What Does Your Crazy Fashion Sense Say About You?

Film set photograph of Marlene Dietrich for Josef Von Sternberg’s film production, Morocco. c1929.

You might be one of those people whose dress sense is a little crazy. And, you’re not the only one — from eccentric socks to dressing against our gendered expectations, many people push the limits of social norms when it comes to fashion. Research has shown that non-conformists can be viewed as being of a higher status and more competent than those who follow the rules of fashion. We take a look at what different clothing says about the wearer…

Dressing for the opposite gender

Non-binary clothing is becoming more people. And, many people are speaking up, opposing the ideas that men and women should be dressed according to their sex. But, are you presenting yourself in a different way when you dress against the gendered expectations?

More people are saying that they don’t agree with gender-labelled clothing, but research has proven that our mindset hasn’t changed too much on the subject. Psychologists in New Jersey found that attitudes towards gender stereotypes hadn’t changed much between 1983 and 2014.

Based on previous research, some claim that it is more socially acceptable for women to dress like men, in a men’s suit for example, than it is the other way around. Back in 1990, it was found that — despite the sex of the applicant – if the clothing that they wore was more masculine, they were more likely to be hired. When men dressed in pink however (a colour commonly associated with females), they were seen as less intelligent than women who were wearing the same colour.

Adding something different to your style

Some people choose clothes that stand out from the crowd to express themselves. When we think of outrageous outfits we may think of people with brightly coloured hair, patterned clothing and over the top jewellery. But, there are other ways to express freedom through dress.

Unconventional socks are one way of adding something different to your look. In fact, these are viewed as rebellious and expressive. One person who has this view is Justin Trudeau, the current Prime Minister of Canada, who shows off his fun side by wearing funky socks with a traditional suit. You can make your own subtle ‘eccentric’ changes through patterned socks and accessories. Or make yourself stand out from the crowd through bright scarves and other extras.

By wearing clothing that’s not usually expected, studies have shown that you build a brand of being ‘gutsy’. And in fact, people have the potential to see you as more brilliant, creative and successful. One study, published in 2014, found that those who go against conformity can be viewed as of a higher status than those who don’t. They were also considered to be more competent — potentially influencing the impression that they give off in the workplace.

And, dressing in this way can change the way that you think, feel and act. This is through a theory called ‘embodied cognition’. Since eccentric dress gives you greater potential to express your individuality, it’s possible that it can make you feel more confident and comfortable in different situations. This could then go on to improve your performance at work or in challenges where you want to push yourself.

Not following the dress code

For some situations, it can be agreed that following dress expectations is the best thing to do. This might be for a job interview or formal event.

Research has discovered that men who wear smart, fitted suits as they are often expected to wear in a formal situation, were perceived as being more confident, successful and thought to be earning a higher wage. This was compared to men who weren’t dressed as smartly — in a loosely fitted suit.

Other studies have also found that senior managers were rated less favourably if they were dressed more ‘provocative’. This was a skirt slightly above the knee and one button on the blouse undone. It’s clear to see that it is important to consider our dress style carefully as people can make many assumptions without any evidence.

Did you know that what you wear can affect your productivity too? Research found that in a lab, those who were wearing lab coats felt smarter and went on to perform better!

It’s evident that dressing against societies expectations can have many effects on the opinion of others and your own performance. Although it’s important to express yourself through dress, you don’t want to hinder your work or your impression on others in formal situations. Wear a pair of crazy socks underneath your day-to-day outfit instead…