It’s an established fact that what you wear sends out a message about who you are.
Humans are very good at decoding information about other people based on the way they look, and clothes are a major element in this process. You can tell what someone is interested in, their attitudes, their cultural background, wealth, age and most importantly whether they are likely to be the kind of people with whom you would wish to connect. When you get dressed in the morning, you choose what you want to wear based on the weather, what you’re planning to do, what is comfortable and what is clean – but over-riding all those factors is the message you wish to present to the world.
Why clothes matter so much
The ability to be able to size someone up by their appearance is something that can be traced back to the dawn of humanity, and it has been developing ever since. In a complex society like ours, our brains need to be able to gather information about threats and opportunities in the blink of an eye, and this is based on what you have learned about the clothes worn by certain types of individuals. You know for example that if you see someone wearing a sari, they are likely to be from, or have a history in, the Indian sub-continent. If you are from the same cultural origins, you will immediately feel a kinship with these people, especially in unfamiliar surroundings. You will be drawn to people who are similar to you, so for example, if you like designer clothing and you see someone wearing the latest line from Gucci, you know this is someone with whom you share a commonality. Likewise, if you are into The Walking Dead and you spot someone wearing a T-shirt that says, “If Daryl dies we riot!”, You know that person is a fellow fan. The statement would mean nothing to someone who’s never seen the TV show, so it becomes a kind of secret code that is only shared by people in the know.
When you’re not feeling so good
If you have the flu or a stomach bug, you’ll probably stay in your pajamas and wrap up in a big woolly sweater, far more concerned about being comfortable and getting better than being chic and stylish. One of the classic symptoms of depression is not caring about your appearance and finding it hard to wash and get dressed. People suffering from depression tend to hide under plain, dark clothing that shields them from the world, paying no mind to what they look like. The message they send out is “leave me alone,” as the effects of their illness make them retreat further into their world of misery and they form a cocoon around themselves in which they hide away from the world. Their clothes become a barrier, keeping everyone out. If you ever find yourself changing your attitudes to your appearance in this way, don’t assume it’s just a temporary blip. Instead, think about how you’re feeling and what’s going on in your life and seek help before your mood becomes lower and your illness harder to treat.
Projecting the image you want
Your choice of clothing will be instinctive, based on how you feel when you look at a garment and what you imagine you will look like in it. It can vary according to your mood and the occasion, and sometimes your choice can be influenced by the accepted dress code for whatever it is you are doing. Therefore, you wouldn’t wear a cocktail dress to an interview, and you wouldn’t wear your exercise gear to a nightclub. Within these constraints, your style can still shine through though. The colors and cut of the suit you wear, or the accessories you choose will still indicate your nature, so it’s worth paying special attention to what you are communicating.
Changing the perceptions behind the clothes you wear
The beliefs about people that come from their attire are deeply entrenched and very hard to alter. These ideas have become part of the unspoken language of human communication, understood and accepted even when there is evidence that the perceptions are based on erroneous beliefs. Women tend to have far more choice when it comes to clothing, with the options of pants or a skirt/dress open to them. Despite many efforts by Western designers to encourage men to feel comfortable in a skirt, their efforts continue to be met with resistance. The cultural interpretation of a man in a skirt is that they are feminine and that seems unacceptable to most men. Interestingly, there are many examples of cultures across the world where men wear a skirt or dress-based clothing rather than pants. The Scottish kilt, tribal loincloths and the robes worn by men in the Middle East are just a few examples, and these are all communities where the most masculine of males wear the garments.
Trying something different
If our clothes are an extension of our personality and who we are, what are we trying to say? Do you want to change the message you’re conveying about yourself? If you always wear jeans and tops, how would you feel about going out in a pretty dress? You may feel uncomfortable at the thought, but have you looked at what is on offer? Wearing different styles of clothing can make you feel like a different person in some ways, so it’s worth experimenting with a change of style to find out what effect it has on you. If you have a look online, you can learn more about some of the feminine clothing ranges available, and see if anything catches your eye. Alternatively, you could have a look at ethnic designs, or if you always wear a skirt, see what kinds of pants might make a good alternative.
If your clothes are saying something about you, make sure it’s a true reflection of the way you feel and the person you are. Don’t be constrained by your own beliefs, go out and try something new, be adventurous, and find the styles that truly speak for you.