Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Ever wondered what your clothes say about you? We lift the lid on the power of fashion psychology and how you can use it to your advantage.
Do you ever stop and think about what your clothes say about you?
Believe it or not, there’s a whole psychology behind your ensembles. Your fashion choices indicate who you are as a person and how you want to be viewed by the world.
In this blog, we explore fashion psychology and offer a fresh perspective on your everyday get-up.
What is fashion psychology?
Fashion psychology is the study of how a person’s clothes affect the way others perceive and feel towards each other.
From a broader sense, fashion psychology has the power to impact your purchasing decisions and can drastically alter consumer behaviour.
The term itself is more relevant to marketers and fashion designers looking to find a way of appealing to the masses.
Fashion psychology explores topics like:
Why does the consumer buy what they buy?
What influences their decisions?
How do your fashion choices impact the way you feel?
How do your fashion choices change other perceptions of you?
However, it can also teach you, the consumer, a bit more about who you are as a person and help you make smarter fashion choices in the future.
Psychology of clothing
Let’s put the fashion psychology theory into practice.
Think of a time when you spotted an attractive person at a bar. Now, imagine if they were wearing their pyjamas instead of something sexy. Would your first impression change?
(Don’t worry gents, it’s not a loaded question.)
The point we’re trying to make is that your style choices alter first impressions and the way you feel about yourself.
The person in the bar could be visually stunning and have the best personality in the world to boot. But if they rock up wearing everyday loungewear, you’re going to think they’re barmy. Also, the person wearing the pyjamas will probably feel uncomfortable as more and more strangers quietly judge.
Scientists like to use the phrase “enclothed cognition”. In layman’s terms, the idea of the theory is that clothing impacts the way we think and our thought patterns.
And it’s been like this since the beginning of time. Although the purpose of clothing has evolved from practicality to a symbol of status, the thought patterns have remained roughly the same.
Clothes are a fabric of our society, entwined into our day to day lives. Whatever you decide to do with your day, fashion psychology will always play a part.
Even if it’s a quick trip to the gym or your local leisure centre. Various studies suggest that affect the outcome of a sports match and physical exercise. And it doesn’t surprise us. We all know the feeling when you put some fresh sportswear on. You feel motivated and willing to go the extra mile.
The same principle applies in formal situations like an interview. How can you expect to make a positive first impression if you’re wearing scruffy duds? But more importantly, how does that make you feel about yourself?
Can clothes represent personality traits?
What do clothes say about your personality? Potentially, quite a lot.
Whether you like it or not, people will always make snap judgments about your clothing. Again, it stems back to the psychology of clothing and the fact that it’s been a part of civilisation for centuries.
Nevertheless, don’t underestimate the power of self-image. It’s liberating.
When you feel great in the clothes you wear, your personality will shine through and you’ll feel more inclined to take positive actions.
Let’s think about the attractive person in the bar again. But this time, put the shoe on the other foot. Would you honestly have the courage to approach someone looking and feeling a million dollars if you were wearing something you didn’t feel comfortable in?
To show the real you and ensure you feel like a million dollars, you need to wear something that captures your personality.
If you like loud colours, knock yourself out. Or if you prefer cool understated hues, rock it. For the size, favour tailormade fits than off the shelf sizes. Your clothes need to feel like an extension of you, not most of the male population.
Clothing is a form of self-expression. It presents an opportunity to showcase who you are in what you wear.
Yes, there are social cues and the “status quo” to think about. But if you dress in something that doesn’t capture your personality, you’re not doing yourself justice. You also won’t feel comfortable approaching that special someone at the bar.
“Fashion is an art. You express who you are through what you’re wearing.” Daniele Donato
What clothing says about you?
It’s worth noting that there’s a distinct difference between showing your personality and dressing badly. If wearing brown Chelsea boots with bright red shorts and a lime green turtleneck is your prerogative, have at it.
