Does My Confidence Look Big In This? How Clothes Can Affect Our Behaviour
Do you have a lucky garment? If so, here's why it works...
Batman and Buzz Lightyear are on their way home from the pub. They see a 20-man punch up going on in a chip shop. And as superheroes do, they stop and take care of business faster than you can say, ‘ketchup or vinegar?’
Has our black-caped friend got a new sidekick in Gotham City? Nope. This actually happened in the town of Stockport in northern England. The two ‘superheroes’ were ordinary blokes on their way home from a fancy dress party.
Were they empowered by what they were wearing? We can’t know for sure. But the chip shop owner did say, ‘the youngsters had been drinking, but nobody thought about throwing a punch at Batman.’
Welcome to the transformative power of clothes.
My client Liza has a pair of navy patent court shoes that make her feel (in her words) ‘invincible.’ She wears them to meetings when she needs to kick metaphorical booty. Reassuringly, those shoes always deliver.
Another client, Sarah, wears a red dress to high-stakes work events when she needs to ooze confidence. ‘In a red dress, I can achieve anything,’ she says. She’s convinced that her fleet of red dresses imbue her with luck and charisma. Sarah has recently been promoted – no prizes for guessing what she wore to the interview.
The celeb world is rife with ‘lucky’ garments too. Tiger Woods wears a red t-shirt on the final day of gold tournaments, red being a lucky colour in his mum’s Thai culture. Colin Farrell apparently wears a pair of shamrock boxers every time he starts a new movie.
Really? Can a garment actually make us feel empowered?
Yes, research suggests.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, demonstrates that wearing something with symbolic meaning (for the wearer) could impact cognitive function.
Translation? The red dress or the shamrock pants (insert your lucky variation here) can, in fact, enhance your performance and affect your behaviour.
But it’s less about the actual piece of clothing, than the symbolic value that we attribute to that garment, be it luck, confidence, whatever.
In other words, Sarah had a good experience when first wearing a red dress. Ditto Colin with the lucky skivvies. So when they wear those garments again, they go into the mental mode of expecting, and thus contributing to, another successful outcome. The lucky garment signifies a shift of headspace.
More research needs to be done, but this study contributes to a body of work that suggests we think with our physical experiences as well as with our brains.
So go ahead. Put your cape on.