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First Impression Formation On People With Piercings And Tattoos

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Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Tattoos
  4. Piercings
  5. Facial Hair
  6. Strengths and weaknesses


In the modelling industry, various factors influence first impressions of models and actors that gives us positive and negative impressions. Aisch (1946)“A trait is realised in its particular quality. The next trait is similarly realised. Each trait produces its particular impression. The total impression of the person is the sum of the several independent impressions”. Research suggests that if the model/ actor is wearing nice clothes, this makes people think that they are successful. The objective of this study was to investigate what factors of a person’s appearance affect people’s first impressions of someone and why. Four first year participants were selected from a University in the North East of England. All participants were within the age of 18-21. Each participant was taken into a quiet room with the researchers who were all first-year students aged 18-20. The participant was shown 4 different images (one showing a man with a nice suit, another showing a man with tattoos, the third picture of a man with facial hair, and lastly a man with facial piercings) and were asked what they thought about each image and why in a semi-structured interview. A thematic analysis revealed similar themes suggesting that the ways in which each model differentiated with different aspects of their appearance for example a man with tattoos means that the person is “Tattoos show that they are creative”, and a man with “piercings means that the person is cool”, “Nice suit means that they are successful”. The findings we gathered were all from students from the same university, which means that our findings cannot be generalised outside of the north-East. Our findings. May also be ethnocentric as people from different parts of the country may have different views on what is deemed positive and negative on a person’s appearance.


Impression formation towards models and actors in marketing campaigns is one of the most important components of advertising, it is heavily reliant on the visual appearance of these models. (Aisch, 1946) Studied impression formation which is when we take the first characteristic of a person and base that one characteristic on their whole personality by globalising it, which may explain why certain people are used for marketing campaigns as aspects of that actor/ model may be for a specific audience. In a series of relevant literature. This topic has been heavily researched in past literature. For example, N.H, K.P, I.O, B.F (2013) The influence of clothing on first impressions “Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management” Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 38-48. The aim of this study was to investigate the minor changes in clothing on the perception of the male model. They used a repeated measures design and an online study by asking each participant to look at each models and ask what they thought of them based on their clothes I.e. a normal suit vs the tailored suit and are asked to answer in 5 seconds. A key finding of their study was that the tailored suit was rated positively on all attributes, i.e. confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary and flexibility. These findings relate to the study of impression formations on models and actors in marketing campaigns as clothing is related to the visual appearance of a person, these findings suggest that people with nice clothing will be suitable for a marketing campaign as the people viewing it form a positive impression. Repeated measures design comes with order effects, so this may affect the way the participant rates the male model reducing the validity of the findings. Conducting a qualitative study such as a semi structured interview provides the researcher freedom to explore the participants thoughts, rather than asking them the same question continuously which adds more depth into the findings making it more credible to the research. S. Mark Pancer, James R. Meindl (1978) Length of Hair and Beardedness as Determinants of Personality Impressions. In this research article, S. Mark and James.R M aimed to investigate the influence of hair and beardedness on first impressions of personality. Participants were asked what their impression was by putting check marks on a bipolar scale when they look first glance at a man with long hair or short hair and a beard or no beard. A key finding of this study was that by having long hair this created a negative impression in comparison to short hair. This key finding suggests that models/ actors with long hair are less likely to be picked for marketing campaigns due to negative impressions being formed of them. Quantitative data collected by a bi-polar scale could be misinterpreted by participants, therefore effecting the validity and reliability of the data as it is not accurate and may be incorrect. By using qualitative research methods i.e. a semi structured interview, participants can expand on their answers and not just put what they think on a scale without being able to explain themselves so this cannot be mis-interpreted. The participant understands the question so correct data can be gathered. Although there is some relevant literature towards this topic there is still a large gap in impression formation. The research study in this investigation “what are the factors that influence attitudes towards models/ actors in the marketing campaigns?”. The aim of the study was to find how components such as facial hair, tattoos, piercings and clothing has an effect on first impressions. A semi-structured interview was put in place to ask participants what they thought of the model based on these 4 aspects, these answers where then put together and athematic analysis was carried out. A key finding was that facial hair had a negative impact on first impressions. These findings suggest that models and actors with facial hair may not be chosen for marketing campaigns as the audience may create a negative first impression of them. An issue with the semi-structured interviews that were taken place was that all of the participants were from the same area so there is ethnocentric bias, as all participants are part of the same area so this is not representative.


