Judging a book by its cover

mannequins 2

Nope, I’m not talking about actual books. I’m talking about us humans. Nonverbal communication is not limited to body language. It is also tone of voice; accessories like jewellery, watches; hairstyles; tattoos; and clothes. People see the image we portray. If people see me as an eccentric artist, could it be blamed on colourful clothing, jingling bracelets and plenty of other jewellery? If they see me as a serious business woman, might it be because of my monochromatic pant-suit, no-nonsense (read unsexy) hairstyle and subtle make-up? We are the creators of how people see us.

When the clever guys did a survey, it was not surprising that the participants were much more benevolent towards the man in the bespoke suit, since he seemed more competent, intelligent and successful. And they didn’t even see his face – only his outfit! Yup, we always judge a book by its cover, or a man by his suit.

A few more interesting insights: A woman was dressed in a rather conservative skirt and blouse. Participants rated the woman less intelligent, confident, organised, trustworthy and responsible when her skirt length was a wee bit shorter (not short, just a tiny bit shorter than the alternative outfit) and when an extra shirt button was undone. She was by no means dressed for a night on the town, but everyone preferred her buttoned-up, longer-skirted image. Again, the face was obscured, so people only had the clothes to go by.

Interesting, right?

I will never be mistaken for a business woman, climbing her way up the corporate ladder. Or the scholarly type, the fashion-diva type or the ladies-who-lunch type. I also don’t mind that people draw certain conclusions about me upon a first meeting. Just because I’m wearing my hippie outfit, does not mean that I’m ready to start a revolution and/or have no idea what is happening in the world around me.

I’m well aware that with our clothing, hair and accessories we portray a certain image. The mistake comes in when we assume that the image is the truth. Or that we think we know for certain who a person must be by the brand of their clothing. An important thing to remember is that people see the me I project – I can not fault them for thinking of me as an eccentric artist. But, and this is a big but, it is far more important to look past the person’s clothes/cover/feathers before I draw conclusions about him or her.

There are many, many, many opinions about what our clothes say about us. I will delve into it a bit more in the next post. For now I’ll leave you to ponder whether your style is romantic, classic, creative, contemporary, dramatic or natural. I most likely would be the creative style. You?


2 thoughts on “Judging a book by its cover

    1. Hi, Ikahina. As far as I know these six style/fashion archetypes are mere generalisations that have been used to build broad categories in personal styles. I’m by no means a fashion expert (my friend who is a fashion designer would loudly agree!), so maybe someone else might pop in and help us find that answer. What interests me more about our clothes is the psychology behind it and the message our outfits communicate.


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