Yes. What you’re wearing affects whether people follow your lead or do what you say.
You’ve probably heard the phrases “Clothes make the man” and “Dress for success.” These are two sayings that actually have research to back them up.
Lefkowitz, Blake, and Mouton (1955) had an experimenter in a city cross the street against the traffic. When he was dressed in a suit, three-and-a-half times as many people followed him as when he was wearing a work shirt and trousers. Business suits are a form of authority clothing.
In a study by Bickman (1974), the experimenter stopped a person on the street, pointed to an accomplice 50 feet away, and said, “You see that guy over there by the meter? He’s overparked but doesn’t have any change. Give him a dime!” The experimenter would then leave. The “guy over there” was part of the experiment. When the experimenter was wearing a uniform (for example, a guard uniform), most people complied with the instruction to give the other person money for the parking meter. When he was dressed in regular street clothes, compliance was less than 50 percent.
Clothes really do make a difference. In fact:
- Different color clothing says different things about you. Most interesting is that studies show red has some pretty unique effects. For the most part, red seems to mean sex. It makes men more attractive to women. It makes women more attractive to men. It helps hitchikers get picked up. (More on the odd and interesting effects of red here.)
- Dressing young can make you healthier. Glasses make you look smarter but less attractive. How a female celebrity dresses can tell you how short her marriage will be.
- You like brand name clothes because they make you seem high status and (hopefully) this will cause people to treat you better.
- Dark clothes = neurotic. Formal dress = conscientious. Messy and unconventional clothing = open to new things. Cleavage and expensive clothes = narcissism in women.
- You trust doctors more when they wear the white coat. You like musicians’ music more when they dress the way you expect them to. By the same token, what you wear affects how you act: when research subjects wore lab coats they acted more attentive and careful. So choose your clothes wisely when you need to perform at your best.
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