Almost every member of the human race wears some form of clothing on a daily basis. Starting with weaves of twigs and leaves and culminating in the latest fashion trends, clothing has been part of human life for thousands of years. Nowadays, what we wear feels important on a superficial level, but do our style choices have a long-term impact?
It’s often said that our clothes tell stories about who we are, but they also have many other purposes. Not only do they protect our modesty and allow us to “cover up” parts of ourselves we would rather keep private, but clothes also serve to protect us from adverse weather and other external dangers. However, the term “fashion over function” indicates that sometimes clothing is about more than necessity – it’s about how we present ourselves to the outside world, not to mention how we feel inside.
Clothes Help Define the Self
From the moment we are born, we begin life being clothed by someone else. Our parents pick out garments for us to wear when we are infants, then, in many cases, our school uniform is dictated to us as well. At some point, we’re given the opportunity to choose clothes for ourselves. This becomes one of the ways we become separate from our carers and start to define our own identity. In this way, not only are clothes a way for us to express ourselves to others, but they also serve as reminders to ourselves about who we are.
Clothes Guide People’s Perceptions About Us
As the British philosopher and novelist Alain de Botton says, “Our wardrobes contain some of the most carefully written lines of our autobiography.” In other words, the clothes we wear allow us to guide other people’s perceptions about who we are. Through our outfit choices, we can highlight interesting or attractive elements of who we are and clear up any misconceptions. For instance, we often hear about people in very senior positions who wear the same style of suit day in, day out, but who wear colourful socks to highlight their rebellious side.
Research shows that we can tell a lot about other people according to what they wear. According to a recent study, it is possible to predict someone’s politics, personality, status, age and income just by looking at pictures of their shoes. This means that when choosing what to wear, we’re consciously aware of the social signals we’re sending out into the world. Interestingly, when we know people well we are not so concerned about what we wear around them: this is because they already know us, so we don’t feel the need to influence their perceptions.
Clothes Make Us Happy
There’s no denying that certain clothes have the ability to make us happy. A pair of bright yellow pumps or a red party dress can cheer us up on a glum day, or perhaps a special tie reserved for birthdays or anniversaries. The reason for this is not just about feeling confident in certain outfits; it's that clothes embody values we hold dear – values that we hope bring us closer to who we want to be. We are drawn to garments that contain illusions of happiness which allow us to look and feel like the people we want to be.
Clothes Dictate Our Behaviour
As well as impacting how we feel, clothes also dictate the behaviour of the people wearing them. Dressing yourself in a professional capacity can be seen as a form of personal branding. Not only does presenting yourself well have certain obvious benefits, but when we wear certain clothes in familiar scenarios, such as attending a meeting or going to the gym, the brain is primed to respond in a way that’s consistent to that meaning.
The clothes you wear can also define your body language, making you appear either confident or withdrawn. Visual associations go a long way, and dressing well can help you portray a more confident version of yourself and make a positive first impression.
Clothes and the Absence of Choice
Of course, dressing smartly or wearing your favorite dress is important for your self-image and confidence, but it isn’t always that simple. For better or for worse, wearing certain clothes also helps dictate our behaviour, but what happens when we can’t afford to buy clothes or we’re limited in other ways? Perhaps you want to express yourself a certain way but your budget just doesn’t allow for it.
There are several ways to overcome this obstacle and be more intentional about your clothing choices. One of the most popular methods of the moment ascribes to minimalism, and it’s called the Capsule Wardrobe. This method of keeping just a few outfits works on the basis that when it comes to clothing choices, less is more. The idea is to create an entire wardrobe of 32 items or less with garments you love and wear regularly.
If you know you need some new clothes but your budget is an issue, you can use a service like Koala Discount when searching for deals or a discount code for your favorite shop. Looking out for bargains is a great way to fill your wardrobe with the clothes you love for less. You could also buy from thrift stores, bid on eBay items or host a clothes-swapping party with your friends.
Quite evidently, our clothing has a huge role to play in the impressions we leave on people and the way we feel about ourselves. This is true in both a personal and professional sense. Despite knowing the importance of clothes, we’re often fed conflicting messages like “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got.”
The bottom line is, people do make assumptions based on what we wear, but it’s up to each of us to decide whether or not to care about that. As long as you are happy with your clothing choices, whatever social signals they send out, your confidence and sense of identity will shine through.