It all started with a suit…
When I got promoted in my first “big boy” job back I made it a point to start wearing a suit. I saved for a bit and had a custom suit tailored for me (I know it sounds fancy, but it actually ended up costing less than a suit from Zara would).
I got to say, I loved putting on that suit. Being 23 or 24 years old at the time I felt mature, successful when wearing it.
What I did not expect was what happened when I walked into the office – people, especially those who worked in other departments and didn’t know me personally, started saying “Good morning” when passing by and overall started treating me in a more formal fashion like they would someone from management.
I’ve also noticed that I would carry myself differently when wearing that suit – walk taller, stand straighter, even find myself communicating with colleagues in a more authoritative fashion.
But you know what the funniest thing is?
I actually felt like that was appropriate and normal.
I’ve later noticed a similar phenomenon with my “I’m getting laid tonight” looks as I found myself doing stuff like leaning in and whispering to women “you know, this scarf will work great for tying you up” and other direct, sexual stuff – something I normally wouldn’t do.
My latest discovery of this kind comes with my casual rugged/masculine outfit that I think looks pretty badass.
I’ve noticed that when wearing it I smile a lot less (I’m a goofy guy who likes to smile a lot so that’s strange), but also I would exchange eye contact with biggest dudes without flinching and overall started getting along with these bouncer-looking guys better.
Now, I’m sure at least some of you are thinking “it’s all in your head, dude” and “you can’t trust your memory, it distorts the facts to suit your agenda” or something like that.
And yeah, I strive to be a person who is the first one to call out his own bullshit so I’ve been writing it off as “mental tricks” for a while too.
Nonetheless, it peaked my curiosity enough to go down the rabbit hole and see what I can find…
When A White Lab Coat Makes You Smarter
The best way to counter personal biases that rise from anecdotal, subjective situations is to start looking for factual, evidence based experiments.
And indeed, I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how many different experiments were conducted on effects that dress (a scientific term for clothes, grooming and other body modifications like tattoos and piercings) have on our character, personality and even behavior – yay, so it’s not just all in my head! No, Darius, you’re not going crazy… no, no, no… shhhhh…
At the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University (U.S.), Professor Adam D. Galinsky asked students to participate in a Stroop test.
For those who need to google what a Stroop test is – it’s when you need to say the color of the ink used to write a particular word, except that word is a name of a different color. Then your timing and mistakes are measured and are supposed to show your mental agility.
Now, here’s the interesting part – half of the participants wore their normal clothes and other half were given white lab coats that they were told are “doctor’s coats”.
The kicker – students who wore white doctor’s coat were quicker and made far fewer mistakes in a Stroop test than their non-fancy colleagues.
It gets even more interesting because later the experiment was repeated with another group who were given those same white coats except this time that third group were told that those were painter’s white coats. Would you like to guess the result?
The group wearing the “painter’s coat” (identical to “doctor’s coat”) performed just as bad as those wearing their normal clothes.
In other words, this symbolic knowing that you’re wearing a DOCTOR’S coat made you assume the qualities associated with this profession – attentiveness, carefulness, rigorousness.
Then let me ask you this – how do you think wearing an outfit like your “I’m getting laid tonight” look affects your thoughts and personality? How about a typical “nice guy” outfit?
A Superman Tee That Makes You Stronger (And More Awesome)
As interesting lab coat experiment is, the following is my favorite one!
Three groups of psychology students were asked to take place in an experiment and fill out some tests. Except one group was asked to do this while wearing a Superman t-shirt.
(Second group wore regular blue tee and control group wore their normal clothes.)
When the results were analyzed it turned out that superhero costumes indeed had some “superpowers” in them…
On a Social Comparison Rating Scale (Do they feel superior or interior to others. Attractive or not. Less or more confident. Etc.) the group wearing superman tees scored almost 10% higher than the control group (72% vs 64%).
Think about it – wearing a freaking superman tee made students feel 8% more awesome. Amazing!
But the part that had me laughing was this – they also thought that they could lift heavier objects than the control group haha
When Wearing Black Makes You More Aggressive
But it’s not all rainbows and sunshines – what you wear can also have some negative effects (though it depends on how you look at it).
Authors Gregory D. Webster, Geoffrey R. Urland and Joshua Correll collected 25 years’ worth of penalty statistics from NHL (hockey :) ) and correlated with each team’s history of uniform changes.
Results: On average, the 30 teams were penalized more for aggression during seasons in which their regular uniform was black (the researchers counted as black any jersey where that color was at least half of the shirt). Moreover, the “black uniform effect” did not hold for “bench minor” infractions, in which players are penalized for errors. It was confined to non-bench-minor infractions, which are issued specifically for being aggressive to another player.
In other words,
Wearing the ever-popular color black makes you either more aggressive or being perceived as more aggressive (or both).
Nonetheless, even though I couldn’t find any specific studies that would make this distinction for wearing black as you’ll see later in the article it’s very likely to be the case that wearing black makes you appear more aggressive and act more aggressive too.
A Uniform Can Make You More Cruel (Or Kinder)
Even though there are many more studies on the subject, there’s only one more I’d like to discuss before we go into what this means for us in the real world. (There’s one study about women doing math exams in their swimming suits, but I’ll leave that one for you imagination to fill in :) )
After WW2 and up to 1960s there were a lot of experiments that looked into under what conditions one human being would inflict harm upon a fellow man. Often those experiments would have participants give another person electric shocks. Of course the shocks weren’t real, it’s just that the participant had to think that they were inflicting real pain.
The result was that people who wore a hood and a cape, particularly when they were with others who were dressed in a similar attire, did more harm.
This “de-individualization” and concealment of personal identity were associated with loss of self-awareness and lowering of the threshold for expressing inhibited behaviors (you can also observe this when people dress up in costumes for Halloween or something).
