The Persuasive Power of Clothing: a Study on Motivations Behind Visual Self-Enhancement

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The Persuasive Power of Clothing: A Study on Motivations Behind Visual Self-Enhancement

Jason Low Syracuse University

 Dressing to Impress: A Study on Motivations Behind Visual Self-Enhancement It is declared that clothes make the man. That one’s appearance goes so far as to dictate


the perceived character and personality of that individual. This claim sums up the German phrase “Kleider Machen Leute”. This idiom holds a certain deceptive and controlling appeal, but much truth is there behind it? I will investigate through this paper the motives behind individuals who hyperbolize or manipulate their appearances. The Swiss poet Gottfried Keller first coined the term Kleider Machen Leute as he used this as the title for one of his novels. In the novel, a poor tailor dresses nicely and is treated well. This proves that people base their impressions and treatment towards others mainly on their external appearances. Studies have shown that variations in clothing have an impact on first impressions formed of the specified person wearing that particular clothing. The impressions that are perceived based on a person’s clothing regard the target person’s personality and behavioral characteristics (Burns, 1993). People have started to recognize that the visual aspects of oneself can preemptively broadcast a particular set of personality and character traits to others. People then use this prejudice of appearance to their own advantage and have produced various incentives and motivations behind dressing a particular way. A common reason for the methods people adopt to construct their physical image is so that they can feel good about themselves. It is assumed that people seek positive self-regard; that is, they are motivated to possess, enhance, and maintain positive self-views (Heine, 1999). The act of ‘dressing up’ is seen as a form of self-enhancement. How this serves as a boost to one’s self-esteem can be divided...
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