Participants interpreted tattoos to be a way of self-expression, how their personality is portrayed. “He also has many different tattoos in his hands that they may express something about himself’. This is supported by Marika Tiggemann Louise A.Hopkins (2011) Tattoos and piercings: Bodily expressions of uniqueness? “it was predicted that tattoos would be more motivated by self-expression and identity”. This proves that tattoos are a form of identification, so for a model/ actor to have tattoos this would interest a creative audience. Tattoos are a way of self- expression and personality. “I think he’s quite a relaxed person, who doesn’t care what other people think”. This is supported by M Kang, K Jones (2007) Why do people get tattoos? “The popularity of tattoos attests to their power as vehicles for self-expression, commemo- ration, community building, and social commentary.” Another interpretation gained from participants from tattoos is that the person is laidback, and don’t care what people think. “I think he’s quite a relaxed person, who doesn’t care what other people think”. This is supported by Gordon B. Forbes (2001) College Students with Tattoos and Piercings: Motives, Family Experiences, Personality Factors, and Perception by Others “tattoos and piercings in college students are associated with significantly more risk-taking behaviour, greater use of alcohol and marijuana, and less social conformity”. This suggests that people with tattoos do not conform to societal norms, therefore they don’t care what people think. A continuation of this interpretation found in the transcripts “they make him look like a bit of a bad boy. He looks rough and ready, calm and cool”. This is supported by BA Martin, CS Dula (2010) More than Skin Deep: Perceptions of, and Stigma against, Tattoos. “Males usually get tattoos to appear tough… Females usually get tattoos to appear cool”. This supports that tattoos are related to looking tough and cool on first impressions, as the participants picked up on these characteristics based on an image shown on a piece of paper, so if marketing campaigns used models that had tattoos, this is what the audience would think of them.

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Participants gained a first impression of people with piercings as being fashionable. In the transcripts, it was stated “he’s involved/more interested in with the up keep of fashion trends…” This is supported by R Ebrahim, S Naidoo (2008) Oral and perioral piercings in Tshwane: scientific “Being fashionable was the most com- mon reason for piercings”. However, this is disputed by A.Agarwal (2015) Attitudes Towards Tattoos and Piercings and Their Link with body Image and Self-Esteem “They are also rated as being less fashionable, attractive, caring, and intelligent”, this is a person’s view on somebody with piercings, that it makes them less fashionable. Also, in the transcripts, piercings deem people as being cool, up to date with fashion. “He has a lot of piercings, they look very cool”. This is supported by Christa de Cuyper, Maria Luisa Cotapos (2009) Piercings: Techniques and Complications “It is trendy and looks cool, and is considered as an aesthetic form of adornment and a fashion statement”. This translates from the study’s findings and with relevant past literature that piercings are deemed as cool and fashionable, so marketing campaigns for up to date trendy clothing will benefit from using models/ actors with body piercings, similarly to tattoos.

Facial Hair

Facial hair on a man has seemingly made negative interpretations from participants’ opinions and experiences as looking scruffy or untidy. Within the transcripts, it was said that “He doesn’t look very well groomed, makes him look a bit greasy and dirty”. This is supported by AD Arndt, K Karande, M Glassman (2016) How context interferes with similarity-attraction between customers and service providers “he facial hair on the dentist, commenting for example, “I do not like the facial hair—just a personal thing for someone that will be close to my wide-open mouth,” “I think I would not choose one that had a beard just for sanitary reasons,” and “the beard is just unhygienic””. This provides evidence that people relate facial hair to poor hygiene levels. Another interpretation was that it made the man look lazy “he looks young, hardworking but lazy as well the way he doesn’t maintain his grooming maybe a bit unorganised”. This is supported by B Cutts, T Hooley, J Yates (2015) Graduate dress code: How undergraduates are planning to use hair, clothes and make-up to smooth their transition to the workplace “because stubble gives the impression of laziness and lack of effort regarding personal appearance”. This concludes that in this study, they found that if people didn’t keep up with their shaving routines, it gave them an instant characteristic of being lazy. This related to the research topic as people will view models/ actors in marketing campaigns as sluggish or lazy due to having a lot of facial hair, however this could be used in shaving campaigns to promote cleanliness after shaving, As the impression formation took place that certain aspects of body image is a serious factor of first impressions.

Strengths and weaknesses

In a semi structured interview, we receive Qualitative data which is detailed, rich and in- depth data. This makes our findings more credible as more information is gained about impression formations, especially to do with tattoos, piercings, facial hair and nice clothing. This is due to being allowed to ask follow up questions. For example, the interviewee may think facial hair is “scruffy” so we are allowed to ask why as it makes them look “lazy”. Another strength of the study was that all participants were debriefed and given the right to withdraw, therefore the study was ethical. However, there were drawbacks to the method. As an opportunity sample was used, the findings cannot be generalised outside of the North East as all participants study there. Also, participants knew that they were being recorded so this may make their answers bias as they may have acted in a socially desirable way making the findings less valid. Qualitative data lacks objectivity- makes findings less scientific.

A suggestion for further research concluding findings is to look into why people on first impressions stereotype people with piercings and tattoos to have anti-social behaviours and why they are deemed as “bad boys”. Due to common themes of “bad boy”, “they don’t care about what others think” etc. The aims of the study were to investigate what factors of a person’s appearance affect people’s first impressions of someone and why, how impression formation is formed by visual appearance especially for models/ actors in marketing campaigns. The 4 themes that were explored were nice clothes, facial piercings, facial hair and tattoos. An implication of the findings would have been transcribing the interviews with words being mis-heard or being mis-interpreted.

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First Impression Formation On People With Piercings And Tattoos. (2021, August 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 6, 2023, from
“First Impression Formation On People With Piercings And Tattoos.” Edubirdie, 18 Aug. 2021,
First Impression Formation On People With Piercings And Tattoos. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 6 Dec. 2023].
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