Does Clothing Make the Man?

Let’s face it, in order to be a participant in society and function as a member of society, one must cover his or her body. To begin it, we wear clothing for the most basic of reasons, modesty. For the most part, humans do a great job in remaining modest and respecting others in regard to nudity and a sense of decency.  Identification and status, however, are linked to first impressions and perception. Perception may be superficial, but a first impression occurs within seconds of meeting someone or just through a casual glance. Clothing as identification and status, suggests employment, rank, power, and position within a society. It is worth noting, that self-perception and productivity is based on appearance, as well.

According to a study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, Kraus notes clothing as an important force in business affairs and success. Men were asked to wear different forms of attire and enter negotiations concerning the sale of a make-believe factory. The control group wore clothing they arrived in, while two other groups were asked to wear dress attire and casual attire. Those wearing the dress attire were more successful and were less willing to back-down in negotiations. The control group was in the middle with results, while those men clothed in sweatpants and casual attire had the least amount of success and the most concessions. 

sweat v suits


In another recent study by Adam and Galinsky of Northwestern University, clothing promotes the appearance of professionalism and subconsciously feeling more professional. This would suggest  dressing in sloppy, loose-fitting clothes compared to business attire at the office greatly impacts work performance. Adam and Galinsky performed several experiments exploring perception as related to clothing and what they term, “embodied cognition”. This is merely the combination of thinking not only with our brains, but with physical experiences, as well.

Although several experiments were conducted, the one standing out the most, notes an increase in productivity in tasks and attention. In the experiment, participants were asked to wear what was suggested to be a doctor’s coat, a painter’s coat, or were just asked to view a doctor’s coat while looking for differences between pictures. The participants wearing the doctor’s coat were able to perform simple tasks and find more differences than those participants in a painter’s coat or not wearing a coat at all.

Judgement and perception will always play an important role in dressing man. What a person wears affects how he or she is perceived, even self-perception. If one dresses for success and respect, it would seem that first impressions would be good, followed by success. Clothing offers a sense of trust, an implied level of respect, and better performance. You decide, at an upcoming appointment to have a root canal, would you rather have your dentist greet you while dressed in a casual pair of sweatpants and a beloved PSU t-shirt and sneakers or a white medical jacket or some sort of medical attire?


2 thoughts on “Does Clothing Make the Man?

  1. lkv5058

    This is very interesting. It makes sense that those who dress professionally would be treated more professionally. Personally, I always overdress for job interviews because I think it shows I value the importance of the position. However, I never thought about the subconscious effects my attire would have on myself and others. Here is a link to a website with some tips on what to wear next time you have an important meeting or interview.

  2. Melissa Raquel Fraistat

    I thought this blog post was very thought provoking and interesting. I find it very compelling that your perception of yourself can have such an impact on productivity and success, just by changing your attire. I also think it’s a two way street, though. Like you said, how you are perceived is just as important as how you perceive yourself. I remember an episode of Impractical Jokers where the Jokers dressed very professional at the mall, pretending to be newscasters. They told mall-goers the most absurd things, but people believed them merely because they looked the part. You can watch the episode here if you want.

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