The dress code psychology – Analysis of our personality

Is it just a coincidence to put on a yellow shirt prior to an important event? Is it better to trust someone with an impeccable hairstyle or maybe someone more avant-garde? An old proverb says not to judge a book by its cover. But is it really true?  

First, let’s assume that our appearance and dress code, more or less consciously, communicate what we hide from the world, e.g. significant life experiences or current emotional states and needs. I often happen to hear: “This yellow shirt is a conscious choice; it matched my shoes!” or “I wear what is available in stores.” Well, at this stage of my interlocutor’s knowledge about messages coming from appearance, I can even dare to agree that it is so. However, after my interpretation, it soon becomes clear that having worn a yellow shirt on that certain important day, we expressed our fear of public appearance or problems in relationships with others. We still have an important meeting ahead of us, and all we care about is effective communication. This is how it works – we convey a lot of information about ourselves through our physical appearance, regardless of our awareness and knowledge of the subject. And our environment receives it. How could the ability to analyze the appearance of others come in handy? In business talks or social relationships, for example. The following system of interpretations (let’s call it a simplified analysis of our personality, based on appearance) was created by myself over 25 years ago, and the team of NAO Institute has been successfully training and motivating employees and their management for over 15 years now. 

Show me what you’re wearing, and I’ll tell you who you are

Let’s start with clothes that can be divided into loose and tight fitting. This is the first valuable piece of information for us, the novice detectives of personality. Frequently, people who are relaxed and like to break conventions wear baggy clothes. In business, they care a lot about relationships. They are reluctant to accept comments, such as “you have to” or “you should.” They put freedom above everything else. If they sign a contract, it is something that confirms their earlier findings most of the time. On the other hand, people who choose tight clothes, or who don’t avoid suits, prefer formal rules and clearly written procedures. Relaxed business relations may be unacceptable for them. Interestingly enough, “the tight” and “the baggy” are often able to form personal relationships and stand a chance of forming a long and happy relationship, due to different perceptions of the world around them.   The head screwed on right Let’s focus on hairstyles, now. Women and men, who find it hard to keep their hair in a perfect state, often tend to be more curious about new ideas and unusual solutions; whereas, people with classic and carefully arranged hairdos are more likely to pay attention to standards and procedures. Let’s not forget about facial hair on men. A beard in our culture indicates a man who is keen to express his own opinions and views. On the other hand, men who are neatly shaved operate better in structures and are willing to work in a team. When we want to emphasize the importance of our achievements and our social worth, we often choose an outfit that exposes the shoulders. In the past, it used to be a fox fur stole for women and a raised, padded shoulder line for men. Nowadays, shawls and scarves replace stoles; whereas, chevrons and tailored sweaters replace the padded shoulders. 

Every detail matters 

The colour choice of clothing, jewellery, handbags and shoes is not accidental either. It turns out, we choose and wear certain shades more eagerly; however, we consider others repulsive and not matching our personality at all. Interestingly, our preference for certain colours changes with time and depends on our well-being, as well as family and professional circumstances. Here are a couple of examples how our needs can be interpreted based on the colours of our clothes.

Red is the most energising of all of the colours and symbolises notions, such as war, blood or sex. People who have low blood pressure or are fatigued often wear that colour (as it raises the blood pressure). Red is also dominant in the interiors of fast food restaurants. The idea behind it is to make the customer, eating a barely satisfying meal, feel the energy flow. A long time ago, our great grandmothers advised their daughters (who had already had been married for a while) to place red ornaments in their bedrooms to encourage their husbands’ involvement.

Yellow is responsible for communication, which means if someone from our entourage likes to wear this colour or its lighter shades, such as ecru, we could presume this person is highly talkative. If we put something yellow or dark grey on prior to a public appearance, we will improve our formal communication. In this respect, it isn’t coincidental that many companies use that colour in their logos.

When wearing blue, on the other hand, we are eager to emphasise our intellect, originality, and unconventional way of thinking. We also send a message that the efforts of various organisations and community groups are important to us.

Anxious and restless people often wear green. This colour calms and soothes them.

People who crave power or have ambitions of leading and managing others usually choose navy blue.

Women who have a preference for silver jewellery or white gold look for spiritual values in their lives and are often guided by emotions, as opposed to ladies who choose gold.

Colours can also be interpreted, depending on which area of the body in which they currently are situated. Thus, we can see that the personality analysis on the basis of physical appearance is a clear, yet extremely sophisticated method, taking into account the colour, shape, structure and place of certain elements in our appearance.

As it can be seen from our above mentioned examples, we often communicate to others what is important in a given situation or how to talk to us, without even realizing it at the time. Effective communication is the key to success. It is, therefore, advantageous to get to know the main aspects of the dress code symbolism in order to learn how to be more effective, not only in business talks, but also in better communication with oneself.

Dr Dariusz Tarczyński
Photos: MIchał Szubert | Szubert Photography
Model: Kamil Lemieszewski