When a man is wearing dirty old clothes most people assume that this man is homeless. In today’s 21st century society it is common to judge people by their appearance and most of the time it is done unconsciously. Social responses and first impressions are influenced through clothing choices because clothing communicates extensive and complex information, people who dress similar to one another have more effect on each other than those who do not and those who wear formal clothing elicit a different response than those who dress more casually.
Clothing communicates extensive and complex information like social status, culture and gender. A large number of studies suggest that clothing carries cultural meanings that is passed through fashion. McCracken and Roth (as cited in Neil Howlett, 2013) said: “The potency of clothing communication relies on a ‘code’. The more people understand the code, the more potent the clothing will be at communicating information.” For example, in a working environment when a man ¬is formally dressed, he will receive more positive judgements in contrast to a man who is casually dressed. The formally dressed man will receive judgements such as attractive, intelligent and popular; whilst the other man creates a less favorable impression being judged more often as unattractive, unintelligent and unpopular. This is a prime example of how clothing communicates extensive and complex information without using verbal or non-verbal communication.
One of the great things about fashion is that people can identify each other through style. According to Michinov and Michinoc (2011) people who dress similar to one another have more effect on each other than those who dress differently from them. This is because there is a certain common ground that allows for easier social interaction. Before, clothing served one purpose: to keep us warm and protect us. As time passed by more and more people started using clothing as a way to express and distinguish themselves from others. This is prevalent today because we can now recognize the police, firefighters, students, teachers along with many other professions.
Those who wear formal clothing elicit a different response than those who dress more casually. Columbia University and California State University did research on this subject and have shown that dressing formally serves to obtain respect, signalling professionalism and maintenance of social distance. According to Peluchette and Karl (2002): “People who wear formal clothes describe themselves as more competent and rational, whereas people who wear casual clothes describe themselves as more friendly and laid-back.”
This means that when people are dressed formally there is more social distance, related to psychological formality, whereas people who dress casual are engaged with more intimacy and familiarity.
In conclusion, clothing definitely influences first impressions. Style communicates a great deal about a person, helping people to recognize social status, culture and gender of others when first meeting them. It helps them to identify like-minded individuals and dressing formally or casually can greatly influence the way people interact with each other.
- Dibert, A., Laird, A., & Wu, D. (16AD, April 20). The Effects of Styles of Dress on First Impressions. Retrieved October 28, 2019, from https://digitalcommons.cedarville.edu/research_scholarship_symposium/2016/poster_presentations/34/?utm_source=digitalcommons.cedarville.edu%2Fresearch_scholarship_symposium%2F2016%2Fposter_presentations%2F34&utm_medium=PDF&utm_campaign=PDFCoverPages
- Michinov, E., & Michinov, N. (2011). Social Comparison Orientation Moderates the Effects of Group Membership on the Similarity-Attraction Relationship. The Journal of Social Psychology, 151(6), 754–766. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.2010.522619
- Howlett, N., Pine, K., Orakçıoğlu, I., & Fletcher, B. (2013). The influence of clothing on first impressions. Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, 17(1), 38–48. https://doi.org/10.1108/13612021311305128
- Slepian, M. L., Ferber, S. N., Gold, J. M., & Rutchick, A. M. (2015). The Cognitive Consequences of Formal Clothing. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(6), 661–668. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550615579462