Sometimes, however, in our day to day experience, interpretations of the clothing perceiver and observer vary thus resulting to miscommunication and misconception. As perceivers or wearers, we are entitled to express ourselves freely through clothing without hurting or offending someone intentionally. And as observers, we should exercise our ability to infer by looking beyond what our naked eyes could see and trying to understand and appreciate.


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