One fine day, I was visiting a place I hadn’t been before, by bus.

Confused between the next two bus stops, I asked a man standing next to me who told me to exit the next second stop.

Another man also heard the conversation and told me to get off the next stop. I thanked him and exited, ignoring what the first man said.

But, why did I listened to the second man, not the first?

Later when I was coming back home, I asked myself this question.

Here’s what I figured:

The second man was better dressed (in formal clothes) as compared to the first man who was wearing casuals. Black tee shirt and jeans as far as I remember.

In that moment of a rush, I believed my preconceived notions built upon their clothing. I needed a quick decision to make, so I justified myself that the better-dressed man is saying right and I should believe him.

This got me thinking, so I started doing my research.

Now, let’s discuss:

  • What difference can someone’s dressing make on your mind?
  • What are those dressing style improvements you can make to dress for success?

Ready? Here we go.

The Clothes You Wear Speak More Than What You Say

Let’s start with the absolute basics.

Our clothes make a huge difference in what people think, more than we can ever imagine. We make judgments from what someone is wearing, even without proper evidence.

And all this happens within seconds, either consciously or subconsciously.

In a research carried out with 274 adults, both men and women judged four pictures of a man for only three seconds. The man wore a bespoke and a regular (off-the-rack) suit, and the pictures differed only in minor details.

Can you guess the results?

Since the face was also blurred, the results were only based on what he was wearing.

People judged the man more favorably wearing a bespoke suit than the man wearing a high street equivalent. And the judgments were not about how well he dressed, but what and how he dressed.

bespoke vs off the rack suit

The better-rated suit seemed:

  • more confident,
  • successful,
  • trustworthy,
  • flexible, and
  • higher earner to the adults.

In simple words, quality and fitting of your clothes matters.

What If You Dressed Like Them?

This one is a little tricky.

Formal suits generally seem more respectful and professional. But what if your goal is to be more persuasive at work?

A female experimenter found:

When she wore a casual dress, the students were more diligent in following her instructions, as opposed to a professional dress.

To be more persuasive at work, balance your dressing with your power and the audience.

Let’s say:

There are business professionals and entrepreneurs in the audience wearing suits and you are about to speak in front of them, at a conference. They will laugh off if you showed up in a casual dress, but not in a well-tailored suit (unless you have a solid reason to be dressed like that).

Do you get the idea?

People trust someone more whose dressing style resembles their own.

They are then more likely to pay attention, lend money, do favors, employ you, etc.

Pay Attention to the Way of Wearing Your Outfit

People notice little details in your outfit, not only what you are wearing.

In a research, 144 individuals rated images of faceless female targets. The dress style varied slightly by the skirt length and the number of buttons unfastened on the blouse.

They described the images as different occupational roles varying from senior manager to the receptionist, within five seconds.

The results?

The senior manager was rated less favorably when her clothing was provocative, but more favorably when she dressed conservatively (longer skirt, buttoned up blouse).

These subtle changes to clothing style made huge differences to the competence level of an individual.

(Sure, the same psychology principles also apply to men’s clothing.)

Mind Your Own Business

“The truth is usually seen, rarely said.” — Baltasar Gracián

Here’s the deal:

Always dress to who and what you are. Because your dressing speaks your profession and social value.

What if you wore in an unusual way?

Many times, people don’t mind, but your dressing matters when you are doing business or some sort of work.

The truth is:

People do judge a book by its cover and they expect you to look like a company manager if you are. Nobody will believe if you’re a computer programmer coming to the office in a three-piece suit.

They will just not buy it.

patient visiting doctor

The patients will not believe if the doctor doesn’t show up in a white collared shirt and a white collared coat.

That makes sense, right?

A worker without his uniform is not a worker.

Whenever Needed/Possible, try to Level Up Your Style

People react more to those who look better/different than the usual. You will get appointed and promoted quicker if you dress like the boss, not like the usual.

But, the requirements change as per the place you visit.

See, there is nothing wrong with being the best-dressed man in the room. Being better dressed than others is enough to attract that group of ladies at the bar.

(If you want to level up your style game, you can start here.)

On the other side, when visiting a hospital to see your dear one, not dressing like a hipster would be a better idea. Also to be respectful to the establishment.

Remember this:

Have classic pieces of clothes and progressively update your wardrobe with new trends. Replace the old articles of clothing with better and new ones.

People usually talk to the people who wear fancy-shnancy clothes and stand further away from those who wear dated/unfashionable clothes.

Your style should always be evolving. Forget the set-it-and-forget-it attitude.

What Do Your Accessories Say About You?

Little changes to the way of wearing an outfit can change someone’s judgments. Adding certain accessories to the outfit triggers our brain to make certain assumptions.

Wearing a watch can make you appear more respectable, someone who values and cares about the time. Whereas, a man wearing earrings and chains projects a bad boy look.

Glasses can make you look more educated/smarter, and sunglasses/shades can make you more attractive. (Psst! Read this post to find a perfect pair for your face shape).

