Why You Are What You Wear

Why You Are What You Wear

I recently came across an interesting contribution on LinkedIn. In the article referenced, a weathered IT consultant, working for several Fortune 500 companies throughout his career, explains the importance of what you wear and what message it conveys.

His advice; what you wear at work impacts the success you will have, treat every day like it is a job interview, take your cues from higher management and don’t outdress everyone else, but make sure you are well dressed.

We are all familiar with the phrases above, and I’m probably kicking in an open door when I say that our clothing has a significant impact on how we are perceived. The truth is, what you wear and how you look has a more profound influence than we ought to think.

In early civilizations, clothes mainly served a practical purpose: protecting us from cold, heat and all kinds of physical threats. As societies evolved, clothes became less and less a matter of survival, and more a social marker, and increasingly so in modern times.

In the past decade or so, psychologist have been delving deeper into the psychological dynamics of fashion. In fact, fashion, and more importantly the extent to which it affects our being, has become a fully-fledged academic domain within the field of psychology studies. Fashion Psychology, as a discipline, goes beyond just mere clothing but considers the impact of many other products that express self-identity, including (luxury) items that are not strictly defined as clothing but are an integral part of one’s look.

So, let’s have a look at a few pointers of what Fashion Psychology can teach us.

Your fashion choices influence the way others look at you

It is a no-brainer to say that first impressions do matter. In a split second we judge each other and this is highly determined by our looks, what clothes we wear, our shoes, our haircut, the type of watch or handbag we carry and so on.

One study for example found that people, judging anonymized pictures of people wearing a tailor-made suit or an off-the-rack high street suit attributed very different characteristics to the people in the pictures. People wearing a tailor-made suit were judged more confident, capable, flexible, successful and trustworthy than the other group. And while it is true you shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover”, the reality is these “snap judgments” are not trivial. So when you make that first impression, you better make sure it’s one that lasts and conveys the right messages.

In the article that inspired me to write this blog, the entrepreneur details several examples where the way he dressed created some interesting situations. He states that he got noticed more in his clean slacks, button down long sleeve shirt and formal shoes while higher-paid colleagues wearing the typical “IT” khaki’s and polo were literally ignored. This ultimately landed the better-dressed man more interesting career opportunities.

What you wear is linked to your emotions

Our clothes reflect and can even reinforce our mental state. One study, for example, found that women are twice more likely to wear jeans when they are feeling blue. In other words, what we wear is influenced by how we feel.

But the relationship works the other way around as well, in the same respect our relationship to clothes affects our emotional equilibrium. When we are well-dressed and look good, we feel good and consequently also more confident and capable. Many people will agree with me that there’s no better boost for your self-confidence than when other people compliment you on your looks.

Men don’t care? They do. More than women do…

You might be surprised to hear this, but men do care about their appearance. For example, men check themselves in the mirror or reflection no less than twice as often as women. Contrary to popular belief, men are, compared to their female counterparts, more sensitive to their fashion sense and how they are perceived by others.

“You are what you wear…

But the effect of clothing goes even further. Researchers found that we do not only dress the part but actually act the part.

During an experiment, people were asked to wear a white overcoat and perform tasks. Half of the people were told that the coat was a lab coat, while the other half was told it was a painters’ frock. The scientists discovered that the first group of people performed their tasks more meticulously, with more concentration and were more engaged compared to the group of “painters”.

In other words, what we wear has an influence on how we perform.

… because it says something about how you see yourself…

What we wear says something about the way we perceive ourselves. Think back of your own childhood or your kids growing up.  For most toddlers what they wear is fairly irrelevant. Clothes need to be comfortable (for both kids ànd parents) and most importantly durable. But as we grow older, we become more sensitive to our clothing and style. It is no surprise that, by the time we reach adolescence and the need to develop an identity becomes significantly stronger, what we choose to wear – or not wear, becomes a top priority.

I’m sure most of us have been in situations in which wearing the “right” jacket or sneakers in high school means the difference between being in or out. Our teenage years are probably the first time in our lives that we self-consciously choose a look as a means to display or construct our social status, “belonging” to a certain group or, by contrast, differentiating ourselves from others.

Social confirmation through choice of clothing is an essential phase in the psycho-social development of (young) people.

 …and especially about who you want to be”

In the same sense, and perhaps more importantly, our choices in clothing and accessories also say something about our aspirations, who or what we would like to be and how we would like to be perceived.

In the age of social media and the “Gig Economy” where freelance and contract workers make up over 40% of the US workforce, personal branding and how you present yourself, will increasingly become a decisive factor in being successful. Whether it is about attracting new business, landing that dream job or building up a solid social network of loved ones and friends.

In short: what you wear matters

In short, style, clothing and accessories are a deeply personal expression of our individuality. They are the perfect extension of our personality and reveal something about our character, beliefs, the kind of person we are and most importantly, about the person we want to be. They boost our confidence, up our sense of well-being and can even underscore our talents. They are markers that enable us to differentiate ourselves from others as well as find like-minded people or that one soul mate.

Needless to say, originality and authenticity are key elements in this story. Our unique collection of beautifully handcrafted, designer diamond cufflinks deliver just that. They are a piece of you; sophisticated, playful, competent or confident, but most importantly, as unique as you are.