Early research on fashion has provided the foundation we have today and debunked some things we hold true; like women care more about what they look like than men, for example. It turns out, men are often more self-conscious than women are when it comes to their fashion choices and the way that they are perceived.
Why is fashion important? It conveys the way we feel, think about ourselves, and our behavior and in-turn the way that people orient to us and how they behave around us. Some of these behaviors and feelings are conscious, some are not.
In the early days, clothes were just a means to provide us with protection from the elements, but as we progressed we began to use these things that simply cover us to allow others to get a visual representation of who we are, or better yet- who we want to be perceived as.
Early examples of status with clothing can be seen in American Indigenous tribes. The decorations and things like beads and feathers used by the women who made the clothing were used to create significant symbols of stature and power. They used everything they had available and never wasted any materials; to see intricate clothing was an indication of high status.
With the developments in the manufacturing of clothing, we started to see a difference based on not only personal taste but wealth. We know that clothing changes with time, economic status, and trends but the underlying factor that makes it significant: choice.
Heuristics in judgment are the rules in which we often use to form impressions and opinions and in turn, judgments. They are the mental shortcuts we take when deciding. It would be too complex for our brains to weigh every option so we create pathways to simplify decision making.
Availability is the ease with which a particular idea can be brought to mind, and why we hold biases for certain things. In regards to fashion, this can be how we decide upon our clothing for that day. You see something on Instagram, it’s at the top of your mind- you then wear something similar.
Representativeness heuristic is a judgment basis of similarity, which makes us incorrectly finding causal relationships between things that resemble one another and missing them when the cause and effect are very different. See a Chanel bag? You might assume the person carrying it is wealthy. We also play into this ourselves and choose clothing choices based on others we assume are at the level we would like to be.
People’s valuation of goods and the quantities they buy respond to anchoring effects. We may see a sale which is a buy one get one and so we are compelled to purchase because we think we are getting more value than we are paying.
All of these biases are used consciously by advertisers and media to get us to buy more, though as we know we really don’t need another pair of shoes.
We are influenced by so many things when it comes to consumer behavior, things that we may not even think twice about like the tv shows we watch. A study done looked at tv shows like Gossip Girl with strong fashion influence to see if people who watched would have an influence on their purchases and wanting to replicate the looks of the main characters. They found that “women with materialistic orientations would like to emulate the main characters. The mechanisms underlying this relationship are that materialistic women watch fashion TV series to gain fashion inspiration; subsequently, they watch these series more frequently, and this behavior is related to increased copy-cat intentions.”
Why do we lend ourselves so easily to these simple tricks being played on us by those who want us to purchase? One thought is mate selection. Evolutionary psychology proposed the theory that everything we do, yes everything, is determined by our wanting to find a mate and pass on our genes.
As humans, not other animals who do not have a choice in the matter, give us an advantage. We are able to choose clothing that allows us to distinguish ourselves and show ourselves off when trying to find a mate. And, yes, on the other hand, we can also use clothing to hide our individuality by wearing a uniform or clothing to blend in during times in our lives that we are not consciously looking to reproduce.
We use clothing to lure in people we are attracted to without saying a word. This also works with makeup and beauty regimens. Simply, we want to attract others, be attractive and liked- which yes are correlated. One study found that we actually deceive potential partners when we go on dates with them. Both the men and women in the study used deception to their advantage but for different purposes.
The men tried to impress the women by showcasing their buying power and security by exaggerating their financial position or by trying to demonstrate a preparedness to commit. Women used deceptive manipulations in regards to their clothing to accentuate their physical features.
It’s more than just the clothing choices though, it’s how they influence your posture and confidence. Posture and movement influence perceptions of your own masculinity or femininity, which is linked to the judgment of attractiveness. Humans are complex creatures the say the least, much of what we do has internal reseasoning or causes which we are unaware of. Even things as simple as our clothing have become widely complicated and vastly varies from individual. This said, through fashion, we’ve unlocked an incredible avenue for expression and exploration, so let’s utilize it!