Adding other details like a pocket square, cuff links, socks, bag, etc., improves your dressing style and separates you from others.

Use Your Colors & Patterns, The Right Way

Here’s how colors work:

  • Wearing all one color blurs the dividing lines and can slim your appearance.
  • Patterned fabrics can make the body appear larger.
  • Diagonal lines create a slimmer illusion where vertical lines create a longer illusion.
  • Curves or bumps interrupting the lines create an opposite effect.

You must have noticed, some people like to stay grayscale — black, white and gray. And some will happily survive wearing blacks.

All black. Head to toe.

Sure, black is versatile, looks great, works great, on many occasions.

But, here’s the catch:

Let’s say, if you are an offender, then you will get harsher treatment if you wore black. If you wish to appear more positive and truthful, wear light shades of colors.

Now, what about rest of the colors?

Here’s a quick illustration of what each color signifies:

Color Emotions
Click the image to zoom or click here to see the full size (opens in a new tab).

Cool, right?

Now, if you want to be noticed easily from far away then wear high-contrast combinations. Because it creates a sharper appearance, whereas low-contrast combinations blur out the dividing lines.

Trying to Impress Someone?

Males and females are different, so does their interests. There are some colors that both genders like and don’t like.

Here’s how:

  • Females like blue, purple and green but hate orange the most, followed by brown and gray.
  • Males like blue, green and black but hate brown the most, followed by orange and purple.

But wait.

This doesn’t mean that if you went on a date wearing the orange, then she will hate you right away and will ultimately run away because there’s too much of orange.

That’s not the case.

This only means, if you were given an option between orange and blue, go for blue. Because you (now) know that women like it better. Blue is more comfortable for them than orange.

I know this is crazy, but our brain works like this.

What if someone else wore orange and you wore blue? Chances are she’ll like you more.

Visual Salience

Now, what is that?

Visual salience is defined as the distinct subjective perceptual quality which makes some items in the world stand out from their neighbors and immediately grab our attention.

Here are two examples:

Visual Salience

Did you get it? It’s simple.

A slight variation, like wearing a red tie, where other men are wearing black ones, is enough to outshine your presence within a crowd, as the red clothing makes the wearer more persuasive.


Don’t try too hard to look different. Make slight deviations from the usual. Because it suggests that you are powerful enough to risk the social costs of such behaviors.

Cognitive Fluency

Well, that’s another cool term. Also known as cognitive ease or familiarity.

It is the ease by which our brain processes information, which impacts how positively or negatively we feel about something.

In simple words:

When we see something familiar and simple, it feels more comfortable, positive and true. For example, a simple solid white shirt and black pant. It’s pretty common and hence feels positive.

But, why does this work?

Familiar objects take the least time in processing what you’re seeing. Easier to see, easier for people to focus on other things.

On the other side:

A man wearing Mickey Mouse outfit on the street will definitely get almost everybody’s attention because it is unfamiliar.

Sure, we know how it looks in the movies and TV, but not as an outfit in real life. You don’t see Mickey Mouse on the streets on a regular basis. That’s why it raises questions and distracts our mind.

Do you get the idea?

Dressing like a fashion model will attract, but not always make you appear dependable and truthful.

What You Wear is How You Feel

There’s no doubt that wearing a great well-fitted outfit makes us feel good and confident.

Here’s an interesting study:

The physiological effects of wearing colors were studied in a research done during the 2004 Olympic Games.

They found that combat fighters who wore red more often than blue:

  1. had higher heart rates, and
  2. were able to lift heavier weights.

See, choosing the right outfit can:

  • make you less anxious,
  • make you less depressed,
  • influence thinking and negotiating skills, and
  • influence heart rate and hormone levels.

You know what happens when we put on a loud outfit?

We feel like a new person. There is something biological happening in our body that affects our mental and physical performance.

Here are a few more examples:

  1. If you wear a superman tee shirt you will feel physically stronger.
  2. Wearing a dress associated with brutality unleashes aggressive behaviors.
  3. People make half as many mistakes when they wear a doctor’s coat, which actually improves focus.
  4. Wearing formal dress increases intellectual thinking, feeling us more powerful. To be a big-ideas person at work, suit up to improve your long-term strategizing and creative thinking.
  5. Formal clothing can benefit in getting profitable deals, making you a better negotiator.

Take It Easy, It’s Not Rocket Science

Sit back and relax. Style should be fun. There are no set rules.

Style should be fun. There are no set rules.

I hope that you got an idea of how your outfit can influence people’s mind.

And I believe you know some more cool things about dressing psychology than you did before, and you can use these this knowledge to dress for success.

Always remember:

  1. Dress according to who you are and what you want people to think about you.
  2. There is nothing wrong with leveling up your style and being the best-dressed man in the room.

Now tell me:

Have you ever tried wearing something unusual and what was it? Or if you’re thinking of doing something different, what is it?

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