But the real art in gentleman’s fashion is to keep it simple but significant. If you can inject small pops of personality in the right places, you’ll turn these elements into statement pieces.
It’s like living in a house designed by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen. Sure, bright colours and obscure elements will make a statement of some sorts. But everything will blend into one. Instead of being amazed by a striking object or funky wallpaper, you’ll become accustomed to it and your unique elements will go unrecognised. Where’s the contrast?
Even muted colours and staple investment pieces can give off a sense of who you are. You just need to know what your clothing says about you and use this knowledge to your advantage.
The best place to start with any outfit choice is from the ground up.
According to an article in Cosmopolitan, a female can tell what type of boyfriend a male will be from just looking at his shoes. Talk about pressure!
From your perspective, opting for quality footwear will help you walk tall and with a spring in your step. It’s a natural psychological benefit of wearing a comfortable, smart pair of shoes.
As we outlined in our guide on shoe psychology, here’s a breakdown of various footwear styles:
Desert boots/chukka boots – outsiders will think you take care of yourself, but still have a spontaneous and adventurous side. You’ll personally feel comfortable too.
Oxfords/brogues/monks – outsiders will instantly respect you and take you seriously. With the right clothing, your Oxfords, brogues, or monks will act as statement pieces to make you stand out from the crowd.
Chelsea boots – outsiders will recognise your passion for fashion and comfort. They’re the perfect choice for a confident, casual look.
Sneakers – outsiders will view you as someone who prioritises comfort. Although, this could work to your advantage if you’re trying to come across as relaxed, confident, or hip. (Just make sure they’re clean.)
Loafers – outsiders will appreciate your commitment to the latest fashion. Personally, you’ll feel the psychological benefits of upgrading from a casual plimsol or sneaker.
The most important point with footwear is to focus on quality. Don’t make the mistake of buying cheap. You’ll end up paying more in the long run due to their lack of longevity and you won’t feel the psychological benefits of feeling good.
Jeans and trousers
The fashion psychology behind a pair of jeans differs from other garments. How you feel and what they say about you is based on these guidelines:
Are they in fashion? Bootcut jeans and tatty numbers will give off an outdated vibe. It also suggests that you don’t look after yourself or keep up to date with current trends.
Are they clean? Dirty jeans in a social setting may suggest that you’re hard-working, but they tell people you don’t look after yourself too. Whereas a clean pair will have a positive effect on the way you feel and present yourself.
Are they a nice fit? Arguably the most important part. Oversized jeans that fall down your legs or are big enough to host a local scout’s group won’t show off your assets. Giving yourself just enough room will help you breathe while helping you look the part.
For trousers, similar guidelines apply. However, we’d always say the best way to feel great and give off the ideal first impression is to stick to tailored trousers. Something the UK’s leading tailors could assist you with.
Shirts and polo shirts
There are several psychological factors to consider with shirts. Below, you’ll find a quick list describing the feel and impression they indicate:
Oxford shirts – versatile, traditional, and practical.
Chambray shirts – smart/casual, stylish, practical.
Denim shirts – timeless, comfortable, expected.
Flannel shirts – friendly, vintage, laidback.
Dress shirts – smart, professional, powerful.
Linen shirts – happy go lucky, comfortable, summery.
Cuban collar shirts – relaxed, modern, chic.
Overshirts – practical, neutral, easy-going.
Polo shirts – smart/casual, flattering, adaptable.
Getting the right style is only part of the story. Always consider the influence of colour choices and their impact on the psychology of clothing. It’s also worth taking the time to understand your body shape and what clothes enable you to feel confident in your attire.
Parting words of wisdom
There are many parts of fashion psychology to think about. Yet, the most important thing to remember is that you have the power.
Your clothing choices set the tone, the message, and the feeling. You can use articles and listen to top fashion influencers as inspiration. But never lose sight of your role.
It’s never too late to make a change and start wearing the things that make you feel the best version of yourself.