But it’s not all bad,
In 1979 researchers Johnson & Downing replicated the study above, but the women in their study wore nurses’ uniforms instead of a hood and cape. Those wearing nurses’ uniforms were less aggressive in administering shocks than those not wearing uniforms.
WTF IS HAPPENING HERE?!
I mean seriously,
It’s not like life is a RPG game where you can wear a “Doctor’s coat of attentiveness” that gives you +10 Focus or “Superman’s tee of awesomeness” that adds +5 Strength.
Then why wearing particular clothes actually changes how we see ourselves and act?
According to Adam D. Galinsky (the guy who did the lab coat experiment) it boils down to “enclothed cognition”. A play on words on a psychological term “embodied cognition” that explores the role environment is playing on our cognitive abilities.
Here’s the deal:
It’s not that particular clothes or details actually has direct impact on our personality, but instead like method actors, we unconsciously assume the symbolic qualities that we associate with a particular piece of clothing or style:
- If we think that doctors are more attentive and focused, we will be more attentive and focused when wearing what we think is a doctor’s coat.
- If we think that superheroes are awesome (and strong), we will see ourselves as more awesome and stronger when wearing a superhero tee.
- If we think that nurses are caring and non-aggressive, we will act nicer when wearing something that we associate with a nurse’s uniform.
So here’s something to think about for you – look through your outfits, the individual items you’re wearing, what associations/mental images do they evoke?
Are those associations of what you would call sexy, attractive? How do you think they affect your behavior?
The Depressive Cycle Of Looking Like Crap
I know I promised that the uniform experiment will be the last one I will discuss in this article, but this one is also really important to cover.
A group of student volunteers were asked to participate in an experiment where they filled a 20 point test that essentially asked “how are you feeling today?” and then had their photos taken. The photos then were slightly altered: student’s faces were pixelated so only their outfit was clearly seen.
Those altered photos were then given to another group of students, who were asked to evaluate the mental state of people they saw in the pictures.
This second group of students, without seeing any facial expressions, and having little other than clothing to go on managed to very accurately guess the mood of the person in the photo! (They were especially great at spotting when a person in the photo was in a great mood).
What this means:
Let’s say you’re having a bad morning: the alarm went off too soon, right in the middle of the dream where you were just about to take those panties off a sexy classmate/colleague, you then spilled the coffee on your bath robe, couldn’t find a clean pair of socks only to realize that you’re almost late – “FFS, why is this happening to me!??!”
So you put on whatever crap you could find first and went out. Throughout the day people instantly saw that you’re having a bad day and as a result tried to avoid you (come on, nobody wants to spend time with a downer), no woman would give you a second glance all day.
So now you feel even worse because it seems like the whole world is conspiring against you and nobody understands or supports you. So you start feeling even worse, look even worse as a result and cycle continues…
On the other hand:
But let’s say you’re actually feeling great – you will then find yourself wearing brighter colors, playful patterns, trying out more daring styles, maybe put on a tighter pair of jeans, pick those Chelsea boots that are only for “nights out and special occasions” and maybe open another button on your shirt. You take the time to accessorize so by the time you go out you look like the sexiest bastard in town.
You hit the coffee shop to get your morning doze of “wake me up” and the cute barista starts asking you silly questions, chatting you up – god, her smile is cute! – as you are leaving the coffee shop you notice another woman checking you out and you exchange glances. By this point, you’re feeling like a million bucks!
So you go to the office/class (or wherever you go in the morning), you feel great, look great and its noticeable from the first glance so people are eager to chat with you, women comment on your cool accessories and you have a conversation going. Life’s great!
How To Use This To Become Your Most Attractive Self
Those are of course simplified and slightly romanticized stories (true though :) ) but they point to a very important factor.
Look at both graphs once again and tell me, which factors can you directly control within those cycles?
- Mood? Not in the short term, unless you plan on injecting/smoking something (or you’re a Zen master), you probably can’t just flip a switch and go from shitty mood to feeling giddy and happy.
- Feedback? Not directly, actually trying to force particular feedback is needy and very unattractive.
What you can do (and what no one can take away from you!) is how you present and treat yourself – are you just wearing anything that you found in the closet or are you actually making an effort to make yourself as sexy as you can be?
(Note: as discussed in the article on “How To Look Sexy In Casual Clothes” there can be situations where you do indeed want to melt in the crowd but make sure those are conscious choices and you understand the trade-offs)
So yeah, that’s the first step to using your clothes to make your behavior more attractive – make an effort, get good at it.
Step two – create your “I’m getting laid tonight” look. As we discussed in this article, there’s A LOT of power in symbolism, so it’s a great idea to take the time and create an outfit that you associate with being a sexy, attractive man. Not only you will look great but you will actually notice embodying some of the character qualities that makes a man sexy.
Step three – get rid of your shitty clothes. Really! Do a wardrobe clean up – get rid of clothes that make you look like a teenager (or a boring nice guy). Get rid of clothes that don’t fit you, are worn out or don’t suit your physique and natural features.
Not only you will have more space for sexier clothes that make you look attractive but also you’ll be getting rid of all that mental baggage that you assume when wearing those clothes that are associated with being childish, sloppy, boring.
The grandfather of psychology, William James, named dress as one of the key factors that shape our mortal self and indeed, over the years as I changed and experimented with different looks it was fascinating to see how it also changed my self-perception (I’ve also noticed that when visualizing “my ideal self”, I would look differently based on my goals and aspirations in life).
With this article I hopefully managed to convince you to start thinking about your style, your clothes in a deeper sense, something that doesn’t just make you LOOK more attractive but also BE more attractive.
If you’d like me personally help you with this, I have couple of spots available for personal style consultations in October and would love to help you.
That’s it for this week!