Clothes make the man

Clothes make the man

Melis Alphan ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Clothes make the man

In their study, Bilgi University lecturers Karen J. Pine (L) and Ben Fletcher explored whether a minor manipulation of a man’s clothing whould influence rapid judgments.

The “first impression” is not a myth. Previous research has shown that, after seeing a face for just one second, people can make judgments.

“First impressions are formed rapidly and effortlessly. They are also highly accurate,” said Karen J. Pine and Ben Fletcher, lecturers on psychology and fashion at Bilgi University in Istanbul.
Pine and Fletcher conducted an online study to investigate the effect of clothing on judgments people make about one another.

Some 308 participants rated eight images (four male, four female) on five dimensions important for social and economic interactions. These dimensions are confidence, success, trustworthiness, salary and flexibility. The participants were shown the images for only five seconds. The man was depicted wearing a bespoke and a regular suit in two poses. The woman was depicted wearing a skirt suit and trouser suit in two poses. All facial features were removed.

The bespoke male suit was tailor-made for the individual in the image. The off-the-peg suit in his size was purchased from a high street store. The suits were matched in color (dark blue) and fabric pattern (herringbone). The female suit was a jacket with matching trousers and skirt.
“Most research to date on the factors that influence first impressions has tended to concentrate on more global impression judgments, and also on personality-related traits. Little attention has been paid to the influence of how the clothes have been cut or tailored (for example, bespoke as opposed to off-the-peg suits)” argued the two lecturers.

Ben and Fletcher explored whether a minor manipulation of the man’s clothing (e.g. the cut of a suit) would influence these rapid judgments and this also held up to empirical investigation, with a bespoke suit consistently producing more positive impressions than a similar off-the-peg suit. Finally they asked whether manipulating the masculine-feminine dimension of the woman’s clothing, comparing a skirt suit with a trouser suit, would affect the impressions formed and found the skirt suit received more positive ratings than a trouser suit.

The ratings for the man were higher on all dimensions when he was wearing the bespoke suit, reaching statistical significance for the first four dimensions and approaching significance for trustworthiness. Ratings of confidence and flexibility were also significantly higher for the woman in the skirt than in the trouser suit.

The difference in ratings for female salary approached significance, but no significant differences were found for the ratings of success and trustworthiness. Interestingly, this more overt visual change (skirt for trousers) affected ratings less than the subtle change for the man (the same suit in bespoke and off-the-peg form). Noteworthy is that the woman received lower ratings overall than the man, which may suggest that women have to try harder to impress in general.

Overall, they have shown that the male ability to create a favorable impression is enhanced by wearing a bespoke rather than an off-the-peg suit. Female perceptions are enhanced when wearing a skirt suit rather than a trouser suit, although this effect is limited to a narrower range of dimensions.

They conclude that even apparently minor modifications to clothing style will have a major impact on first impressions. People are judged on their overall head-to-toe appearance within seconds, and the fundamental role that choice of apparel plays in creating a positive first impression cannot be underestimated.