My Clothes do What?

By Georgia Wyess 

After years of practice, the brain begins to associate certain items with particular emotions and reactions. Clothing is no exception. It shapes how others perceive us, and how we perceive ourselves. Starting from a young age, our parents clad us in pants and sweaters that, though we had no control over, echoed to others in public intricate information about ourselves. You don’t believe me? Walk into the children’s section at any department store and you will clearly see that blue and green is reserved for the boys, while pink and purple are reserved for girls. Moreover, you’ll see different styles of clothing for different ages. Here is how your clothing choices are influencing you to this day.

The impact clothing has on our self image and the image others have of us is incredibly tangible; in fact, science has even coined the term “enclothed cognition” to describe this phenomenon. This has been happening for centuries. People of lower status would buy clothes in purple or blue silk, representing the colors frequently worn by royalty, in an effort to elevate their own status. Not only would the expensive clothing impact how others viewed them, but also the individuals would tend to act in a more sophisticated manner upon donning luxurious garments. Even today, our clothing impacts our mental preparedness. When we put on jeans and a t-shirt to join our zoom class, instead of staying in our pajamas, we are more focused and engaged because our brain associates our outfit with working rather than sleeping. 

So clothing has the potential to better my work ethic and self-image, but how does it impact the way others see me? We have all heard the phrase “do not judge a book by its cover.” While we may try our best to live by this phrase and administer our opinions to it, our brains are not designed to think like that. Often, our judgement of others happens within the first eight seconds we interact with them; our minds take in their build, greeting, presentation, and outward appearance—including clothing. Why? This is a simple defence mechanism that stems from centuries of living in pre-civilization communities where quick judgement of our surroundings determined our ability to survive. Now, though we live in a more stable environment, our brains still look at others and judge them to ensure a compatible setting. For example, what you wear to a job interview will give your potential employer an idea of your personality, your ability to do the job, and your work in such a position.

Yes, clothing absolutely has the ability to boost your own confidence, your image to others, and even increase your likelihood to receive certain positions in the workplace. Therefore, next time before you roll out of bed and join a class, consider dressing up. You never know how it may benefit you.